I’ve traveled in producing countries with Ryan Knapp before, and I always enjoy being at farms with him; he asks very thoughtful and interesting questions, always things I wouldn’t have thought to inquire about. So when I head about a project that MadCap Coffee Co.—where Ryan is the green buyer and part owner—was working on with a farm in El Salvador, I couldn’t wait to learn more about it.
Ryan first met the Rodriguez family and visited their farm, El Porvenir, some five years ago. He was traveling in Central America with his wife, Rachel, and had a wonderful experience both with the family and the coffee. Since then, Ryan has gone back and visited a bunch of times, and continues to be fascinated by the number of varietals on the farm, and the different characteristics they contribute to the overall cup. And then Ryan had a crazy thought: “The idea came to me on my first visit to El Salvador about 3 years ago and had the chance to cup through some varieties on the farms,” Ryan told me. “I remember my mind being blown! The distinctions from cup to cup were so prevalent.”
What Ryan then proposed to Gloria Rodriguez, who runs the farm, was something that would be intensely time consuming and extraordinarily meticulous work: he wanted her to separate the eight varieties of coffee grown on this piece of land in Apaneca, El Salvador, all between 1,400 and 1,500 meters: Caturra, Pacamara, Orange Bourbon, Yellow Bourbon, Typica, Bourbon, Elefante, and Pacas. He then wanted to sell them in super small amounts as a group, so that MadCap’s customers could see how different varietals bring different notes to an overall cup of coffee—and from a single origin, single farm, at that!
“It seems like us coffee folks talk about varieties, we slap them on the bag, but how often are we actually able to really see what role they are playing in the cup?” Ryan continues. “Since that cupping [of the eight individual varietals at the farm three years ago], I’ve wanted to share that experience with everyday coffee lovers. It certainly helped that some of the coffees on that table were truly stunning. It was the first time I cupped the Elefante, an unknown variety they discovered on their farm, and I’ll never forget that experience as it was so unique and outstanding.”