El Salvador is part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor System that stretches from Mexico to Panama. When this network of “protected highways” enters El Salvador, it becomes part of the shade grown coffee regions. This demonstrates the outmost importance that coffee farms have as a sanctuary for most of the 520 migratory and native bird species found is this part of the world. Coffee forest is the ecological bastion of El Salvador where Shade Grown Coffees stand as a substitute forest.

Shade trees create a forest-like environment that protects the local fauna and serves as a temporary refuge for migratory birds. According to the Audubon Society, taken together, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean provide the yearly destination for more than a third of all migratory bird species that breed in the United States (200 or more different kinds of them).

Few places in the world offer the ideal soil climate relationship like El Salvador, where the coffee plants develop to their full optimum potential.

The Russian physiologist and Nobel prize winner Ivan Pavlov stated that it is in the Central American slopes of the Pacific Ocean, between southern Mexico and El Salvador, that the greatest concentration of plants known to man are to be found.

There are approximately 165,000 hectares devoted to coffee in El Salvador, close to 12% of the nation´s arable land. Although grown in 7 of the 14 provinces of the country, most of the plantations are found in the western and central provinces of Santa Ana (34% of total production), Ahuachapán (17%), Sonsonate (10%) and La Libertad (21%). Most of the coffee land in the eastern part of the country is located in the province of San Miguel (10%) and Usulután (6%).

Coffee has traditionally been an important source of hard currency. Currently representing 2.5% of the Gross National Product and 19.8% of the agricultural product. In the year 2000 it accounted for 10% of total exports.

Coffee is an important source of employment, generating close to 135,000 direct jobs, which account for 25% of the agricultural sector and 7% nationwide. In 1999/2000 total exports amounted to 2,496,859 60 Kgs. bags, with a value of US$311,267,969.93. The bulk was shipped to Germany (31%), USA (47%), Belgium (5%), Holland (1%), England (1%) and France (4%). Gourmet coffee exports have shown a steady increase from 13,535 60 Kg. bags in 1993/1994 to 19,309 60 Kgs. bags in 1999/2000.

El Salvador produces the arabica species only. The main varieties found are Bourbon, which comprises 80% of the existing plantations, Pacas accounts for 15% and the rest includes Pacamara and others varieties such as Caturra, Catuai and Catisic.

El Salvador classifies its coffee according to altitude.
The main classifications are:

The harvesting period in El Salvador starts in October in the low lying areas and extends through March for the high altitude areas. The bulk is harvested from late November to early January. Selective hand-picking is the prevalent harvest method, the unripe beans are separated before sending to the mills. The fresh cherries are transported the day they are harvested for immediate depulping in order to prevent fermentation. This is made possible thanks to the relatively close concentration of coffee regions, the fact that mills are well distributed in these areas, the existence of more than 460 collecting points and an adequate network of feeder roads.

The rainy season in El Salvador normally begins in May and lasts until the start of October with an average annual rainfall of 79″. The effects of temperature and altitude are mitigated by the presence of shade trees, which reduce light intensity and
help to retain soil moisture.