El Salvador is a great place to visit - even though you will have to be quite adventurous if you want to travel it alone.
There are rampant crime, destitution, and bribery going on and the local police may not be quite as willing to help a stranger in a pickle as might be used from other countries. However, you will also find a lot of hope, friendliness, and generosity.
On top of this, El Salvador is a place with real coffee pedigree. Signs of this old coffee culture is visible at every corner if you make your way into the interior of the country. Here are great plantations and farms, populated by farmers and workers that have lived with and around coffee all their lives.
So, what does an organised coffee farm in El Salvador do? Let’s have a look at one of the farms we visited and see how advanced they are in science, capital, and methodology. We found it to be quite surprising.
The Los Pirineos Coffee Farm is ideally located in the Usulután department, up in the mountains in between Santiago del Maria and Berlin (the one not famous for beer). The farm's been in the family for over 100 years. It's divided into 14 lots. Each lot is strictly separated. Not just for traceability purposes, but also because each lot has distinctly different soil and climate conditions that produce markedly different coffees.
The farm has its own laboratory and experimentation section, where they're trialling new coffee varietals and conduct quality control. This, and their practice of only selling microlot coffees to select roasters, has built their reputation over the years. They are winners of multiple awards and yet are quite humble and unassuming about it.
The other incredible thing about this farm is the amount of capital that's been tied up here. It's not just the scale of the operation, or the machinery in use, but also the organisation.
All this may be based on (still) poorly educated and cheap labour, but they are trying to improve conditions. What is quite inspiring and, to be honest, infectious, is their passion to create truly breathtaking coffees. They have realised that there is money in a quality product and they are working to achieve their goals - both short and long term. Sometimes we wish we could see a similar enthusiasm in our local bank branch or (should we mention the dirty word) our politicians. The point is they do a fantastic job.