Hermann & Nena Mendez
Ahuachapan, El Salvador
From the moment our driver dropped us off at the gates of Talnamica, I knew we were in a special place. Instantly, Nena and Hermann Mendez welcomed us into their farm home, insisting that we rest, unpack, drink and have something to eat - in no particular order and, preferably, all at once.
Warm, funny, intelligent and witty, Hermann and Nena are exactly like the in-laws you wish you had.
While originally from El Salvador, the Mendez' spent decades living in New York City where Hermann was among the first physicians in the world to recognize pediatric AIDS and to research AIDS transmission from mothers to their unborn babies where he was known for his compassionate and kind care of infant AIDS patients. Eventually, Doctor Mendez became chair and professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Lincoln Memorial and Mental Health Center in The Bronx and then later focused on other childhood diseases and specialized in pediatric obesity and diabetes.
Looking out across the Apaneca-Illamatepec mountain range at your feet and the 100 kilometers of Pacific coastline from the gardens gives you the first inkling that Talnamica is a special place. Nestled between the towns of Apaneca and Ataco, the farm was founded in the 1950s by Alfredo Ortiz Mancia and his wife Bessita. After acquiring and cultivating a small piece of property, Talnamica quickly became Señor Ortiz's passion and he continually purchased land over the years, slowly growing Talnamica's size. Today, Talnamica boasts 170 manzanas (about 289 acres) with the majority of the crop being Bourbon and Pacas varietals, with a small percentage of the rust resistant Colombian Castillo.
Shade for the coffee is provided by large Inga trees lined with Colpachi plants serving as windbreaks. Surrounding the property are Liquidambar and Melaleuca trees. In addition to these growths, the family also cultivates a number of medicinal plants and the farm features a waterhole and a small creek, along with other native vegetation.
Hermann Mendez is downright giddy as he tours us around the fields of Talnamica. Watch out, he tell us, for the holes in the ground. Indeed, we spot square, two foot deep holes randomly dug out throughout the manzanas. The holes are dug as part of the farms replenishment program where, later in the season, new and younger bourbon coffee trees will be planted. At an opportune time during our visit, I find a way to fall into one of them.
Talnamica is breezy but the Inga and Colpachi do their thing and the air is calm amongst the coffee trees. It's mid-February and we're late in the growing season so the trees are chock full of ripe red and crimson cherries. Hermann encourages us to pluck a few and taste the fruit. It's sweet and juicy.
The workers at Talnamica can harvest up to seven arrobas worth of coffee cherries per day, which is about 150-175 pounds. The pickers are paid US$1.25 per arroba and make about $200/month during the harvest season. Most of the workers live in the surrounding community so do not require housing but Hermann and Nena provide them with daily meals and a free medical clinic.
By the late afternoon, the workers return to the big patio near the main house where they spread out the fruits of their labor, separating the coffee cherries by color and ripeness. Red and crimson (the desirable ripe cherries) in one pile, yellows and orange (segundos) in another, and verdes (greens) in the third pile - each of which will be utilized for different markets.
This is communal and congenial time at the farm as everyone gathers to sort, share stories, maybe have an ice cream cone and weigh their harvest. Neva goes around giving the workers copies of pictures she took of them while working. Children gather to see their photo and to take pictures with Jack's (from Caffe Ladro) iPhone. It's a multigenerational affair and it's not uncommon to see youngsters with their parents and even their grandparents, many of whom who have taken time off from their regular day job to work the harvest.
Once sorting is complete, the pickers bring their cherries forward for weighing and then the ripe cherries are loaded onto a flat bed truck for transportation to the mill that evening. The coffee heads to the Beneficio Cuatro M where the processing of the coffee will take place that night.
At Cuatro M, the cherries are stripped of their hull and then spread across the concrete patios by morning to begin drying in the hot sun. From there, the coffee is raked at least once per hour to turn the coffee and promote even drying. This will continue for the next ten to twelve days until the coffee reaches the desired moisture level of about 11.5% before being bagged and stored for maturation.
2015 Finca Talnamica Promedio 84
Producers: Hermann & Nena Mendez
Region: Ahuachapan, El Salvador
Elevation: 1375 masl
Harvest: February 2015
Style: Shade grown
Processing: Pulp Natural
2015 Finca Talnamica Promedio 84
Whole Bean - 10 ounces
Please Note: Our Sproastery works on a weekly roasting schedule to provide the freshest coffee possible. Currently, our roast day is on Tuesdays. Our coffees are roasted on Tuesday and shipped out by Wednesday for weekday delivery. Please place your orders by midnight Monday night so that we can accommodate your order in our production schedule. Thank you.