Coffee plantation in El Salvador

El Salvador

HISTORY

Roughly the same size as New Jersey, El Salvador is the smallest Central American country. Despite its size, El Salvador's reputation of quality specialty coffee is larger than life. Coffee was planted and cultivated here in the mid-1700s and grew in importance to the economy over the next 100 years as the country's indigo exports were impacted by the development of synthetic dyes.


Government programs aimed at encouraging coffee production resulted in the growth of a small but strong network of wealthy landowners that took control of the coffee market. Individual smallholders would sell their cherries to the larger estates and mills.


Civil war decimated the coffee industry during the 1980s until a peace agreement was reached in the 1990s. However, land-redistribution projects, agrarian reforms and war meant that many coffee farms were simply abandoned and remained unharvested and overgrown for years. The Cup of Excellence competition was hosted in El Salvador in 2003 and this event is often thought to have kick-started a new interest in Salvadorian coffee, shining a light on some of the special varieties native to the country.



VARIETY

Its large number of coffee varieties has helped El Salvador differentiate itself: not only with traditional Typica and Bourbon, but also the dwarf-Bourbon mutation Pacas, and the Salvadorian created hybrid Pacamara (a mix of Pacas and Maragogype) allow growers to market individual varieties of coffee, much like fine single-variety wines.


However, the very thing that has helped El Salvador differentiate itself over the past 2 decades also makes it vulnerable. These traditional varieties, often grown in monoculture, are especially susceptible to coffee-leaf rust and the country's crops have been hit by outbreaks in the 2010s, causing a steep decline in quality and yield.

Overview

GROWING REGIONS

Apaneca, Apaneca Llamatepec, El Bálsamo–Quetzaltepec, Cacahuatique, Chalatenango, Chinchontepec, Metapán, Santa Ana, Tecapa-Chinameca


COMMON VARIETIES

Bourbon, Pacamara, Pacas, Typica


PROCESSING METHODS

Washed (primary), some experimentation with Natural and Honey


HARVEST PERIOD

November - April