Chichontepec, Cacahuatique Mountain Range & Tecapa-Chichontepec Mountain Range
Graded by Altitude
SHG - Strictly High Grown, >1200m
HG - High Grown, 900–1200m
CS - Central Standard, 500–900m
Behind the rise of this smallest country in Central America as a specialty market favorite lies a turbulent history of coffee.
Introduced in the 1880s by the Spanish, coffee plantations spread quickly, accounting for 90% of all El Salvador’s exports by 1920s. This boom created great wealth for the landed elite and cemented their rule.
The coffee industry continue to prosper with leaders heavily investing in infrastructure and research that benefited the coffee industry. However, on the other hand, the landless peasant class were left out from the generated wealth.
By the 1970s, El Salvador was the world’s 4th largest producer of coffee in the world.
However, politics and over-dependence on coffee economy growth led to periodic discontents that eventually escalated into the Salvadoran Civil War which lasted from 1979 to 1992 and killed more than 75,000 people.
The 12 years war involved many human rights violations including the recruitment of child soldiers.
The aftermath of the war saw the country engage in significant land reform and redistribution, which broke up the country’s large plantations.
Today, majority of Salvadoran coffees are grown by small producers owning less than 20 hectares. Credit: Adam C. Baker, CC BY 2.0
Coffee Production in El Salvador
In 2013, many Latin American countries were hit hard by the coffee rust leaf disease. Farmers generally responded by avoiding specialty coffee trees and concentrating on varieties with higher yields and resistance to disease.
In contrast, Salvadoran farmers adopted an unusual strategy. They instead increased their specialty coffee trees, which are vulnerable to disease, but can carry even greater price.
They believe that by improving their growing technique, they can outweigh the risk of disease with the benefit of gaining a foothold in the specialty market.
Though a small producer by size, El Salvador has now one of the most diverse coffee crops in the world.
Majority of the coffee produced in El Salvador is Bourbon, characterized by an exceptionally clean, bright and sweet profile with strong citrus note.
El Salvador is also the birthplace of the Pacas and Pacamara varieties.
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.