Today, Andres Salaverria is the fifth generation of his family to work in coffee. He’s also led the way in experimental processing, invested in training producers, and built strong relationships with some of the biggest names in roasting.
The owner of Beneficio Las Cruces in Los Naranjos, El Salvador, Andres threw himself into coffee back in 2011 after completing a Master’s degree in Coffee Economics and Science (Ernesto Illy Foundation).
We’re in El Salvador for PDG Micro Festival El Salvador, at which Andres kindly agreed to host some of our international speakers and visitors. He also took the time to chat with me about what he credits with his mill’s success: relationships and experimentation.
Honey processing coffee on patios. Credit: Beneficio Las Cruces
For many years, Andres and his family processed semi-washed coffee to specialty standards. But as popular as their coffee was, the Salaverrias weren’t satisfied. Andres wanted to further improve quality, and he felt the best way to do this was through new varietals and processing. Specifically, he wanted to work with honey and natural processing.
He tells me it’s important to offer a product portfolio – something which demands innovation, new technology, and worker training. This constant change, he explains, is important for the company’s growth and helps it to stand out from others.
He purchased depulping machinery for his honey processed coffee – meaning he doesn’t have to use water-guzzling fermentation tanks. He’s also invested in African beds, knowing that controlling the drying process is key for good-quality coffee.
Beneficio Las Cruces processes coffee from approximately 30 farms in the region, including his family’s farms and those of small producers from whom they buy the cherries. Their varietals include SL-28, SL234, Geisha, Icatu, Catuai, and Castillo.
African beds allow Andres to control how natural coffees dry. Credit: Beneficio Las Cruces
The Need for Strong Relationships
Yet Andres believes that experimenting with processing methods isn’t enough: he also needs strong relationships.
He tells me that focusing on meeting the precise needs of a specific group of clients is better than having hundreds of consumers with low levels of loyalty. “It isn’t fair to stop selling your coffee to a client who has been committed and has trusted your work since year one.” (Translated from Spanish to English by A. K. Molina Ospina.)
What’s more, it allows him to work on experimental innovations with the knowledge that there are purchasers supporting him. At the end of every year, his clients come to the wet mill and check the processing together with him. They will cup the coffees together to ensure that it meets their needs.
These clients include importers such as Nordic Approach and roasters such as Workshop Coffee, Illy, Wataru & Co., D. R. Wakefield & Co., and Klatch Coffee.
Experimental processing methods supported by clients. Credit: Beneficio Las Cruces
His relationship with his producers is equally important to him.
Andres tells me that the biggest challenges he’s faced are climate change and coffee leaf rust (la roya). In 2012 and 2013, production was down by a staggering 70%.
Yet close behind is his work with producers. “Changing the producers’ mindset, persuading them to establish specific processes that will ensure quality, has been hard,” he says. (Translated from Spanish to English by A. K. Molina Ospina.)
40% of his mill’s coffee comes from small producers. And Andres believes important to share his knowledge with these producers. He wants to raise awareness of the technical aspects of growing coffee.
In order to do so, his company provides training throughout Santa Ana, the department in El Salvador they are based in. This training reflects current trends, as well as the methods used in other countries throughout the world.
Andres’ strong relationships with buyers and producers allows him to plan for the future. He tells me that long-term contracts with clients is what allows him to project future demand. In turn, this allows him to proactively adapt his processing methods and also save resources.
It’s provided him with greater financial sustainability, as well as key feedback for him improving the quality of his coffee.
And that’s why he believes in relationship coffee.
Written by A. K. Molina Ospina, with thanks to Andres Salaverria of Jasal/Beneficio Las Cruces.
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