Brian Beyke

Populace Coffee - El Salvador Las Nubes

Brian Beyke

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We move out of South America and into Central America with the second Populace Coffee offering.  El Salvador continues to be an interesting region for me because, unlike some African regions, each offering I’ve visited presents itself differently than the one before.  It’s hard for me to really say that one El Salvador offering is better than another when in reality they are just different.  That being said, the more I prepare coffees from different regions and roasters, the more I see it is less about which is better anyways, and try to just enjoy them for what they are.  That isn’t to say some don’t stand out more than others (as you’ll see in my next review), it’s just that when properly prepared I find ever coffee has a lot of greatness to be experienced in the cup, and I’m enjoying trying to see what makes each one pop.  All that aside, let’s get into Populace’s El Salvador Las Nubes.  

Las Nubes was purchased by Isidro Batlle in the 1920’s and remains in the family.  He liked to purchase high-altitude farms like Las Nubes and Kilimanjaro.

The coffee of El Salvador is known for its old-growth heirloom Bourbon variety, and was first cultivated in the early 1800’s.  El Salvador, compared to its counterparts in the region, has preserved a substantial amount of Bourbon varieties due to its Civil War in the 1980’s.  During the years El Salvador had a Civil War, other countries were introducing Catimors and Catimor hybrids which have high yields, are resistant to diseases (like rust or roya), but are sub-par in terms of cup quality. Farms now have old-stock Bourbon trees (as old as 50 - 80 years old in extreme cases) which are susceptible to rust and could be problematic in terms of cup quality due to its deficient nutrition if not managed intensively.

Details:
Roaster: Populace Coffee
Region: Buenos Aires, Santa Ana, El Salvador
Farm: Las Nubes (Tablon 6)
Process: Washed and Post Fermentation Soak
Varietal: Kenya
Elevation: 1,450 - 1,500m

Brew Method:

Aeropress (Inverted) | 17g © to 240g (w) | 2:00 then plunge by 2:30 total time | 200 degrees | 1.29 TDS | 19.29% Ext. (Immersion mode)
Carries an aroma like oatmeal raisin cookies. 
Soft, delicate profile.  Reminds me of a glazing like a donut.  Sugary sweet but not in your face.  Quite the contradiction of what I thought this cup would be based on my previous history of El Salvador offerings, and quite welcomed.  
 It carries light notes of orange, sweet lemon, and tea-leaves but that’s all I initially detect.  Lightly juicy body, faint whiffs of chocolate in the finish.  Soft, silky, and whispery profile. 
There is a gradual ramping up of flavor from the intro, slowly releasing more and more elements.  It begins to develop and interesting front end that slightly biting like a Coca-Cola, but quickly shifts.  The cup grows notes like apple, cherry, praline, dried lavender and even guava seems to arrive in the cup and the finish seems to grow a bit more nutty as well that leaves the lingering finish as if I was drinking a cup with much darker notes than I actually was. 
Quite an interesting cup. 
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Brew Method:

Bonmac | 14g © to 227g (w) | 2:30 total time | 198 degrees | 1.30 TDS | 19.57% Ext. 
Sweet aroma like a cherry danish. 
Similar intro as with the Aeropress. Carries a soft and delicate glaze-like sweetness, nearly candy-like.  The finish quickly starts to add some spice, hazelnut, and chocolate elements but also this fizzy cola mouthfeel, like after shaking up a coke and getting some of the foam as you take your first sips.  Cherry and lemon splashes on the center of the tongue as you sip, while chocolate croissant lingers in the finish and slight herbal notes in the aftertaste.  Sweet, chocolatey, medium bodied.  
Notes of raisin, cranberry, cherry, date, currant, orange, lemon zest, and minty tea leaves make me think of a sarsaparilla-esque bite in the end.  It’s splashy sweet, effervescent, and a bit drying in finish with chocolate, hazelnut, spice, and thoughts of a bolder coffee with vanilla cream surviving.  It isn’t syrupy as a drink it, but the aftertaste makes me think I just had a really maple syrupy heavy body. 
The impressions this coffee leaves in the aftertaste is enough to impress you, but the experience in the cup is also a wild ride.  The final sips are chocolate malt, sugar dipped fruits, a bit of lingering spice, and an RC Cola to boot. 
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Brew Method:

Chemex | 20g © to 322g (w) | 3:30 total time | 203 degrees | 1.33 TDS | 19.80% Ext. 
Cherry prominent on the nose, along with vanilla. 
First sips are lusciously sweet, moderately viscous, sugary yet balanced, and brisk lemon finishing.  Still carries this effervescent front end with cherry cola notes that meet a bit nutty and chocolatey finish. Zesty lemon and orange notes brighten the sips along with nips like ginger. 
Cooing further it still remains sweet and grows more juicy in body with lemon icing, cinnamon raisin bread, apple butter smothered on fried biscuits, cranberry and apricot jam, and molasses filling the front end, and in the rear you find hazelnut, butter pecan ice cream, dark chocolate shavings, lemon zest, anise, and lavender, with orange appearing again in the long finish.
Even further the front end fruit notes begin to condense a bit more and you find these really syrupy notes like honey or caramel, but it still has a lightly dense juiciness to an otherwise buttery cup with a lingering note of anise in the looooooong finish. 
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As I said in the first make of this coffee, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting from an El Salvador coffee.  I had mentioned in the last El Salvador review that I have a difficult time narrowing in on a general “profile” for the region, as cups tend to be all over the map.  That said, looking back on this offering reminded me of one I was fond of from Kuma Coffee last year, Las Nubes Tablon 10.  That offering, too, was effervescent, cola-esque, and deliciously sweet.  
This coffee varied a bit from make to make, but I think I preferred the Chemex mostly because it didn’t give me that impression that the coffee was darker than it actually was.  Not that it was a deterrent in the other makes, I just didn’t have to thing about it in the Chemex.  I think it also carried the most elements of a true cola than the other makes, even though I had the bubbliness there in all of them.  The caramel, the way the sugars were presented, even the anise nips felt most biting like a cola in the Chemex.
It was a lovely and interesting cup- rich despite its bright and crisp front, sweet and dense, cola-like sparkles, great body, and easy to drink with a whole slew of flavors that you might not otherwise find in a cup of coffee.  It definitely has an enjoyable complexity, and is a bit of a unique El Salvador offering.  

Co-host of the I Brew My Own Coffee Podcast and always has all the chocolate. I also love to play board games. Yea, let's go do that right now.