Carlos Pola is one of the most interesting producers we have ever come across. Since he began farming in 2012, Carlos and his wife, Patty, have not been afraid to experiment with all sorts of innovating coffee farming techniques, leading to some truly outstanding coffees that also set a standard for regenerative farming and earth care. He is a big believer in the soil’s tendency to share nutrients and is meticulous about maintaining the proper balance. This pays off tremendously in the cup with clean, unique flavors showcasing his farming prowess. Read below for a more in depth look at Carlos Pola’s farm and how he is able to sustainably grow these incredible coffees.
This particular lot has a sweet, white chocolate start that is a different spin on the classic El Salvador taste profile. Some clove and cinnamon spice notes really make it interesting, and we found that it has a nice nutty aftertaste. Filter methods like pourover and drip pot will bring out more dried fruit flavors, while a French Press will be sweeter like chocolate milk.
From our importing partner, Nicole Diefenbach with Unravel Coffee Merchants:
The volcanic peaks of El Salvador provide ideal conditions for growing coffee, but after a century of cultivation, in 2012, a fungus known as coffee rust or “roya” nearly wiped out El Salvador’s production. This disease threatened the livelihood of all Salvadoran coffee farmers and many were forced to abandon their farms; replanting requires substantial capital to invest and years of waiting for young trees to begin bearing fruit.
At this same time, Carlos Pola left a career in textile exports to restore his family’s coffee farm. Many trees needed to be leveled and the land required vast renovations. Pola examined traditional practices and developed a few rogue philosophies in cultivation based on his in-depth research and active farm experiments.
Carlos could be characterized as “one with the soil”. Through observation, he discovered the coffee trees growing among his pepeto shade trees looked the healthiest. During our own farm visit, he points to a plot to the left and says “You don’t have to be an agronomist to see that those are happy trees… (points to the right, where no pepeto trees are in sight)… and those are not.”
This is because the pepeto tree has a unique symbiosis with the surrounding coffee trees. The pepeto takes nitrogen from the atmosphere and converts it into nutrients that are readily digestible for the coffee root systems, nutrients otherwise unavailable. The transportation of nutrients is possible through the mycelium network which starts at the roots of pepeto trees.
“Mycorrhizal is the social network of the forest. It’s how plants communicate.” says Carlos.
He taps into this system further, leveraging its natural strengths to decompose plant matter into nutrient-rich soil which drowns weeds and prevents erosion. This natural growing system eliminates reliance on chemical fertilization and pesticides.
Carlos has increased production by planting rows of coffee trees in special patterns along flat tiers, simultaneously combating erosion. Traditionally coffee trees are planted in vertical sparse rows down the side of a mountain, creating a difficult and dangerous environment for coffee pickers.
With many coffee pickers in their 60s and above, Carlos wanted to ensure they could pick comfortably. The dense trees allow pickers to focus on a 3-meter section all day because there’s an abundance of cherries in a concentrated space.
His farm team offers his greatest advantage during processing. With no electricity in their homes, Pola’s staff can tap into what he calls ‘The Lost Art of Fermentation’. This art is utilized daily to store and prepare all of their food.
With this elevated sensitivity, they care for and record tedious notes while processing coffee. Notes include that day’s weather fluctuations and bean color changes. Added uniformity comes with each table being named vs being labeled with paper (which can fly away).
The staff sends daily updates via smartphone and a genius spreadsheet system created by Carlos; a system that offers live updates and complete traceability by day for each partida [coffee drying table]. By working closely with a small, local mill, Pola’s attentive effort is applied through dry milling and export.
This attention to detail lead to Pola Coffee gaining global notoriety with back to back World Coffee in Good Spirits Championship wins with Dan Fellows in 2018 & 2019. Carlos collaborated directly with the UK Barista Champion to specially process his pacamara for the cocktails.
Carlos strives for the rise of the entire specialty coffee industry in El Salvador. He works with neighboring producers to consolidate their coffees in-country and export internationally. This past October, in collaboration with Café de El Salvador and the government of El Salvador, Carlos taught a ‘Sustainable Coffee Growing in Climate Change’ seminar.
Now entering his highest production year yet, Carlos attributes this success to careful variety selection, innovative cultivation practices, and a highly-skilled team. We’re thrilled to establish a long-term partnership with Carlos Pola and look forward to the years to come!