Exploring Varietals on an Uber-Micro Scale

I’ve traveled in producing countries with Ryan Knapp before, and I always enjoy being at farms with him; he asks very thoughtful and interesting questions, always things I wouldn’t have thought to inquire about. So when I head about a project that MadCap Coffee Co. ”where Ryan is the green buyer and part owner ”was working on with a farm in El Salvador, I couldn’t wait to learn more about it.

The Elefante varietal growing on the Rodriguez family's farm in El Salvador.
The Elefante varietal growing on the Rodriguez family’s farm in El Salvador.

Ryan first met the Rodriguez family and visited their farm, El Porvenir, some five years ago. He was traveling in Central America with his wife, Rachel, and had a wonderful experience both with the family and the coffee. Since then, Ryan has gone back and visited a bunch of times, and continues to be fascinated by the number of varietals on the farm, and the different characteristics they contribute to the overall cup. And then Ryan had a crazy thought: “The idea came to me on my first visit to El Salvador about 3 years ago and had the chance to cup through some varieties on the farms,” Ryan told me. “I remember my mind being blown! The distinctions from cup to cup were so prevalent.”

Ryan with Gloria Rodriguez (middle) and Ryan's wife, Rachel, on the first trip to visit the Rodriguez family in 2008.
Ryan with Gloria Rodriguez (middle) and Ryan’s wife, Rachel, on the first trip to visit the Rodriguez family in 2008.

What Ryan then proposed to Gloria Rodriguez, who runs the farm, was something that would be intensely time consuming and extraordinarily meticulous work: he wanted her to separate the eight varieties of coffee grown on this piece of land in Apaneca, El Salvador, all between 1,400 and 1,500 meters:  Caturra, Pacamara, Orange Bourbon, Yellow Bourbon, Typica, Bourbon, Elefante, and Pacas. He then wanted to sell them in super small amounts as a group, so that MadCap’s customers could see how different varietals bring different notes to an overall cup of coffee ”and from a single origin, single farm, at that!

“It seems like us coffee folks talk about varieties, we slap them on the bag, but how often are we actually able to really see what role they are playing in the cup?” Ryan continues. “Since that cupping [of the eight individual varietals at the farm three years ago], I’ve wanted to share that experience with everyday coffee lovers. It certainly helped that some of the coffees on that table were truly stunning.  It was the first time I cupped the Elefante, an unknown variety they discovered on their farm, and I’ll never forget that experience as it was so unique and outstanding.”

Gloria Rodriguez repping the Varietal Series.
Gloria Rodriguez repping the Varietal Series.
Introducing MadCap Coffee Co.’s Varietal Series. Sold in 45-gram tins (that “look like a pimped out Altoids containers,” Ryan says), each of the eight tins provides enough coffee to do a a 24oz brew of each coffee, or a couple of smaller brews. “For the coffee enthusiast it would be perfect to do a proper cupping,” Ryan says. “Over the past few years as a coffee buyer I’ve been really excited about nuances from variety to variety and I’ve wanted to bridge that gap so that everyday specialty coffee consumer could have the opportunity to experience how unique (and awesome) varieties can taste from one another.”
Now hop to it ”there are only 150 sets of tins available! I’m pretty shocked that you can buy the whole set for just $50 ”that seems incredibly reasonable. So place your order now by clicking HERE before they run out! All coffees will be roasted fresh and shipped on June 24.
The MadCap Coffee Varietal Series tins.
The MadCap Coffee Varietal Series tins.
And MadCap already has a lot of people eager to reserve their set of tins: “People are excited. We have wholesale customers that we work with across the country that are planning variety tastings. As of now we have confirmed tastings that will be happening in New York, D.C., San Antonio, L.A., Grand Rapids, and hopefully more to come. Since the launch yesterday, I’ve had a handful of people from the industry that have shared some kind words as they are excited to get the chance to taste these.”
Ryan (right) with Luis Rodriguez, whose mother-in-law, Gloria, runs El P in El Salvador.
Ryan (right) with Luis Rodriguez, Gloria’s son-in-law who has played a big role in driving and promoting the varietal separation.
As for the producer, the Rodriguez family is thrilled about the project. “They’ve been incredible to work with since day one,” Ryan says. “The same mentality, focus and passion we put into every detail of business of selecting, roasting and brewing coffee at MadCap they share in how they cultivate, harvest and process their coffee. The care and energy they put into their product certainly shines through in the cup. A lot of time, energy and money goes into doing really small lots like this, but fortunately it is something that both of us have been committed to for the opportunity to share something we love.”
Stay tuned to MadCap’s Blog this month for individual posts and descriptions of each of the eight varietals. And reserve your set today!



About Sarah 934 Articles
Sarah Allen (she/her) is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.