Reserve Lot Additions from the 2021 Harvest

By Evan Howe

Situated on a stunningly picturesque volcano in El Salvador’s Apaneca region, the Montecarlos Estate is a remarkable coffee farm, and a fitting testament to the passion of its visionary proprietors Carlos and Julie Batres. 

Passenger has proudly worked with Montecarlos, and the Batres family, as one of our Foundational Partnerships for the past four years. Each year we select one of the main varieties cultivated on the farm to serve as our Foundational Montecarlos offering and as the base component of Stowaway. This year, as with last, we selected a catuaí separation for this part of the menu. With each annual harvest, we also try to purchase special selections of two additional varieties from the farm, Pacamara and Gesha, that have become well-loved staples of the Reserve Lot menu over the past few years. At the time of writing we are incredibly excited to add these special lots to the menu once again. 

Around the time that Carlos inherited the plot of land that was to become the large estate that it is today, he came across the Pacamara variety. The El Salvadorian government had been working on crossing the Pacas and Maragogipe varieties since the 1960’s and in the early 1980’s had achieved its goal of getting the productivity of Pacas (a natural Bourbon mutation discovered in El Salvador in the 1940’s) with the large size of Maragogipe (a natural Typica mutation discovered in Brazil in the 1870’s). Carlos foresaw its marketing potential and bought most of the Pacamara material that was available in 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1990 to plant on and develop Montecarlos. Montecarlos produced the world’s first commercial Pacamara crop in the 1992-1993 harvest year and started marketing it in Europe based on its size, and not the cup, since the specialty movement had not yet picked up. The coffee was sold primarily in France and Italy where they marketed it as a substitute for the Maragogipe, which had practically disappeared from the market.

By the late 1990s and early 2000s the specialty movement was taking shape in the US and Pacamara had started to become a little known. However, it was not until Starbucks brought it into the market as a Montecarlos “Black Apron Exclusive” in 2004 that the variety became well known. At the same time, specialty coffee shined another spotlight on the variety in the 2004 El Salvador Cup of Excellence. Since then, Carlos has shared Pacamara trees with other farmers in El Salvador. He is rightfully very proud of his role as one of the variety’s main pioneers and at Montecarlos it continues to be the flagship variety. Passenger has presented multiple harvests of the Montecarlos Pacamara on our menu since 2017 and this latest installment, offering a familiar array of browning sugar, stone fruit, and gentle umami notes in the cup, certainly ranks among the best we have tasted. 

The Gesha variety is a more recent addition to the Montecarlos portfolio, with 2017-2018 marking its first official harvest year. Ever the savvy coffee producer with a keen awareness of industry trends, Carlos monitored growing demand for the gesha variety and ultimately cultivated his first gesha plants from seeds obtained from the Peterson family of Hacienda la Esmeralda, the farm in Panama that put the gesha variety on the map back in 2004. Given our familiarity with the Esmeralda Gesha, which is also an annual fixture of the Reserve Lot menu, it is always a unique pleasure to taste the Montecarlos Gesha. Enjoying this beautiful coffee, with its lovely mix of chocolatey and floral flavors affords a unique opportunity to taste an intriguing meeting: famous Panamanian plant genetics encountering the terroir of Apaneca. 

Reserve Lot Additions from the 2021 Harvest