November 20, 2015

Interview: What’s So Special About Pacamara?


The Pacamara varietal is unique. If people aren’t talking about its outstanding flavour and cup attributes, they’re talking about its distinctive size.

But what’s the real story behind this hybrid?

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We spoke to Federico Bolanos, the Director of Coffee at Café Tuxpal and Viva Espresso with the Pacas family in El Salvador, to learn more about this varietal and cup. Coach of 2011 WBC Champion Alejandro Mendez, and of 7 Salvadoran barista champions between 2008 and 2014, he has invaluable insight.  

Pacamara cherry

The Pacamara cherry. Credit: Federico Bolanos.

How Long Has The Pacas Family Been Producing Coffee?

The Pacas family have a long history with coffee. They have been producing coffee since the 19th century.  The first Pacas family member to begin planting coffee was Jose Rosa Pacas. He began the family coffee legacy when purchasing land in the Apaneca Lamatepec mountain range in El Salvador and planted Bourbon coffee trees. Now, the 5th Pacas generation is running operations and helping grow the business.

The Pacas family have a fully integrated coffee business from seed to cup (coffee farms, a coffee mill, an export company, a coffee roastery, a barista training center, and cafés). The coffees they produce are some of El Salvador’s finest and are exported to quality-driven roasters around the world.    

Federico Pacas Sr and Jr

Federico Pacas Sr and Federico Pacas Jr. Credit: Federico Bolanos.

Lily Pacas

Lily Pacas. Credit: Federico Bolanos.

How Was The Pacas Variety Discovered?

The Pacas varietal was discovered by Fernando Alberto Pacas Figueroa in El Salvador in 1956.  This new varietal was spotted by Mr. Pacas on his farm, San Rafael, when he noticed a totally different plant thriving in his coffee plantation.

How Was Pacamara Created?

The Pacamara coffee varietal is a creation of the Salvadoran Institute for Coffee Research (ISIC) back in 1958, which resulted from the crossing of Pacas and the Maragogipe varietals.

The Pacas is a natural mutation of the Bourbon varietal, as determined by research conducted by scientists of the University of Florida.  The Pacas trees are shorter in size, have tighter internodes, and develop a compact foliage which help it endure tough climate conditions like tough winds, sunlight, and water scarcity.  It is a real trooper… it is highly resistant to diseases, adapts to many growing conditions, and provides high production yields.

The Maragogipe is a mutation of the Typica varietal. The Maragogipe trees grow very tall in size and they produce some of the largest coffee seeds. This varietal does not produce high yields but the cup quality is remarkable.

The idea behind the creation of the Pacamara hybrid was to get the best of the two varietals.  It was named PACAMARA in reference to the first four letters of each parent varietal.

It took approximately 30 years of careful scientific research to create the Pacamara varietal.  It was released to coffee producers in the late 1980’s.

Pacas family mill - Beneficio Tuxpal

The Pacas family mill, Beneficio Tuxpal. Credit: Federico Bolanos.

Does Pacamara Have Any Distinct Cup Characteristics? What About Coffee Plant Characteristics?

Pacamaras usually have complex and intense aromas; medium to dense bodies with creamy textures; and elegant acidity with flavors that swing from sweet notes of chocolate and butterscotch to fruitier undertones that remind me of citrics, red berries, and stone fruits.

The Pacamara is a medium-sized tree with thick foliage, short internodes, and large leaves.  The cherries it produces are long and have a small protuberance, and the seeds are large and oval in shape.

As Director of Coffee, What Would You Like to Say to Consumers of the Pacamara Variety of Coffee?

Pacamara is a highly celebrated varietal around the world due to its decisively distinctive cup characteristics, which are uncommon and sometimes unexpectedly captivating.  It’s definitely a coffee you shouldn’t miss out on.  

You can connect with Federico Bolanos, Director of Coffee and coach of the 2013 and 2014 World Barista Championship finalist William Hernandez, using the social media handle @federicobp.

Thanks to Federico for talking to us.

Feature Photo Credit: Frederico Bolanos.

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