A guide to coffee from El Salvador

The smallest country of Central America is a renowned and sought-after origin for (single origin) specialty coffees.

El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. It is also a renowned global coffee origin. Coffee has been a significant contributor to the Salvadoran economy for over 100 years, ever since a period of rapid growth that took place in the mid to late 19th century.

However, Salvadoran coffee production has declined since the 1980s, and today it makes up less than 2% of total exports. Despite this, it is now a renowned specialty coffee origin and the home of some of the world’s most sought-after varieties. 

In 2015 the Salvadoran Coffee Council set out a five-year development plan to revitalise the country’s coffee sector. This focused on improving the position of Salvadoran coffee on the global market, promoting internal consumption, and increasing the production of high-quality coffee.

Varieties of El Salvador coffee beans

Today, almost all Salvadoran coffee is shade-grown. Figures released by the ICO estimate that over 60% of all arabica grown in the country is of the Bourbon variety, with Pacas and Pacamara being the second and third-most popular varieties, respectively.

World Coffee Research estimates that roughly 25% of all coffee grown in El Salvador is of the Pacas variety, which originates in the country. It was discovered in 1956 by the Pacas family (hence the name) and is a natural mutation of the Bourbon variety. Pacas plants, sought after for their high yields and small size (meaning more can be grown in less space on a farm) were later crossed with the Maragogipe variety to create Pacamara. Pacamara is one of the most sought-after varieties in the world, boasting elegant acidity, a medium to heavy body, and an almost creamy mouthfeel. While it is now also grown in Honduras, Salvadoran Pacamara often has notes of butterscotch, chocolate, red berries, and citrus fruits. 

Grades and altitudes

The highest grade of El Salvador coffee is Strictly High-Grown (SHG), at 1,200 meters above sea level. Coffees grown between 900 and 1,200 meters are classified as High Grown. The altitude of these coffees cause them to grow slower, allowing them more time to absorb nutrients and develop the best possible flavor.

With two coffees from Strictly High-Grown farms, our El Salvador Selection is a perfect way to discover the delicious Salvadoran coffees.