Like Guatemala, El Salvador is recovering from a terrifying civil war brought about in part by the now abandoned Cold War policies of the United States. And, as in Guatemala, the terrors of the civil war ironically preserved many of the traditional varieties of arabica like bourbon from replacement with more modern, sun-grown hybrid coffee varieties.
However, El Salvador apparently lacks the typography that produces the complex, authoritative coffees of the Antigua growing region in Guatemala and central Costa Rica. Most El Salvadors are soft, ingratiating coffees with relatively subdued acidity, much like many Mexico and Central America coffees grown on ocean-influenced slopes and valleys. Nevertheless, these El Salvador coffees can be fine, if gentle: fragrant and seductive. Occasionally an El Salvador appears that is powerful, deep, and acidy like the finest Guatemalas.
A few El Salvador farms and cooperatives, including Los Ausoles and Larin, grow the intriguing hybrid variety pacamara, a tree that produces a large bean that is a cross between the extremely large-beaned maragogipe and a local strain of the caturra variety called paca. Los Ausoles markets its pacamara coffee under the name Tizapa. From an aficionado point of view, pacamara is a fascinating hybrid because it is superior in cup quality to either of its parent varieties. From a coffee drinker’s point of view, the large bean makes an interesting curiosity and the soft but complex cup gives some sensual support to the conversation-invoking potential of the bean size.
Also making an effective push into the American specialty market is a large cooperative that markets its pleasantly sweet, nutty certified organic coffee as Cafe Pepil. Pepil is the name of one of the Native American cultures that dominated El Salvador at the time of the arrival of the Spanish.
The best grade of El Salvador coffee is Strictly High Grown. Most El Salvador coffee is grown in various degrees of shade.