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Trip Report: Catching Up with the Ariz Family in El Salvador

Posted by Oliver Stormshak on

Just recently we made the trip to visit our friends Ricardo and Marco Ariz. When we say friends, we really mean it. Yes, we purchase their coffee and have been buying their coffee for over ten years—but, at the core, Marco and Ricardo Ariz are my friends. I love these guys, and I feel lucky to do business with them. Ricardo manages the farming aspect of the family business, a busy job that covers their three small farms in El Salvador. El Aguila and Los Charras sit next to each other on a mountainside close to the towns of Santa Ana and Ahuachupan. Meanwhile, Ricardo’s son Marco manages their coffee processing at their other farm, El Amel, the site of their family mill. When they resurrected the mill last year after decades of lying in ruin (the original family mill had not been in use since the 1970s), they aptly named it Fenix—a once-forgotten place risen from the ashes, now full of bright possibilities.

Ariz Family farm in El Salvador

I had the opportunity to bring Jon Allison, our Production and Roasting Manager, along on this trip. It was Jon’s first time traveling out of the USA, not to mention his first time visiting a coffee farm outside of Hawai'i. After touching down in El Salvador, we got to spend our first day hiking both El Aguila and Los Charras. Hiking for over 6 hours in the sun with elevations varying from 1,400 to 1,800 meters was an incredible experience. We got to witness the harvest firsthand, after which we ended a full day with papusas at my favorite Salvadorian restaurant in the charming village of Ataco.

On day two we headed to El Amel and the family mill, Fenix. We spent the entire day cupping through the year’s micro lots—each lot representing a day's worth of harvest—and made our selections for purchases this year. In between cuppings, we toured the mill, checking in on drying and Marco’s experimental processing methods. Marco just so happens to be a Master Q Processor; formerly a Green Coffee Buyer with us at Olympia Coffee, he learned processing and fermentation methods around the globe. Eventually, he took what he learned along with the Q processor 1, 2, and 3 courses to become the best coffee processor that we work with—and, truly, that we know of. His coffees are masterpieces, each lot is improved by his processing techniques.

Fenix, the Ariz Family mill at El Amel in El Salvador

Coffee cherries and Marco Ariz explaining processing

Our last day was spent visiting the farm Buena Vista, owned by the Ariz Family’s Uncle Eduardo Poloma. Eduardo is just as passionate about his coffee farm as Ricardo. As Olympia Coffee continues to grow, we have our sights set on sourcing cherries from Finca Buena Vista and having Marco process these lots in the future. We loved this farm, and seeing the regeneration of the farm was deeply inspiring and hopeful for things to come.

After three full days in El Salvador, we finally had to give our friends big hugs and say goodbye. Still, we left with great memories, even stronger relationships, and a lineup of new coffees to be excited about. We expect our selections from El Salvador to be on our menu starting late summer 2023 and stretching into the fall and winter.

– Oliver, CEO & Green Coffee Buyer

Ricardo Ariz and friends in El Salvador
Fog on the Ariz Family farm in El Salvador
On the Ariz Family farm in El Salvador

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