El Salvador is one of the premium coffee-growing countries in the world, situated in an ideal location for growing java. And if you are visiting the country, spending some time checking out where your java gets made is a must-do. EcoExperiencias, who organizes eco-focused tours in El Salvador, got us an insider tour of the beautiful El Carmen Estate, which grows, dries, processes, packages and ships (and roasts, for the local markets) Ataco Coffee that’s sold to Starbucks and Illy.
You can also stay at the Estate, in beautifully-decorated, homey rooms with some seriously gorgeous surrounding gardens (I would definitely recommend it; so romantic, and – Coffee!)
Here’s how the coffee gets made (forgive me if I geeked out a bit)!
Then beans are sent through tunnels and funnels made of concrete, their flow controlled by wheels like this one (the factory is over 50 years old and four generations of the family have been growing and processing coffee); simple and effective.
Next, beans are laid out to dry naturally in the sun. El Salvador’s climate and many days of sunshine make this an ideal climate to dry beans out in.
Each coffee is kept separate according to type and quality. Labels like this one keep beans in their respective areas.
Beans are then sorted by hand, with imperfect beans pulled out on a conveyer belt, like this one (just a minute before, there were women sorting beans here, but just before I was going to take this picture, the lunch bell rang!).
Industry standards are set by the New York Coffee and Sugar Exchange which is now part of the ICE.
Not all the coffee from this company gets sent to the US and Europe. Coffee for the local market is roasted in-house, packaged up and sent on its way to the cafes in San Salvador, and other cities and towns.
All images by Starre Vartan.