Mapache is the collective name for a group of coffee farms in El Salvador’s Apaneca Ilamatepec region, owned and operated by fifth generation coffee farmers, Jan-Carlo and Sofia Handtke. Aside from the quality of the coffee that they produce, it is Jan-Carlo and Sofia’s focus on growing coffee in a way that is sustainable, and in particular their belief in shade-growing that really caught our attention.
We first became aware of Mapache and the incredible work that they do whilst listening to a podcast by revered fermentation specialist, Lucia Solis. Lucia has a background working in the wine industry, but has more recently transferred her skills to coffee, where she advises farmers as to how they might improve quality through changes to their processing and fermentation techniques.
In Episode 9 of Making Coffee she interviews Jan-Carlo during one of the many long car journeys they undertook visiting the different farms. What comes across more than anything is Jan-Carlo’s deep love for his work, and his commitment to farming with respect for, and in harmony with nature - influenced perhaps by his other great passion, surfing!
Jan-Carlo and Mapache also feature in the 2020 film Shade Grown Coffee. Through the eyes of a number of coffee farmers who believe in the practice, the film tells the story of how growing coffee under a canopy of native trees can greatly benefit the local flora and fauna, the people working with the coffee, and the coffee itself - and ultimately provide a model for a more sustainable method of coffee farming.
Despite all the hurdles facing coffee farmers today in El Salvador - disease, expensive farm inputs, scarcity of labour, political insecurity, the price of coffee - Jan-Carlo and Sofia remain optimistic that there is a future for coffee. Whilst many are giving up coffee farming in the face of these hurdles, Jan-Carlo and Sofia are doubling-down, buying new farms, and making significant investments in education and equipment.
Jan-Carlo and Sofia have been managing the farms for 15 years, and the fruits of their labour so far are impressive. The farms have some of the most impressive shade crop coverage, and beautiful mature trees that we have seen. The processing of the coffee is impeccable, and the cup quality speaks for itself. It is a real pleasure to support their work and to share their delicious coffee with you.