El Martillo Experimental Lot

Mature fruit tones of cooked orange & raspberry lift core flavours of chocolate cake & forest honey. The finish reminds us of lime marmalade.

This is the third year we’ll be roasting Kenyan-style SL varieties of coffee from the El Martillo test plot, tended to by the Salaverria brothers in Santa Ana, El Salvador.

In 2017, we bought the entirety of the tiny production coming from the SL28 trees planted in 2014 in the brothers’ variety garden. We were privileged to taste through the first crop of several experimental varieties that the brothers had planted a few short years’ previously, including Pacamara, Geisha, Chaco-14, Bourbon Naranjo, SL34, several Ethiopian varieties, K7, Icatu Amarillo, Chaco-10, Batian and Tabi. The SL28 production was our favourite, but only amounted to two sacks of coffee, one of which had undergone their washed processing, and the other processed as a ‘red-honey’. With José Antonio being an agronomist and Andrés a trained cupper, the brothers are trying to maximise the potential for quality at every step, developing the right harvest and post-harvest protocols for each variety they choose to grow in each distinct plot they tend to.

Last year, the two sacks we bought had been processed as a ‘black-honey’ with more mucilage left on the parchment after depulping. The increase in wind patterns altered the drying of the lot, meaning that the extra sugars didn’t necessarily contribute to more funkiness or chewiness, as the ‘black-honey’ SL28 tasted super clean still. This year the total volume of coffee from their SL28 and SL34 trees have been blended together after being processed in distinct manners. The SL28 was prepared as a ‘red-honey’ like the 2017 crop, and the SL34 more traditionally washed and soaked. Ordinarily different preparations would not be mixed together, but with just 35kg of each variety having been produced, it was a logistical decision to blend them to create just one sack of exportable coffee.

It's been a difficult year for the Salaverrias. Last year their production was lower than normal, and this year it is lower still, due to poor weather conditions with unpredictable and atypical wind and rain patterns. Despite volumes being low they are still dedicated to producing high quality lots, investing in 375 more drying beds to focus more on preparing honeys and naturals as well as both their mechanically and traditional style washed coffees.

As the trees on their El Martillo test plot have grown a little older, now 5 years old since being planted, the production is a little more mature and the coffee overall tastes deeper. The characteristic notes we’ve experienced in the past from the El Martillo SL28 have evolved, but still make us think of gin botanicals and sangria. The combination of SL28 and SL34 is nothing new to us, a relatively normal combination you see in Kenyan coffee, but this will be the first time we've roasted a coffee made up of differently prepared coffees; an exciting prospect for the team in our London roastery..