The pruning of the shade trees is labor intensive. Once the trees have been earmarked, pruners who are paid at a higher rate for their climbing skills, spend several weeks on the property. After the men have climbed a selected tree, they tie a rope around the branch to be cut. Once severed from the tree, they carefully lower the branch to avoid harming any coffee trees beneath to another man waiting below. Men on the ground saw the branches to smaller sizes that are brought back to the hacienda to sell for firewood. The employees and seasonal workers are always welcome to take home an armful of wood at the end of the day.
The coffee trees must also be pruned shortly after harvest to stimulate new growth. Older trees that have become poor producers are pruned low to the ground. As they will not yield any production for a few years, it is important to monitor how many trees are pruned in this fashion per season.
Finca Los Angeles was not always organic, but five years ago, we threw away all the chemicals and made the big switch. We are in the process of obtaining certification, but rest assured, you will never find any chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides on the property!It is more expensive, but we accept these challenges to provide a quality product that is better for the environment.
Cleaning of ground weeds is done twice a year. The Vehuco vine is the main weed we do battle with. During the rainy season, this vine can grow several feet and easily suffocate a coffee tree. The work is done by hand with machetes and takes 4-6 weeks each time. This allows a clean area around the base of the tree for applying compost and fertilizer. It is another labor intensive part of the coffee cycle, but the only alternative to using chemical herbicides and staying within the organic guidelines
Maintaining a coffee and shade tree nursery is an on-going part of the plantation. Trees must be replaced and we also continue to expand the population on available land that was given over to corn production during the civil war. We buy certified seeds, seedlings in tubetes, and mature stock ready to plant. When the seedlings arrive, they must be transplanted to individual planting bags. This requires much patience as they are very small and difficult to handle. Women from Tecapan are hired for this delicate work. The seedlings will then spend a year in the nursery before they are permanently planted. We also keep an constant stock of shade tree in the nursery to create a canopy for new areas.
This is by far the most exciting time on the plantation when we hire approximately 40-45 women from the village of Tecapan. The day starts at the crack of dawn as the women show up with their children, who are off for the Christmas holidays. Each woman is assigned a row and picks only ripe red cherries. Three to four passes are made during harvest until all the beans have been picked.
We wash our beans at a local mill down the road the same day they are picked. The beans are pressed against a perforated spinning cage that use water to break down and remove the pulp. Once the beans have been separated from the pulp and washed clean of the mucilageous coating, they are immediately brought back to the plantation to dry on our sun patios. We also haul back our organic pulp to be used as compost for the following year.
The newly washed beans are spread and raked every hour to help aerate the entire bean. This continues daily depending on sunlight intensity, for approximately 4 to 7 days until the beans are within a 9-11% moisture content. Anything higher, and the beans are in danger of fermenting. The beans are then gathered and stored in burlap bags inside where they can remain dry until ready for roasting and shipment. After the coffee beans have been dried, there is a very fine skin remaining on the bean. Also referred to as parchment, silver skin, husk, chaff, or pergamino. Removing the skin is done by passing the beans through a vibrating sieve.
Our limited edition of Tecapa Blue coffee is roasted by Jacquin Rivas in the nearby town of Jucuapa who has worked closely with us for over five years. He and his son roast to our exact specifications. We also utitlize the facilities at Jucuapa to remove the husk from the coffee beans when preparing our green coffee for export.
We currently export our roasted coffee by air to ensure freshness, and our larger shipments of green coffee by sea. We carefully package our coffee in sealed containers, and buy our jute/burlap bags from a local factory. All of our coffee is registered with the Consejo de Cafe of El Salvador.
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