Carlos Pola - Light Roast Coffee
Producer: Finca Las Brisas and Finca San Antonio, Carlos Pola
Region: Apaneca-Ilamatepec Mountain Range
Altitude: 1200-2030 MASL
In the world of coffee, there are stories that not only captivate the senses but also inspire us. Today, we bring you the remarkable tale of Carlos "Charlie" Pola, a coffee producer whose unwavering dedication and innovative approach have transformed the coffee landscape in El Salvador, one of the top coffee producing countries in the world.
In 2012, El Salvador faced a crisis that threatened the very livelihood of its coffee farmers. A devastating fungus known as coffee rust, or "roya," spread like wildfire, decimating coffee crops across the country. Many farmers were left with no choice but to abandon their farms, as replanting required not only substantial capital but also years of waiting for young coffee trees to bear fruit.
It was during this challenging time that Carlos Pola made a life-changing decision. Leaving behind a career in textile exports, he returned to his family's coffee farm with a vision of rejuvenation. The farm required extensive renovations, including leveling trees and revitalizing the land. Carlos, armed with a passion for coffee and a thirst for knowledge, embarked on a journey of experimentation and innovation.
Carlos's journey of discovery led him to a unique revelation – the pepeto tree. Through careful observation and research, he found that coffee trees growing among pepeto shade trees appeared the healthiest. This unique symbiosis allowed the pepeto tree to convert atmospheric nitrogen into readily digestible nutrients for the coffee root systems, nutrients otherwise inaccessible to the coffee trees. Carlos tapped into this natural system even further, leveraging the fungus network, which starts at the roots of pepeto trees. This network acted as the "social network of the forest," enabling plants to communicate and share nutrients. This ingenious approach eliminated the need for chemical fertilization and pesticides, promoting a sustainable and eco-friendly farming method.
Carlos's commitment to sustainability extended to the layout of his coffee trees. Instead of traditional vertical sparse rows, he planted coffee trees in special patterns along flat tiers. This not only combated erosion but also created a safer and more comfortable environment for the coffee pickers, many of whom were in their 60s or older. The dense trees allowed pickers to focus on a concentrated section, ensuring a bountiful harvest.
Carlos's commitment to excellence extended to the processing stage, with daily updates, smartphone communication, and a sophisticated spreadsheet system ensuring complete traceability. This attention to detail and quality led to Pola Coffee gaining global notoriety, with back-to-back World Coffee in Good Spirits Championship wins in 2018 and 2019. His commitment to sustainability was evident in a recent seminar on "Sustainable Coffee Growing in Climate Change" in collaboration with Café de El Salvador and the government of El Salvador.
Carlos Pola's story is a testament to the resilience of coffee farmers and the power of innovative farming practices. His commitment to sustainability, quality, and collaboration has not only transformed his own coffee farm but also contributed to the growth of the specialty coffee industry in El Salvador. Along with the earthy notes of fresh oak and a pop of grapefruit seltzer, when sipping a cup of Carlos Pola's coffee, you’ll experience the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and a deep love for the land and its coffee. Cheers to Carlos Pola and his extraordinary coffee journey!