Episode 628

El Salvador Finca La Ilusion Washed Bourbon

One of our all-time favourite farms returns once again!

I was visiting some of the farms we buy from during a buying trip to El Salvador in 2008. I actually arrived on the evening of the Cup of Excellence awards, and after the ceremony I was walking around when this guy who seemed very popular came over to me and introduced himself. He was Ernesto, or Neto, as I would come to know him. He'd just won the Cup of Excellence competition with his 'La Ilusión' farm, which is the sister farm to 'Alaska'. Alaska is a farm we had bought from via the Cup of Excellence the year before. Ernesto invited me to visit La Ilusión the next day, and it was so great to finally meet someone I had communicated with so many times via email!

Neto bought La Ilusión many years ago. The farm has coffee trees averaging 20+ years of age and is growing 95% Bourbon (70% is Red Bourbon and 25% is Orange Bourbon). The remaining 5% is a combination of other varietals, and it's possible to spot some Typica and Kenya trees too.

The farm is run using environmentally friendly practices because Neto is trying to maintain a balance with the surrounding ecosystem, which is part of a natural fauna corridor crucial to migratory and native birds. This is very important for Ernesto because La Ilusión neighbours one of the most important national parks in El Salvador, known as 'Los Andes'. It is nestled on the Santa Ana volcano and delineates his farm with dense pine and cypress forest, which itself provides a special micro-climate for La Ilusión.

The naturally processed version of this coffee was used by the 2011 World Barista champion, Alejandro Mendez. He caused a bit of a stir at the WBC by using a naturally-processed lot in his milk drinks and his signature drink, and then using the washed version (this coffee) as his espresso. It caused such a stir that he won! That year I'd roasted the coffee for Alejandro, and it had been grown by Neto. There was a magical moment backstage in which I was stood, polishing glass, with Alejandro and Neto; the grower, roaster and barista all stood together, preparing for the presentation. It's not too often you get such wonderful things happening! Aah, the wonders of barista competition 😊

This begins with a big sweetness which reminds me of a Fruit Salad sweets. Then comes a clean pear in the finish, but with a delicate milk chocolate behind it and, on the aftertaste, a grating of lemon zest.

  • Country: El Salvador
  • Region: Apaneca-Ilamatepec mountain range
  • Department: Santa Ana
  • City: Santa Ana
  • Farm: La Ilusión
  • Farmer: Juan Jose Ernesto Menéndez Argüello
  • Altitude: 1,750–1,850 m.a.s.l.
  • Variety: Bourbon
  • Processing system: Washed


Fruit Salad sweets, pear, milk chocolate, lemon zest

Clean cup: (1–8): 6.5
Sweetness: (1–8): 7
Acidity: (1–8): 6
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 6
Flavour: (1–8): 7
Aftertaste: (1–8): 6.5
Balance: (1–8): 6
Overall: (1–8): 6.5
Correction:(+36): +36

Total: (max. 100): 87.5

Roast Information
Medium to medium-dark - through first and slow it a little, pushing it towards the second but finishing the roast before second gets going.

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