El Salvador Las Isabellas: A love affair with coffee

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Almost 15 years ago, a young man in his early 20’s came into my store-front with some green coffee and a big smile. He told me his name was Francisco Valdivieso and that this coffee was from his family farm back in El Salvador. It wasn’t every day that I met someone like this in Newberg, Oregon, so I was intrigued to say the least.   

He told me about his family history and how, as a young boy during the peak of a civil war, his father moved their family from El Salvador to Oregon to start a new life. Meanwhile his father’s brother, Uncle Ricardo, stayed in El Salvador to manage the family business.

Their coffee farm is located in the western region of El Salvador and has been in Francisco’s family for over 120 years. Hiding among the farm’s shade-grown coffee plants are numerous Mayan ruins. Archeologists have dated some of these sites at over 3,500 years old.

Fascinated by this story and this young man, I took his sample of green coffee with the promise to “cup” it and let him know what I thought. Maybe it was the bias I had developed toward Central American coffees after my first trip to Costa Rica, or maybe it was the excitement of being a part of such a long lineage of coffee farmers. I don’t fully remember. What I do remember is feeling that we needed to offer this coffee to our customers.

I was compelled to acquire this coffee even though, at the time, we already carried a good selection of Central American coffees. I knew the importance of being passionate about the coffees we offered and working with growers who share in that passion. This was one of those coffees and the beginning of our love affair with it.12301711_1272294759462571_6385008008557665071_n

In 2006, my wife Krista and I were invited to take a trip down to the farm in El Salvador to meet the family that had stewarded this coffee farm for the past 120 years. It was a journey of a lifetime that left a mark on me as a person and instilled in me a commitment to seek out and partner with the amazing, vibrant people who grow coffee all around the world.

11219641_1281180785240635_7301883589676014227_nFour years after we first started offering this coffee, we were told that it would no longer be available to purchase. We were heartbroken, but this is not an uncommon situation in the specialty coffee world. It is easy to forget that coffee is an agricultural product subject to growing seasons and fluctuating markets.10170805_1286824291342951_7325454862719768089_n   

A few months ago, I learned that a local restaurant chain had purchased a container of this green coffee and that there would be a possibility of snagging a few bags “off the back of the truck” I was ecstatic! I had a chance to reunite our customers with a unique piece of Caravan history.

It has been seven years since Caravan has offered El Salvador Las Isabellas and I am happy to announce that it is available once again! With its smoky fragrance up front and rose petal and cinnamon finish, this coffee will not disappoint. 

It is available online and in our tasting room. (BUY ONLINE)

Why I Loathed the Word “Artisan”

Why I Loathed the Word 'Artisan'

Early one warm and sunny summer morning, I drove from a neighboring town to our coffee roastery. In my hand I held a cup of “artisan roasted” Nicaraguan coffee brewed in a Chemex.  As I took a sip the sun hit my windshield and I experienced a surreal and divine moment. I realized: I was drinking art.

The word “artisan” is hugely popular. You see it as a tag-line for almost every new product released. You see it in artisan teas, artisan cheeses, artisan chocolates, artisan beer. You also see it almost everywhere in the modern coffee industry. Why? Why do so many people use the word “artisan” to describe the food and beverages they create?

1My first experience with artisan products was in craft beer, when I worked as a brewer in a local brewery. In the Portland craft beer industry the word “artisan” is in so many places it became cliché. I began to loathe the word. It became dry and meaningless. Yet, I now know my dislike came from ignorance.

Art is more than just a label. Art enables us to take the passion that lies deep within our souls and to share it with the world. Art is our way to create. Art is our way to give back. It is as the French novelist Emile Zola wrote, “If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”

We long to feel important. We yearn to be known. We crave to leave our mark on the world. As if to say, “I was here.  I made a difference.” Thomas Merton once said, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” Art makes us feel bound with acceptance and free from the monotony of life. In art, we lose ourselves as part of a greater community and find out how significant we really are.

The word “artisan” is more than a marketing gimmick. It is a stamp placed on a product that says, “I was here. I made this. I want to share it with you. Come join me!” The reason why the concept of “artisan” products is common is because at the core, the desire to create beauty and meaning is innate within each and every one of us.

For some it may be wine. For others it may be chocolates, cheeses, or breads. For us, its coffee. We were here. We created this.  We want to share it with you. Come join us!

– Marcus