Over the last 4 years Santa Elena has produced great lots of coffee for Counter Culture. Before that, though, the farm had a gigantic setback 8 years ago. On October 1, 2005, Don Fernando Lima was gearing up for another coffee harvest when the Santa Ana Volcano erupted for the first time in 101 years spewing ash and rock all over the eastern side of the Volcano, where his Finca Santa Elena is located.
Not only is Santa Elena situated on the side most affected by the eruption, it is one of the highest-elevation coffee farms in the region making matters worse. The location of Santa Elena, just a few hundred meters below the crater of the volcano, meant that it was devastated; one employee from the farm lost their life, roads were destroyed, and a large number of coffee trees were lost. Santa Elena lost more than 97% of its harvest, and it took five years for the farm to fully recover. Don Fernando, faced with such a challenge, realized that the devastation also gave him an opportunity to regroup and make Santa Elena better.
Every year we have worked increasingly well with Don Fernando to keep perfecting the coffee. This year, he built an impressive area for raised bed drying based on some feedback from us and even implemented fermentation and processing techniques that we had seen successful at other farms. One lot using these techniques placed 5th in the El Salvador Cup of Excellence this year. We are super-proud of Don Fernando and Santa Elena this year, and think it is the best coffee the farm has output for us yet.
Finca Santa Elena was named by Fernando Lima's father. He called the farm after Saint Helena of Constantinople, who is credited with finding relics of the True Cross and spreading the faith to the Roman empire.
In total, Don Fernando Lima owns 90 Hectares and 11 Tablones, with land reserved as forest. The farm is also surrounded by the Los Volcanes National Park near the crater of the Santa Ana Volcano. He owns a few sections around the same area:
Santa Elena is the oldest and original farm.
Santa Elena Tablon* 1 and 2 are where 100% of our lot comes from for the 2012/2013 harvest.
In addition, Santa Elena has had good fortune with the Cup of Excellence since it started in 2003. Here are the times that his farms have placed: The Tablones associated with Santa Elena section placed in 2003, 2008, and 2011, and 2013.
Region: Santa Ana
Elevation: 1,450 - 1,800 meters
Santa Elena and the other farms owned by Fernando Lima are all surrounded by the Los Volcanes National Park near the crater of the Santa Ana Volcano on the Eastern slope overlooking Lake Coatepeque. Driving in the quaint downtown area of Santa Ana, you wouldn't expect that it is the second largest town in El Salvador after San Salvador.
Driving around though, as you pass coffee farm after coffee farm just outside the downtown area, and the numerous coffee processing facilities, it is not hard to imagine why Santa Ana is essentially considered the hub of coffee for the entire country. This stems from a rich coffee tradition that started in the late 1800s. By the early 1900s, El Salvador and Santa Ana, in particular, were really put on the map by one particular modern coffee mill, that became famous the world over for its innovative technology and the quality of coffee.
Since the middle of the 1900s, though, and especially in the 1980's due to terrible civil war, El Salvador's popularity in the coffee world waned. The last two decades of stability have brought El Salvador and Santa Ana back to fame, and many of the best coffees in Central America are being produced around this town.
The geography of Santa Ana is also fascinating. Downtown Santa Ana itself is just over 660 meters above sea level, but the Ilamatepec (Santa Ana Volcano) climbs to over 2,300 meters, all within a pretty short distance. This creates a lot of diversity and microclimates in a very small area, and hence creates lots of different flavors that are possible is such a small area.
Tasting Notes: Notes of pear, nougat, and orange
Elevation: 1,450 - 1,800 meters
Process: Washed; ecopulper, no fermentation followed by 24 hour post-fermentation soak.
Drying: Raised Beds 9 -16 days
Harvest Time: February - March 2013