A small but mighty country in Central America - El Salvador is known for its efficiently-grown, high quality coffee.
El Salvador is the smallest of the Central American nations, but thanks to its efficient producers, climbing altitudes, and healthy soils – it is able to maintain some surprisingly high yields. It produces exceptional coffees to a consistently high standard.View Coffees
Place In World For Coffee Exporter19th
Sacks (60kg) exported annually546,000
Percentage of world coffee marketLess than 1%
Other major agricultural exportsSugar, Corn, Rice, Beans
Typical varieties producedBourbon, Pacas, Pacamara, Caturra & Catuai
Key coffee regionsApaneca-Ilamatepec Mountain Range, Central Belt, Chichontepec, Cacahuatique Mountain Range & Tecapa-Chichontepec Mountain Range
Typical harvest timesOctober - March
The history of coffee in El Salvador is inextricably linked to the development of the nation, itself. Introduced in the late 1880’s, coffee quickly displaced indigo as the country’s chief export, and by the 1920s, coffee accounted for 90% of all El Salvador’s exports.
This substantial production was under the ownership of a small, landed elite who possessed large swathes of land (by 1895 Pres. General Tomás Regalado, alone, had amassed more than 6,000 hectares) and who were very much linked to the governance of El Salvador, which had negative and positive consequences for the development of the country. On the one hand, these leaders of the coffee economy (and the nation) heavily invested in internal infrastructure, such as roads, that benefited the coffee industry; on the other hand, those without land (which was most of the population of El Salvador) were largely omitted from the generated wealth.
Rise to Fame
By the 1970s, El Salvador was the world’s 4th largest producer of coffee; remarkable considering the size of the country. However, politics and overdependence on coffee for economic growth led to periodic struggles that culminated in a civil war lasting from 1979 through to 1992. This period and the aftermath of the war also saw the country engage in significant land reform and redistribution, which broke up many of the country’s large, traditional estates. Today, some 95% of the country’s producers grow coffee on fewer than 20 hectares, and no single person can own more than 245 hectares.
Unusual for Central America, approximately 60% of the coffee produced in El Salvador is Bourbon, characterised by an exceptionally clean, bright, and sweet profile with strong citrus note. The country’s unusually high percentage of this renowned coffee varietal, however, is currently under threat from coffee leaf rust, whose impact on the country’s production has been sizable, resulting in a 20 percent drop in revenue from exports between 2011 and 2013.
Notably, El Salvador is also the birthplace of the Pacas and Pacamara varietals, the latter being a hybrid of the Pacas and Maragogype. The famous Pacamaras from El Salvador typically create a bigger body, with tropical fruits, syrupy mouthfeel alongside the citrus brightness and characteristic yellow grapefruit aftertaste.
95% of the coffee produced in El Salvador is shade grown and farmers’ passion and expertise combined with a skilled picking and milling workforce greatly contributes to the continued high quality of the country’s production. Furthermore, today, coffee producers are supported by the Consejo Salvadoreño Del Café which does great work in supporting and promoting El Salvadorian coffee, both domestically and overseas, and providing support for producers within the country. Through their work, there has been a tireless drive to stimulate export markets for the growers and to maintain and improve the quality of the coffee produced in El Salvador. As they say in El Salvador….Drink it and Smile!