Working closely with producers and understanding more about the agricultural context of coffee is one of the most important things we can do from our roastery in Amsterdam. Not being able to be on the ground where the coffee is grown can put a gap between us and the reality of farming, so conversations with producers and farmers are integral.

El Salvador is one of our favoured origins and our coffees from here are boozy, funky, and some of our most sought after by you guys. For our El Salvadoran offering we work with Rodolfo Ruffatti Battle, the 4th generation of Ruffatti’s to be running his family’s inherited farms. A family history that starts with an emigration from Italy to El Salvador (hindered only slightly by a tiger attack on a mountain), that follows the boom and subsequent economic depression of El Salvador. This continuing family history now adds regenerative farming to its crest.

During Rodolfo’s last visit to Amsterdam we were able to sit down with him and discuss the importance of organic farming and how regenerating ecosystems is a vital next step for farmers.

You’ve been working on your family’s farm for a while now, but with new techniques. Can you tell us what type of farming you’re moving towards on the farm?

Ruffatti: It’s hard to come up with a term for the type of farming we’re doing now. In the States people used to call it sustainable agriculture, but now they’re talking more about regenerative agriculture; I guess in the end it doesn’t matter what term you use, but the difference is that we’re not just trying to sustain what’s there, we have to recover how it used to be.

How did we get to this point with farming? Why do we now have to regenerate the land?

R: The main issue with commercial agriculture is that we’re destroying the top soil and that’s the strength of the soil, making plants more vulnerable. Every time you use chemicals you poison the soil even more, making the plants even more vulnerable.

Farmers are told that we have to apply fungicides to our plants to stop diseases like leaf rust - but then you’re then killing the soil’s fungi which is a part of a symbiotic relationship that’s feeding the plant. Simply, the plant is a sugar factory through photosynthesis, creating a symbiotic relationship with the soil and surrounding plants. Breaking down this relationship means it can’t produce the nutrients it needs for itself or the soil.

Is it now harder for farmers in the long run if they have a farm that can’t sustain itself without pesticides?

R: It's true that the chemical model has made El Salvador very vulnerable. With old Bourbon plants leaf rust came and people started using fungicides. But the plant is like the body, and if you take antibiotics all the time your immune system breaks down - this happened to the plants and the plants then got even more diseases.

It’s a risk to switch to regenerative farming, there has to be a transition period and many farmers don’t want to undertake the risk – but in the end it’s not only better for the land, it produces higher quality cups.

What do you mean when you’re talking about higher quality cups… is there an increase in flavour?

R: As well as managing my own farms, I also travel further afield to source coffees and have seen amazing results from fully natural farms. The farms which are organic have more floral tasting coffees and it doesn’t matter what varietal - they’re just floral. The same goes for altitude - lower altitude farms producing floral and complex coffees without fungicides.

There’s research that follows this too, not in coffee, but in wine. Wine is another branch of agriculture where they’re really interested in aromas and it’s here that you can find the research on fungicides taking away the floral notes of wine. Aromas are all about proteins and fats, and to have plants producing these proteins and fats they need to be healthy.

Healthy plants equal a complex flavour profile.

Our current offering from Rodolfo is the Portillo 48n, a funk bomb with notes of maraschino cherry and dark chocolate, and a fascinating story of its own… to find out more about this coffee click here.

Previous Article