There is a small sub-cult of coffee geeks that worship the big bean. They bow down to her curvaceous abundance and comb social media looking for proof of the her touch on this mortal realm. They dream of traveling to El Salvador themselves to worship directly at her feet. Yes, my friends, this morning I bestow upon you the goddess, Pacamara.
SWITCHBOX ROASTERS RICARDO VALDIVIESO, EL SALVADOR
This morning I have another coffee that came my way from southern Florida via coffee ambassador, Andrew Giambarba. Check out his website and follow him on social media! This morning’s coffee comes from Switchbox Roasters out of Oakland Park, FL, north of Fort Lauderdale. I tried to do some research on this selection but couldn’t find a listing or even an archived page for it, so it looks to be sold out, which is not a big surprise. Those big bean guys never let a Pacamara sit on the shelf for long!
I like to approach my coffee with as little information as possible, initially, barely even peeking at the label, most of the time. I opened up this coffee having spotted only a name and “El Salvador” on the bag. Once that seal was open I knew immediately that I had a natural on my hands because of the beautiful, sweet Frankenberry-like fragrance pouring out of the bag! And one peek in the bag bestowed another certainty: this is Pacamara. Pacamara is a uniquely Salvadoran bean accounting for only 0.2% of production in that country. It’s a hybrid of Marigogype and Pacas varieties and it’s notable for its huge screen size and unique flavor characteristics. The producer, Ricardo Valdivieso, is a third-generation coffee farmer. His grandfather purchased the land in 1870 and named the farm after his wife, Leticia. Finca Santa Leticia was passed to Ricardo during the peak of war and unrest in El Salvador in the 1980’s. Ricardo came face-to-face with a death squad in defense of the family’s land and although his life was spared, Ricardo spent many years in exile. Today, Ricardo continues to grow world-renowned coffee as his daughter, Monica, operates a hotel and restaurant on the property. The Mayan artifacts that are discovered from time to time on the farm are preserved as an archaeological site for visitors, too. It sounds like a magical place! For you detail folks, this is a Pacamara grown in the 1620-1730masl range in Ahuachapan, El Salvador and it is a natural process selection.
Switchbox Roasters is a new venture started by Brian Protsman and his wife, Miriam. Brian spent more than a decade behind the controls of Denver’s Luna Gourmet Coffee & Tea’s roasters (and it shows in this coffee, believe me!) before he and wife moved to Florida and opened Switchbox up for business in May 2016. Pictures of the coffee shop look great and Brian’s Probat is proudly on display for visitors.
I used my usual 1:16 ratio of 28g of coffee to 450g of water in a notNeutral Gino pourover to prepare my sample cups. The aromas from this cup are a pleasant sweet, slightly fermented strawberry note. I love natural coffees and I’m a particularly big fan of the slightly boozy type of ferment that Salvadoran processors seem to be able to get from their beans. On the palate this is a delicious coffee! It has medium body and a dry finish with a long aftertaste. There is a lot of complexity and structure in the cup evident immediately as I sip this cup. There is a lot of very ripe strawberry flavor as well as that “feel” of strawberries on the palate. I get a little acetic character that comes hand in hand with the fermenty note that I often find in Salvadoran naturals. There’s so much to describe it’s hard to get a handle on this one! Right at the front of the sip the coffee is sweet and fruity and then is immediately washed over with a lemon tartness that complements it perfectly. This gives a really juicy component to the coffee and there is also quite a dry feeling on my palate as the sip drops into the finish. Between the juiciness of the cup and that slight drying effect on my tongue and cheeks, I found myself drinking this one at a pretty fast pace. Sneaky devil! The flavor notes in this coffee are crystal clear and despite all its complexity, each component is easily definable from all the other ones (which is what I mean when I call a coffee “structured”). Man, what a cup! With the fruitiness and tartness in the cup I found some notes that reminded me of plum, particularly in the finish. The long aftertaste left some of that tartness on my palate and a somewhat herbal vibe behind for me to think about. I don’t think it would be a mistake to refer to this coffee as wine-like in many ways.
Wow! This is an exceptionally complex coffee that is miraculous in the fact that it isn’t muddled. Each flavor note stands on its own and yet complements every other one throughout the sip and into the aftertaste. This is a bright, somewhat tart, but also sweet, inviting, approachable and satisfying cup. I almost hate to say all this now that I know the
coffee is sold out at Switchbox, but this would be one of those coffees I’d be staying on high alert for next year and checking Switchbox’s site for every week starting in August. No joke, this is an exceptional coffee in every way!