El Salvador Matalapa Tablon Cidra deserves some sharper focus, as we like to return to coffees in our current inventory and flesh them out in greater detail. It’s important to know what you sell, and know it well! It’s also important, in the current climate in which high acid and exotic fruit-laden coffee garner a lot of attention, to define what makes a more restrained and classic coffee like this El Salvador to the coffee drinker. I mean, this is the kind of coffee people like to drink in full cups, not just by the cupping spoonful.
And lately we’ve had numerous other Central American coffees grace our cup table so it’s good to refresh ourselves on how this El Salvador profile stacks up against coffees from neighboring countries. What we find is a nice bittersweet flavor profile in brewed coffee, and a pretty damn attractive SO espresso pulled from the Full City+ roast of La Cidra
Like most of the coffee we assess, roasting was handled in our Probat electric 3-barrel sample roaster. This coffee is grown at a fairly low elevation relative to some Centrals – 1350 max – and so somewhat ‘soft‘ in terms of density. With the P3 set to the lower end of our preferred heat spectrum I achieved 1st crack right around 7:30 for all three roasts. The City+ roast was pulled right at 9:45, Full City 10:30, and I almost hit 2nd snaps in the 3rd roast at 11 minutes.
Smelling the ground coffee, there’s a perfumed spice and nut aspect, a bit like granola bar with honey, cinnamon, and roasted almond. The cup also has it’s fair share of nut and oat-like flavors, notes brought into balance by browning sugar sweetness, and conversely the bittering aspects of sugar burned to a pan. Cocoa notes are mere hints at this roast level, but you get a sense of their eventual dominance when roasting a shade darker. This is a good roast level for daily drinking, building out a nice base sweetness for nut-to-cocoa flavors to rest on.
Our FC roast definitely boosted roast tones in the aroma and cup. And though the smells ranged from toast with hazelnut spread, honey wheat and Thai peanut sauce, the cup is cocoa-centered, some sweetness like high percentage cacao bar, but the bittering aspects of baker’s cocoa come through in the finish. Sugar aspects are most like molasses, but at this level it’s all about bittersweetness. Body is really big, and without roasting out all of the sweetness, for me this is the optimal roast level for espresso. Delicious really, “classic” profiled, with strong up-front sweetness fading to rich cacao bar, and a citric brightness that comes out of nowhere (not something you sense in the brewed cup). No blend components needed – this one’s perfect as-is.
Well, technically it’s not quite “plus” since I didn’t hit 2nd snaps, but came pretty dang close to it. Once you get this dark in the roast spectrum there is little nut tone left, traded for heavy scent of bittersweet cocoa, hickory, and a touch of the molasses flavor found in the FC roast. The body is inky, bordering oily, and deep roast tones ensure lasting smokey bittersweetness. We don’t recommend FC+ for the majority of our coffees, but this is truly one of those exceptions where sweetness is still produced at 2nd snaps in addition to carbony flavors, and makes for a
In The End:
This coffee still scores right around 86 points as a brewed coffee, and isn’t showing any tell-tale signs of aging (paper flavors or woody astringency). It’s a fine example of what some of the better coffees from El Salvador can taste like. In my opinion, it’s best suited for that “people pleasing” spot on a cafe list – a high quality representation for the region, has sweetness without sugar, and that shows well at a medium-to-dark roast level. And really, it’s one of the better Latin America espressos I’ve had, harnessing a “classic” espresso profile that stands strong on it’s own.