The Los Niños Experiments from the Talnamica farm are an in-depth examination of the effect processing methods have on the flavor of a coffee. In coffee terminology a "process" describes the handling and removing of the fruit from the coffee bean (seed). Differences in processes affect the resulting flavor profile. In this experiment, we keep all other factors consistent and controlled to highlight the processes. Same variety, same farm, same mill, same-day harvest, five different processes. Our ability to produce these experiments is a testament to a committed partnership between farmer and roaster.
Mayita Mendez, from our coffee team, sat down with producers Nena and Hermann (who are also her parents) to chat about the experiments and our partnership. Nena's family, the Ortiz siblings has owned the Talnamica farm for 4 generations.
When did you first start working with Irving Farm?
Nena- I was walking by Irving Place after a big birthday celebration in 2011. I saw the charming Irving Farm coffee and went inside, saw a photo from El Salvador and recognized the farm. I asked who the coffee buyer was and was put in touch with Dan Streetman. Soon we visited the roastery in Millerton and a couple of months later Dan came to El Salvador and started buying our coffee!
What has been unique or special for you about working with Irving Farm?
Nena- As a New Yorker AND a Salvadoran, what makes it special for me is that our coffees are sold in Irving Farms shops in New York! Irving Farm is part of the exciting coffee scene in this amazing city and it’s such a pleasure to see how much it’s grown.
What’s special about the experiments for me is our participation with teaching material for Irving Farm. We feel honored and very excited to be part of the education of staff and the general public. It is rewarding to know that people are learning about coffee with our beans.
Herman- Our relationship with Irving Coffee has been unique thanks to Dan Streetman's (Irving Farm's green buyer) commitment to create and foster deep, strong bonds with us coupled with a continuous effort to improve that relationship. Every year he visits and tours the farms, looks at our new projects and how they affect the people of the community and the environment, visits the mills we work with and develop projects to understand quality and improve it, he tastes our best coffees and chooses the ones he wants for Irving's New York metropolitan clientele. We have gone so far as to experiment with the effects of processing on coffee flavor and quality. Our experiments are facilitated by our farm’s availability of abundant fruits ripening at the same time in the same lot. An outstanding testimony to our special relationship is that our daughter works with Irving Farm in NYC! We, as farmers of quality coffee fully feel that we are participants in this work.
What does it mean to you to be able to do these experiments every year?
Herman- It’s a lot of work and a lot of fun, it takes us from our daily harvesting routines into a special gala day. Guided by our farm manager, Miguel Angel, our best harvesters collect perfectly ripened fruits all at once, enough of them to run five separate mill processing methods.We wash the truck, we use only new immaculate white bags for the fresh coffee cherries. On that day the truck leaves the farm as early possible to arrive first to a mill that has also been cleaned to remove residue of all other coffees.
As a producer what have you learned about your farm?
Herman- The lesson farming has taught us is that fruit ripening is directly correlated with quality.
With these experiments, I’ve learned that processes have a substantial effect on flavor that, coupled with perfect ripening, create a wider variety of notes, flavors, depth, sweetness and acidity. In the quest for quality, as a farmer I have been educated and enlightened by these results.
I’ve learned a lot about our field team and leadership, their commitment to excellence in producing and obtaining the best coffees. I have learned of the abilities, hard work, dedication, attitude, goodwill, and pride of our collaborators.
I have also been able to assess and compare the impact each type of process may have on the environment.
What are some of the challenges that you are facing?
Herman- We face great challenges that include price, pests, aging of the plantations, climate change, protection of the environment and the community. However, our work with Irving Farm helps us alleviate some of these challenges and move forward.
The single most important adversity that afflicts coffee growers worldwide is the international price of it. Coffee is being produced at a cost greater than the price. If we want to continue drinking our favorite beverage, the need to value the coffee at better prices is urgent. This affects all other challenges like combating the Roya disease and the Coffee Fruit Borer, renovating plantations so as to yield quality coffee and resist pests and climate change, maintaining shade trees and forests, protecting water sources, generating employment and providing a guarantee to new generations that coffee farming is a good and decent occupation.
The higher prices that Irving Farm pays for our specialty coffee help us balance the horrible prices paid by the international coffee market. There is a desire on our part to try to maximize the quality of the coffee to continue taking advantage of the better prices.
Agriculture is expensive, labor is expensive and our people and land are so dear. Without relationships like the one with Irving Farm we could not afford to do this.
How do you feel about continuing your parents legacy as a farmer?
Nena- I grew up going to Talnamica, we would spend the weekends there with my father, visiting the homes of the farm residents and workers. My father knew everyone by name, he had Christmas presents every year for everyone. We have people living on the farm that worked with my father and are now elderly and still remember him dearly.
We have a strong emotional attachment to the farm, we are so happy to continue my father's legacy. Hermann and I got married 47 years ago and he became enamoured with coffee and is now a crucial part of running our coffee business.
The volcanic lands of El Salvador yield spectacular coffee and I am proud to participate in that.
This year, with the partnership of the Talnamica farm, we are excited to offer 5 different process offerings in 4oz packages. You can buy all 5 for $25, or mix and match individual 4oz packs.
Washed - Dried Cherry / Milk Chocolate / Plum
Washed Process coffee is depulped, fermented overnight, washed and then dried in raised beds.
Wild Honey - Pineapple / Cream Soda /Pilsner
Wild Honey Processed coffee is depulped, fermented overnight, and then dried in raised beds.
Honey - Granola / Maple / Marzipan
Honey Process coffee is depulped and then dried in raised beds.
Pulp Natural - Honey / Strawberry / Butter
Pulp Natural Process coffee is dried first as the whole cherry, then depulped and then dried a second time in raised beds.
Natural - Blueberry / Dark Chocolate / Coriander
Natural Process coffee is dried on raised beds as a whole cherry before being sent to the dry mill.