Gloria Mercedes Rodríguez Fontan is a name you’ll likely recognise if you’ve been with us a while. She's a fourth-generation coffee grower who owns and, along with her siblings' support, supervises six farms located in the Apaneca-Ilamatepec mountain range that collectively add up to thirty-eight hectares: San José, Mamatita, El Porvenir, Nejapa, Nueva Granada and La Lagunita. Ever the strong woman, Gloria has overcome gender barriers in an industry that has historically been the province of men, and she personally supervises every step at the farm level.
Through the generations, Finca San Jose has passed through the hands of many committed farmers, beginning in 1815 when José María Rodriguez and Josefina Rodriguez (Gloria's great-grandparents) planted the first coffee trees with their own hands. It has since passed down the line through José's son, Israel Rodriguez, then followed by Jose Maria Rodriguez. Jose Maria took care of the farm until it came to Gloria as the most recent owner.
The mountain slopes of Finca San José sit at an average altitude of 1,500 metres above sea level and are fully shaded by trees that help to maintain and preserve the crop and the surrounding environment. In addition to the trees' diversity, the farm is home to a variety of wild animals and birds, which can be seen in their natural habitat. San José is nested in the northwestern slope of an extinct volcanic crater, with a unique microclimate with an average temperature of 17°C and rich and loamy clay soil, well suited to specialty coffee production - the farm mostly produces Red Bourbon, with smaller amounts of orange and yellow Bourbon as well as Elefante. The crater holds a small lagoon inside, named "Laguna de Las Ninfas" due to the abundance of water lilies.
Finca Nejapa was inherited by Gloria’s father, José María Rodríguez Herrera, in the 1950s. At that time the property was devoted to dairy cattle only, and it was José Maria who made the decision to start growing Bourbon coffee. Coffee trees take a long time to mature enough to start producing a crop but, little by little, he noticed coffee harvests were extremely productive in that area.
The farm has 18.2 hectares of land in total, of which 6.3 hectares are dedicated to growing coffee. The coffee-growing area is divided into three separate plots or 'tablóns'; Los Vientos (2.1 hectares), Santa Marta (1.4 hectares), and Roma (2.8 hectares). Nejapa also has 7 hectares reforested with 10 year old cedar trees. The farm has a diverse range of shade trees throughout, which helps maintain and preserve both the soil conditions and a wide variety of birds and small mammals endemic to the region. It has a spectacular sight over the Apaneca-Ilamatepec mountain range, including the impressive Itzalco volcano, and even over the Pacific Ocean and the port of Acajutla.
Gloria works under strict specialty coffee standards across all her farms. These include only fully ripe cherries being harvested, careful milling and appreciative pruning. Coffee pickers are selected from her staff based on their experience and passion, and their understanding of the requirements to obtain high-quality coffee, and Gloria supervises the whole process directly with the support of Antonio 'Tonio' Avelino - her farm foreman.