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Apaneca-Illamatepec, The Salvadoran benchmark of Excellence

When you think of Guatemala, you think of Antigua. When you think of Costa Rica, you think Tarrazu. When you think of Colombia you think of Huila. But when you think of El Salvador, what do you think of? If you've ever had Salvadoran coffee, it's most likely coming from the Apaneca-Illamatepec growing region. Apaneca-Illamatepec is situated on the very western side of El Salvador, close to the border with Guatemala, and consists of the Ahuachapan (pronounced A-wa-cha-paan), Santa Ana, and Sonsonate departments.

The region is the largest in El Salvador, and produces the majority of the country's coffees. It can be broken down into 3 subregions

Apaneca, which consists practically of only Ahuchapan. Santa Ana, which consists, well, of Santa Ana. Illamatepec, which includes the Ilamatepec volcano ( Also referred to as Santa Ana Volcano) and surrounding areas. Yes, there is a map to help with all of this confusion,

Source: Cafe Imports

Flavour Profile

Coffees from this region typically set the benchmark for a good Salvadoran coffee. Medium bodied with deep chocolate flavours, soft acidity and a strong sweetness with some underlying fruit notes. Very clean and balanced. However, recently producers have been experimenting much more with Honeys, and Naturals. This has dramatically changed the overall flavour profile of the region. The local Heirloom Bourbon varieties, as well as the Pacamara variety have performed exceptionally well in Natural processing. Due to the region being in a dry season during harvest, it is ideal for performing Natural or Honeys as sugars aren't washed off by the rain.

Terroir and Climate

The Climate in the region is very cool, and windy. Because of the proximity to the Pacific Ocean (which is cooler in contrast to the Atlantic which is much warmer), a fresh breeze is always present.

The volcanic soils are rich in minerals and elements that make coffee farming in the region ideal. The soils are rich in Sulphur from the volcanic ash from the recent 2005 eruption of the Santa Ana volcano. Although many farms were damaged, the soil was replenished with rich minerals and important nutrients. To this day, you can still see volcanic ash on some farms, and obsidian rocks are usually very common.

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