An Interview With Maria Pacas Martinez For Our Special Café Pacas Coffees Month

Single Origin Roasters Cafe Pacas El Retiro
 
The Pacas Family of El Salvador have walked the hard & high road to the summit of specialty coffee, step by uncompromising step for five generations. For us, having the opportunity to share in the fruits of this long labour of love is a true privilege. This month we’d like to honour their work, dedication, innovation & name by applying all that we’ve learnt in our own coffee quest & exclusively feature four outstanding coffees from the Pacas Family for this month of September. Here is a recent conversation we had with Maria Pacas Martinez that goes right to heart of what it is to be involved in specialty.

Single Origin Roasters Cafe Pacas Packaging
 
 
HOW LONG HAS YOUR FAMILY BEEN PRODUCING COFFEE?

Before coffee was introduced in El Salvador, the land was used for planting tobacco, corn, anil and other cultivars that were not permanent. In the late 1700’s coffee was introduced to our country, a permanent crop. Lucky for us, my family decided to participate in this venture… FIVE GENERATIONS AGO!

It all began in the 1800’s when Jose Rosa Pacas, decided to explore the world of coffee. He purchased some top quality land at the Apaneca Lamatepec mountain range and planted Bourbon trees.

The love for coffee was passed from one generation to another. During the mid 1900’s our grandfather’s father, Fernando Alberto Pacas Figueroa experimented different cultivation methods to increase production. His most important achievement was discovering a new coffee variety in one of his farms. It was named PACAS in his honor.

Single Origin Roasters Cafe Pacas Papa-Beto  Single Origin Roasters Cafe Pacas Alfredo-Pacas-Trujillo
 
After him, my grandfather, Alfredo Pacas Trujillo, implemented his father’s cultivation techniques and drastically increased production levels at the farms.

In the early 1990’s my father, Fernando Alfredo Pacas Diaz decided to take the next step: process and export his own coffee. Before, the coffee produced was sold to a mill who would process and export the beans. There was no traceability whatsoever. My father’s strategy was to obtain the highest quality coffee from his own farms, preserve traceability and enhance the product through clean and innovative milling practices.

Single Origin Roasters Cafe Pacas Fernando-Alfredo-Pacas-Diaz
 
My generation recognises the importance of quality, relationships, sustainability, and the environment. Our goal is to increase specialty coffee production in existing farms as well as acquiring new ones with potential. We are moving into the future with one inspiring vision:

“Bring happiness to the planet through unique coffees that deliver our passion for excellence in each cup.”

 
HOW MANY MEMBERS OF YOUR FAMILY ARE NOW WORKING WITH YOU?

There are 4 family members actively working at CAFÉ PACAS:

Fernando Alfredo Pacas Diaz, who is my father and the company’s CEO. He divides his time among coffee, sugar and many other activities.

Juan Alfredo Pacas Martinez: He is my youngest brother. He is the company’s production director. He and his team, overlook production at the farms and mill. Juan Alfredo’s training is in industrial engineer and has a master’s degree in Coffee Production.

Marcela Pacas Martinez: She is my sister and she is responsible for the company’s HR and Social Responsibility programs. Marcela’s background is in education. Her people skills and organization allow her to do a fantastic job in her area.

Maria Pacas Martinez: That’s me!! My job is to promote and sell our different products. My background is in economics but my passion and true love is coffee.

Pacas-family
 
My other 2 sisters and my mother are not actively involved in the company, however they love and care for this wonderful business as much as we do.

Transferring this legacy of love to the next generation is our responsibility. For that reason, during summer vacation our oldest children join the team. This year, Jose Antonio joined QC and Paola collaborated with marketing.

El-Retiro-behind-us
 
 
HOW DID YOU COME TO HAVE A COFFEE VARIETY NAMED AFTER YOUR FAMILY?

I would like to share with you the story of the PACAS VARIETY written by my grandfather, Fernando Alfredo Pacas Trujillo on April 22nd, 1974:

“In the year 1905, my father don Fernando Alberto Pacas Figueroa, planted most of his coffee farms with the “National Varietal”, popular among coffee growers in the Santa Ana region. His curiosity led him to plant other varieties as well; such as: Maragojipe, San Ramón Bourbon, etc. Suddenly he noticed that in one of his farms, Finca San Rafael, located at 4,400 feet, a different type of tree was growing. He collected seed from those different trees and grew them at the nursery.

When the trees were old enough, my father planted them in a specific area of Finca San Rafael. The tree’s production set record at 80 to 100 QQ of green coffee per year. At this point, my brothers and I referred to the new trees as the “San Ramon Bourbon Hybrid”.

In 1956, while visiting the farm with Mr. Francisco de Sola, I mentioned the outstanding production levels of the “San Ramon Bourbon Hybrid” at Finca San Rafael. Mr. de Sola insisted on taking a look at the trees. We noticed that the trees were very different from the Bourbon variety.

