This will be a combined review, both of us having received samples. For a description of Bob and Jim's evaluation procedure, see our reference page.
The Santa Maria Coffee Estate is a family-owned coffee plantation situated on the slopes of the San Salvador Volcano above the city of San Salvador. It was one of the first coffee plantations in the area and has been continuously owned by five generations of the Aguilar family since Don Juan Francisco Aguilar Padilla purchased it in 1870 and started growing coffee. It spans 126 hectares (311 acres) at altitudes from 3900 to 5250 feet and grows the Arabica Bourbon rather than the Pacas varietal, a coffee similar to the Caturra, and widely grown in El Salvador.
I reviewed this coffee earlier in the harvest, this year, a kind of "fly-crop" sample and it was already showing signs of high quality. This latest sample is an example of a very fine Bourbon coffee and certainly up there at the same quality level as the Cup of Excellence coffees.
Compared to the earlier sample, it is the same coffee, but on steroids. This sample has the same characteristics, the same melon-fruit flavors, with caramel, cinnamon, mocha and roasted nut flavors rounding out the profile, but this time around, the coffee is much more focused and the flavors are amplified. The cup is ever so clean and is a pleasure to roast, both for the aromas and the evenness. This is a sweet cup with lively acidity, good balance and a medium body.
It loses little as roast levels become darker, and the coffee holds it own in milk-based drinks reminding one of chocolate ice cream. All-in-all, this a beautiful coffee.
The overall Bourbon flavors: honeyed almond, baked fruit, and mocha distillates are the same as the last review. But the special prep has raised these flavors to create an extraordinary cup. The acidity is slightly higher, and this brings out distinct cherry and pear nuances in the fruit flavors. The body is good for a central and has a pleasant buttery finish. The almond and mocha notes have added complexity and depth.
This is a classic Bourbon, and will make an excellent dark roast. However, I think a medium, first pops of the second roast will bring out its inherent balance of fruit and roast tastes best. The coffee does best as French press, but I found that it made a 90+ SO espresso shot as well. Shots from the light roast had light nutty and woody aromas in the "classic-shot," Illy style. The taste was better: well integrated cantaloupe and oak, with toasted almonds and chocolate underneath. Very sweet, no dullness, good mouthfeel. A rolling second roast will deepen the espresso flavors closer to what is in the cup.
Finally, an alert to all who like cappuccinos or a shot of cream in their coffee. This one has the perfect Viennese cafe marzipan and smoke flavor.
Dry Fragrance: 4.4
Wet Aroma: 4.5
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 91.0
Dry fragrance: 4.0
Wet Aroma: 4.5
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 90.5