El Salvador Coffee

El Salvador Coffee

Coffee is a significant part of El Salvador’s history, politics, and development. One might say that the country’s fate is dependent on the success of selling coffee and tends to rise and fall with the ups and downs of the product.

The elite tends to prosper from El Salvador coffee while the small farmers are were often exploited and are hit the hardest during the bust cycles. It wasn’t until the 1800s that coffee surpassed indigo as El Salvador’s most important export crop. It was then viewed as the path to progress and development and brought even more opportunities and profits for the elite to rule.

Then in the 1920s and 1930s, coffee exports alone totaled 90 percent of all of the country’s exports. However, the global depression of the 1930s caused coffee prices to drop and much of it then rotted in the fields. The good news is that the coffee industry not only survived the Great Depression but took a turn for the better and truly prospered.

It’s interesting to note that El Salvador was soon to be known as one of the most advanced producers of coffee. They introduced modern technology on the plantations and had sophisticated systems for coffee processing. Many coffee farmers today face several challenges; the ones who are organized in Fair Trade cooperatives or who work with direct trade partners continue to receive the best prices. In addition, they are receiving technical assistance in the production and marketing, and exporting of their coffee.

Coffee Processing Styles

The coffee-growing conditions in El Salvador tend to be nearly perfect, as it’s a hot climate with great altitude and soil. You’ll find that many of the coffee farms are located at high altitudes.

The majority of El Salvador coffee is semi-washed which is a process also known as wet-hulling. Through submersion in water, the outer skin of the coffee is removed, while the mucilage stays intact. Then by spinning the fruit with a machine, it’s removed mechanically. The cherries will dry in the sun and the parchment they dried on is then removed. This is a method often used for large volume product of low grade specialtiy coffee for the mass market.

There are also new methods when it comes to coffee processing styles in El Salvador. You’ll discover that many more of the producers of the coffee are now double soaking the coffee cherries and experimenting with complex washed methods. The spinning stage is now skipped and therefore the mucilage stays in place. The coffee can then ferment overnight by being submerged in water. Then they’re rinsed and washed using clean water. The process is repeated and the coffee will be submerged for another 10 hours. You can draw different flavours from the beans by varying the amount of time the beans ferment in water. There are many varitions of this process.

El Salvador Coffee

Coffee drying on raised tables in El Salvador

More recently, many El Salvador coffee producers are incorporating the “honey” process with their beans.  They will de-pulp the fresh coffee cherries and they’re allowed to dry without being washed. The aftermath is that you’ll have a sticky and golden mucilage that resembles honey. There are many variations of this method depending on how much mucilage is left on the coffee.The producers will yield diverse and more interesting flavours of coffee by way of using different combinations of fruit left on the beans combined with varying drying times.

Natural processed coffees are also now very common in El Salvador and many producers will harvest single varietals for seperated microlots. In addition to natural processed microlots some producers are experimenting with carbonic maceration and anaerbic fermentation creating some incredible flavours.

Typical Flavour Profiles of El Salvador Coffee

Traditionally you wouldn't expect anything too bold with the fine and gentle flavour that comes along with El Salvador speciality coffee. Typically coffees from El Salvador were well balanced with good sweetness and balanced acidity.

Coffee producers that grown interesting varietals aiming for high cup scores have managed to create very complex and characterful coffees. In 2021 we features an El Salvador Pacamara washed coffee. This coffee showcased wonderful tasting notes that included orange, caramel and black tea.

It all depends on the region and processing method use to produce the coffee. Sometimes you’ll find coffees that are packed with juicy fruit notes while others will show great sweetness, chocolate and gently acidity. Generally speaking, the overall consensus from those who drink El Salvador speciality coffee is that it tastes great! With all the different options and processing methods, you’re sure to find the right coffee beans for you.