Welcome to El Salvador
Known as “the land of volcanoes” El Salvador is a small mountainous country in Central America that is renowned for its erupting volcanoes, small surfing towns and exceptional specialty coffee farms. Despite facing numerous economic, political and social challenges over the last century, El Salvador farmers have fought for their crops, holding onto their rich specialty coffee history regardless of the hardships thrown their way. It’s because of this resilience that everyone around the world cherishes and enjoys the unique flavours experienced in a cup of El Salvador.
We invite you to join us on a journey through the remarkable world of El Salvador specialty coffee, where the coffee is diverse and the quality is impeccable. Grab your cuppa and discover something different… and delicious!
An unfiltered history: El Salvador coffee
To understand the history of El Salvador speciality coffee we have to take you back to the late 1800s. Prior to coffee, El Salvador relied on the production of a single export crop, indigo. However, when indigo was replaced by cheaper chemical dyes in the mid 19th-century, the country needed a new export: enter coffee.
Coffee rises to the occasion
By the late 1880s, coffee surpassed indigo as the leading export from El Salvador. In the 1920s and ‘30s, coffee proved it was worth the investment, representing 90% of the country’s exports. By 1970, El Salvador had earned the title of the world’s third-largest coffee producing country. 50% of the country’s GDP was attributed to the coffee industry during the 1980s, showing how essential the coffee industry was for El Salvador.
Walking through El Salvador, you will notice art pieces and murals that are spread across the walls of buildings, featuring farmers drinking coffee, people sitting at cafes or bags of coffee beans. These art pieces represent the incredible impact coffee has had on the country and its people.
El Salvador’s Civil War
El Salvador has faced its fair share of hardships. The devastating civil war that began in 1980 and lasted for 12 years tested the country as a whole. In the end, the war resulted in an overwhelming amount of poverty and ongoing hardship that the country has never fully recovered from.
Despite this turmoil, the coffee industry in El Salvador miraculously maintained its strength throughout the war. The coffee industry was able to bring the country unique opportunities of work and glue the country’s economy back together. It’s thanks to coffee that El Salvador was able to hold itself together economically from the war’s devastation.
The coffee crisis in El Salvador
As El Salvador stabilised with a new democratic government, the coffee industry faced a combination of new and difficult struggles.
In 2002, USAID reported that the previous 18 months saw a decline in coffee prices by 75% which continued to waver until 2020. Alongside this drop, increase in demand for Robusta beans (not specialty coffee) increased globally, which greatly impacted El Salvador who focused on producing high quality Arabica beans (specialty coffee). This saw more than 80,000 Salvadoran farmers, pickers and workers in the coffee industry lose their jobs.
Additionally, El Salvador’s traditional harvesting techniques, although effective in producing delicious coffee, wasn’t effective in producing profit. Farmers lacked know-how on responding to unique coffee diseases, suffered notable crop losses due to climate issues and on top of that, the 2013 coffee leaf rust disease saw damages of over US$1 billion. These were devastating blows to the country who were also facing troubling social issues during this period.
The future of specialty coffee from El Salvador
Despite the difficulties El Salvador has experienced and continues to face, farmers have taken each challenge as an opportunity to learn and adapt. Whether it’s experimenting with new coffee varietals to combat the spread of coffee diseases, new management practices to improve workflow or different techniques to adapt to climate changes – El Salvador is determined to continue to share with the world their delicious cups of coffee!
El Salvador specialty coffee is truly special
High altitudes, healthy volcanic soils and a tropical climate – El Salvador ticks all of the boxes for harvesting delicious specialty coffee crops. As a vital export for the country, the importance of maintaining quality is essential to continuing its reputation for thoughtful production and delicious cups. Here’s what makes a cup of El Salvador uniquely El Salvadoran…
Considered the birthplace of the Pacas (a natural mutation of Bourbon) and Pacamara (a hybrid of the Pacas and Maragogype) these two varietals are built a reputation for pouring high-scoring coffees. These specialty coffee varietals deliver a bigger body with tropical fruits, syrupy mouthfeel and a pop of citrus.
Specialty coffee farms
The coffee produced in El Salvador is 95% shade grown. Growing coffee in the shade means that the coffee cherries mature at a slower rate compared to coffee grown in the sun. This allows the flavour of El Salvador beans to build the flavours unique to the bean rather than alter due to sun rays.
Coffee producing regions
Spoiled with unique microclimates, coffee is essentially grown all across the country. Although there’s slight differences in altitude and flavour characteristics, each of the 7 main regions provides ideal conditions for growing specialty coffee. These 7 regions include: Apaneca-Ilamatepec Mountain Range, Central Belt/El Básalmo-Quezaltepec Mountain Range, Tecapa-Chinchontepec Mountain Range, Cacahuatique Mountain Range, Nahuaterique Mountain Range, Alotepeque-Metapan and Chinchontepec (San Vicente) Volcano.
Awards from El Salvador specialty coffee
With El Salvador’s focus on producing high quality cups of specialty coffee, it’s no surprise that the country has been internationally recognised at the most prestigious coffee events!
Notable achievements include Roberto Samuel Ulloa Vilanova of Divina Providencia winning the 2020 COE with a natural anaerobic Pacamara, and Mileydi farm securing the top spot in 2021 with its semi-washed Pacamara. Most recently, at the 2022 Cup of Excellence El Salvador auction, four coffees received over 90 points, with several Pacamara & Paca coffee varietals making it into the top.
These achievements have not only celebrated the coffee’s quality but also highlighted the collaborative spirit of Salvadoran coffee producers and the industry’s resilience, especially during challenging times.
Savour a sip of El Salvador
El Salvador specialty coffee has carved a remarkable niche in the global coffee community with its history, diverse farms and relentlessness in growing specialty coffee despite all odds. Although El Salvador is still trying to recover from their difficult history, the coffee industry has pulled them out of hardship before and it will again.
As we look forward to the growth and development of El Salvador coffee, we encourage all coffee enthusiasts to enjoy a sip of El Savador. With its depth, complexity, and exceptional flavours – a cup of El Salvador is a unique and utterly delicious experience that every coffee lover deserves to experience.