cherry, cacao nib sweetness, brighter lemon/lime acidity, good plus body, sweet and tangy finish
Founded in 1983 as a result of El Salvador’s agrarian reform, this small cooperative of 57 active members is a beautiful case of struggle and perseverance to recover from the ravages caused by coffee leaf rust. At a time of one of the worst production levels in El Salvador’s coffee history, San Antonio bet on implementing good agricultural practices and improving the quality of their coffee production.
The members of the cooperative opted for implementing good soil and water smart farm management practices. They minimize the use of agrochemicals and focus on increasing the use of organic fertilizers. San Antonio continues to pursue coffeeland renovation with a focus on improving permeability and water retention of farm soil. Some of this work consists of replanting coffee trees in triangle formation along hillside contours to lessen erosion and increase water infiltration. They employ the use of individual terraces, water infiltration pits, green fertilizers, soil cover, and perform periodic soil analysis in order to correctly amend and fertilize their farms.
From inception until the 2015-16 financial year, San Antonio sold their coffee cherry to a large local mill. In 2016-17 they rebuilt an ecological wet mill that had been idle for years. Now they process the total of their production themselves but still utilize a 3rd party dry mill due to both spatial and budget constraints. Coffee Unified has been working closely through local organizations to support San Antonio with quality improvements and market access and has been importing the totality of the San Antonio harvest since Unified’s inception in 2017.
The San Antonio cooperative is located in a critical water recharge zone in the El Balsamo Mountain range. The climate smart farming employed by the San Antonio cooperative supports the health of this watershed and directly improves the water security for some 3,550 people located downstream in the town of Comasagua. The town has long suffered from severe water supply restriction through every dry season. During these times the people endure a very stringent schedule of water availability as water access is turned on for just a few hours a day, a few days a week. In addition to benefiting the town, the cooperative also contributes to generating water for other rural communities.
The ability of San Antonio to continue as a solvent organisation seems to be called into question for various reasons each year. While this cycle tends to be the sad plight endured by coffee growers worldwide, the cooperatives resilience is constantly being tested in increasingly difficult ways. For every two steps we make together we seem to be taking at least that many back. From leaf rust, to the end of NGO funding for technical assistance, a continually depressed coffee futures market, to Covid lockdowns and new economic realities, to a recent tropical storm that downed community power lines and created massive landslides on the cooperative farms... we remain inspired by the dogged perseverance of this somewhat rag-tag cooperative and are constantly reminded that if we are sincere in our vision of sustainability, we are indefinitely Unified.