Coffee In Central America.
When it comes to coffee people think of the brown roasted bean that goes into the coffee machine. Hopefully, you gave it some thought as to where that coffee bean came from and how it got from the farm to your cup.
Central America is the region that is most likely responsible for the production of many favourite coffee brews. This article discusses the Central America region and their contribution to the coffee world.
As of recent Central America has suffered from a reputation for the production of more commercial, non-speciality coffee and relied on hints of sweetness for many of their commercialised brans. Central American coffees tend to have more character than those from brazil and many low grown Robusta coffees that find their way somehow onto many supermarket shelves. As a region, it has the capability of producing large amounts of high-end quality coffee than other regions across the world.
The region itself is has access to perfect growing conditions enabling the production of extremely high-quality coffee.
Coffee reached Central America in the late 18th century but production didn’t really take off until the mid-19th century largely due to the demand for coffee in world war two. Coffee was believed then to make soldiers aggressive and focused, this it was added as part of the mandatory military ration a soldier was given. This demand increased the production of coffee in the area.
Many countries in Central America have experienced a somewhat turbulent journey into coffee production due to internal social conflict and political unrest.
Many experienced coffee farmers fled during the years under Sandinista rule of the late 1970s to the 1990s. Times were tough for the people and farmers had to leave their lands. When the political scene changed, those farmers returned and not long after, Nicaragua started to produce some outstanding coffee. However, the devastating effects of Hurricane Mitch and the prolonged world coffee price crisis created further giant-sized hurdles for a country that can, and now does, produce some of the finest coffee we have in our cups today.
Coffee continued to boom from the mid-1950s in El Salvador until civil war hit in the 1980s which forced many farmers to abandon their land and coffee trees in order to escape the harrowing effects. Whilst this made coffee production almost come to a grinding halt, causing many buyers to look elsewhere, there was one positive that loomed. During that period, many other Central American coffee producing countries were researching higher-yielding, disease-resistant variants, to replace the lower-yielding heirloom varietals. El Salvador as a country managed to escape this process, as coffee was overlooked in the area, and has therefore held on to its fantastic Bourbon coffee trees which are of higher quality when compared to coffees grown from hybrid trees which have gone through a programme of cross-breeding.
For our coffee story in Guatemala, coffee again suffered from political issues. These issues continued to dominate throughout the 20th century which then ended up in a civil war from 1960 to1996. As a non-essential product, the demand for coffee was non-existent. Farmers abandoned their lands due to the conflict and the production of coffee in the area tanked. Thanks to the political differences put aside in recent times, the country has a reputation for quality coffee. The area promotes sustainable land development that gives back to the farmer more than the reseller. This promotes sustainable growth and economic development in the area.
In the 1980s with the major drop in oil prices, the Mexican government had to implement new policies. This brought a decline in the industry and lead to the collapse of the Mexican coffee institute. Farmers then had no access to credit and found it terribly difficult to find people to purchase their coffee. They thus fell victim to ‘coyotes’ – people who would ‘buy low and sell high’. Since coffee farmers were getting paid close to nothing for their coffee, the quality of coffee in the area began to drop. This gave the country of Mexico a bad reputation for their coffee. In recent years though, with competition being at an all-time high, the farmers in the area have formed collectives to improve the quality of the coffee sold, by forming direct relationships with buyers who value quality.
Central America is known for its beautiful and lush scenery, its abundance of volcanoes and high mountain ranges. The high altitude, regular rainfall and fertile volcanic soil give it perfect conditions for the production of very high-end coffee.
Coffee Supply Chain
Unlike Africa, Central American coffee tends to be farmed on large estates that have been in the same family and passed on from generation to generation.
In general, the coffee in Central America is harvested on the farm and is then taken to an external wet coffee mill to be processed. This is again dependent on the situation; many farms will take care of the entire coffee curing process from start to finish.
In countries like El Salvador, where crime is steep, coffee theft is common among the residents in the area. It is sometimes safer for the farmer to store only the coffee cherries on their farm as opposed to send it off to another farm to get washed and cured.
The beauty of coffee is that it tastes different from each area. Central American coffees are versatile when it comes to their brewing methods. Coffees from these countries tend to have more body than the African coffees with more acidity making them well suited for both espresso and filter style brews. The coffee takes well to milk and can be enjoyed black.
If you are looking to purchase a gift for someone and do not know what coffee to get them, Central American coffee is a good choice if you are unsure of their flavour profile preference.
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