When it comes to visiting the farms of the producers we’re lucky to work with, there are some that we admit that we look forward to in particular–and Fernando Lima’s farms are among them.
It's not just the incredible terrain of El Salvador that inspires us, but the welcome from Fernando and his family, reminding us of how important the landscape of a relationship is and how, when nurtured and cared for, it’s not only sustained, but encouraged to bloom.
Here we celebrate the vision of a man whose coffee has not only formed a key component of one of our most popular mainstay coffees, but who has worked tirelessly to meet environmental challenges head on, building a solid and admirable future of sustainable speciality coffee where exploration is bolstered by the natural beauty of his homeland.
We’re fortunate to count Fernando among some of the producers we’ve worked directly with for a long time. Longevity is something Fernando is no stranger to; the family business spans over s century, and Fernando has grown speciality coffee on the land for 25 years, winning the Cup of Excellence - no easy feat - an impressive six times.
The family are all ardent nature lovers–not surprising, really, when you take sight of the landscape where the coffee is grown. Yet it’s not just an appreciation for their home; it’s a firm understanding in the matter of preservation and the future of coffee cultivation. This attitude is reflected in the way the family works within their immediate community, and beyond. They’re active and keen supporters of education, working closely with local schools, as well as regularly organising workshops and training with the aim to improve overall quality and knowledge, teaching new techniques.
The family also offers medical services, with on-site facilities available to their workers. Such care, attention to detail, and dedication comes naturally to Fernando; his meticulous nature is evident in his passions outside of coffee. From clocking up marathons, to restoring old bikes–every task Fernando sets his mind to considers the long run.
Fernando’s family care for no less than 22 farms - around 1,000 acres - all differing in altitude (from 1,000 to 1,900 masl), climate, and soil. While the rich volcanic soil is ideal for coffee growing, such geography has wrought havoc over harvests in the past; in 2005, the Santa Ana volcano (the highest peak in El Salvador) erupted for the first time in 101 years, depositing ash and rock over Santa Elena farm. Over 97 percent of the harvest was lost that year. While it took five years for the land to fully recover, Fernando saw the loss as an opportunity to do better, seeking sustainable solutions for growing as well as processing the coffee, respecting tradition as well as innovation.
In El Salvador, coffee farms have become a protective habitat - and one of the few remaining areas - of natural forests. All of Fernando’s plantations are Rainforest Alliance and Bird Friendly certified, helping preserve a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. These protected forests mean that 100 percent of the coffee plants are shade grown, ideal for the slow ripening of the cherries, which benefits the final cup flavour. Every step of the process on each farm is thoughtfully considered, with preservation at the heart of every decision.
Santa Elena farm sits at an impressive 1,850-1,900 metres above sea level, with the coffee mill located near Coatepeque Lake, at the base of the Apaneca Ilamatepec mountain range. The farm houses clay patios, maintaining the traditional method for drying coffee. Harvest usually occurs between December and April; Fernando employs 50 full-time workers, with 250 part-time, during cropping.
“Visiting Fernando and his farms is always like a factory reset for body and soul; in a world where it feels like everything is constantly a race, the landscape and Fernando’s attitude are a breath of fresh air–a reminder to pause. To take stock of where we are and how far we’ve come. To be grateful for what we have, and remember what matters to us. Our values. Our commitments. Fernando’s focus has always been about quality. He’s a pleasure to work with - stable, reliable, and genuine. His commitment to the farms, his country, and his people is evident in every cup”
Freda Yuan, 2022
Fernando’s nature is one of nurturing as much as it is about exploration. He’s a keen collaborator, open-minded and extremely hard-working. While some of the coffee trees on his farms are over 70 years old - some from the seeds of the very first bourbon trees to be planted in El Salvador - Fernando also oversees the task of planting around 100,000 new baby trees at the beginning of the country’s rainy season (May - August). Varietals grown include Pacamara, Bourbon, Castillo, Caturra, Sarchimor, Kenya, and Catuai.
The combination of the high altitude of the farm, rich volcanic soil, and forest canopy means that Fernando has the key ingredients for growing coffee–but rather than rely on the landscape, he ensures that every step of the process is carried out with care.
After nine months of growth, the coffee is carefully hand-picked before undergoing five levels of sorting to ensure only perfectly ripe cherries are selected. It’s this kind of attention to detail that is reflected in the vibrancy of flavours, and the strong structure of the cup in Fernando’s coffees. Most coffee goes through a washed process; in 2016, Fernando invested in an energy-efficient wet-mill, saving thousands of litres of water each season. It was also in 2016 that we released a tasting series set of three coffees, each processed in a different way, following a unique collaboration with Fernando, showcasing his curious nature: his patience and diligence mean that any creative process is beautifully thought out and executed.
While some producers keenly look to experiment, Fernando is invested in protecting all that his farms currently provide: a haven to local wildlife, and incredible coffee. On the frontline of his agenda is the commitment to sustainable practices and ensuring not only the future of the land for coffee production, as well as the flora and fauna he loves so much, but also the quality of the coffee; without protecting the environment, great coffee simply isn’t possible. He’s a keen supporter of innovative practices, exploration and looking to new techniques and processes, but for now, Fernando is busy nurturing the bigger picture, appreciating all that his farms provide– for his family, his workers, the community, and the coffee drinkers around the world.
Fernando's coffee plays a key part in our release schedule throughout the year. View our latest coffees - here