After his visit, Don Francisco urged us to investigate this breakthrough. We contacted Doctor William Cogwill from University of Florida. He came to El Salvador and visited Finca San Rafael. He requested that some trees be sent to University of Florida to perform other studies. It was done immediately.

Doctor Cogwill concluded, without a doubt, that the trees were a new coffee variety, probably derived from a mutation. When comparing them with the San Ramon Bourbon, he noted the following differences:

1. Shorter space between knots on side branches
2. Wider production area
3. Bigger size
and others that I don´t remember.

Based on history, the new variety was named PACAS. It has been used in El Salvador, and in other countries of Latin America, Africa, Phillipines, etc.

The following characteristics have been emphasized by farmers who have planted the PACAS variety at their farms:

1. Magnificent results in super populated crops.
2. Can be grown at any altitude above sea level and requires no shade.
3. Requires very little pruning.
4. Pest resistant, especially the roots.
5. Resistant to wind.
6. Not recommended for coffee farms where taller varieties are planted, because growth will be delayed by shade.
7. Not recommended for areas above 5,000 feet. Even though it produces a good harvest, the ripening of the grain is slower and you will have to harvest it while still green.

Fernando Alfredo Pacas Trujillo.”

This is the PACAS VARIETY’s story through his eyes!

Pacas Bourbon
 
 
YOU HAVE A REPUTATION FOR BEING VERY CREATIVE AND DYNAMIC AND ALWAYS TRYING NEW THINGS, WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

Coffee inspires us! We believe coffee has the potential to transform the world into a better place. We believe in making coffee a sustainable business. We are inspired by the people who work with us; those who depend on coffee for feeding their families. We are inspired by our country, El Salvador; much in need of products they can show the world and feel proud. We are inspired by our clients; those who value, appreciate and work magic with our coffees. We are inspired by 5 generations who have worked hard every single day and transmitted the love for the land.

Single Origin Roasters Cafe Pacas workers Pacas-employees
 
 
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR SOCIAL AND SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAMS?

We have 2 main programs that contribute to the coffee business’ sustainability from a social angle:

I. THE POWER TO TRANSFORM
This program addresses a very difficult problem we face in El Salvador: Violence in the communities. This problem, if not dealt with, has the power to make coffee farming impossible. This said, we have decided to sponsor 2 schools in our area with an anti-violence program called “The Power to Transform”. It has 2 main objectives: a) to prevent violence and improve harmony and coexistence among the scholar community; and b) to improve the quality of the schools through teacher trainings in reading, writing and math.

The program assigns 2 clinical psychologists per school. They are responsible for instructing students, teachers, and parents of the community with different tools to solve conflict in a non-violent manner. They also provide one to one psychological help to those who need it. The program provides teacher trainings as well. Along with some of our clients, we have sponsored this program for 2 years. A total of 756 people have benefited. We understand that dramatic improvements take time and perseverance. We have both. The first seeds have been planted.

II. COFFEE CERTIFICATE PROGRAM:
2 years ago, by chance, we realized that in the National School of Agriculture of El Salvador (ENA), the students were not learning ANYTHING about coffee. This worried us… How can coffee be sustainable if there is no one educating people in a structured and professional manner? We perceived this as an opportunity for us to act upon it and we decided to initiate a “Coffee Certificate Program” for the students at ENA. The focus of the program is to teach the students how to produce, process and trade specialty coffee. Many of our staff members are involved in the program so we are the ones who teach the classes. The students have the opportunity to learn with us in a hands-on manner. We start with planting seeds at the nursery and reach all the way to preparing coffee for exporting. Our emphasis is quality….

We have trained a total of 150 students to this day.

Single Origin Roasters Cafe Pacas teaching
 
 
TELL US SOMETHING YOU WISH EVERY COFFEE DRINKER KNEW:

I wish every coffee drinker had the awareness of how challenging coffee production is. If you analyze it, drinking a cup of fantastic coffee is a gift from nature…all coffee drinkers should be aware and grateful for that.
 
 
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?

I think our biggest challenge is developing a sustainable coffee business through time. Not only from a social angle but from a business perspective as well. To achieve this we have to improve our efficiency and add value to our products.
 
 
WHAT’S IN THE FUTURE FOR YOU?

Our plans are to increase our specialty and unique coffee offerings. We plan to continue experimenting with new methods, new varieties and new ideas. We believe in innovation and change.
 
 
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE SPECIALTY COFFEE SECTOR BEING IN THE NEXT 5 YEARS?

I see the specialty coffee sector growing from the consumers’ end. I know that when a coffee drinker has the opportunity to experience specialty, it’s an automatic hook! I also see a different specialty coffee consumer emerging. One who demands not only the benefits of a more complex, flavorful and delicious coffee; but one who is more educated and curious about the product.

Single Origin Roasters Cafe Pacas SanJoaquin
 
For more information about the Pacas Family, go to cafepacas.com
 
To read more or purchase this months origins from Café Pacas click here.

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