I took a bus from Juayua to Concepción de Ataco, which is 30 minutes away. Just off the main highway at the entrance of Ataco (I had to ask two police officers before I found my way) is Quinta El Carmen, a coffee farm established in 1930. I totally lucked out because a tour was starting as soon as I got there. Although I have done coffee tours in other Latin American countries I love coffee and like to know where my coffee comes from.
These machines are over 80 years old. The one in the back left corner is used to determine the quality of the coffee, the more dense the higher the quality. From there it is separated by quality before the first layer is taken off, in the machines on the right.
After the next layer is removed in a fermentation process it is laid out to dry, and is constantly shifted (by manual labor) to allow the beans on the bottom layer to be dried by the sun. It can take up to two weeks to dry but if not enough moisture is removed (or there is too much coffee to dry) it can be dried in a machine.
The pipe shown takes the used water to a riverbed, although they do reuse the water three or four times.
All of the parts of the plants that are removed during the coffee processing are burned and used to make steam energy which powers the machines.
During coffee harvesting season (our winter) this warehouse is full to the roof with coffee.
They put holes in some of the bags to extract coffee beans to send samples to possible buyers. Their biggest buyer is Starbucks. 70% of their highest quality coffee is sent out of country, mostly to the United States and Italy. The lower quality coffee is what remains in El Salvador.
The last step, after removing the outer skin, is to make sure that there are no imperfections that accidentally make their way through each removal phase. If the coffee is going to the United States it can have no more than 12% imperfections. If it is going to Italy it can have no more than 4%.
The men and women are doing the same job, but at different stations. Apparently it is because the women are faster (but I am guessing the men work just as fast when they are not surrounded by women).
These workers work 8 hours a day, 7 days a week.
After the tour we walked to the original building on the farm, which is now a hotel, and enjoyed a delicious cup of coffee El Salvadoran coffee.
They use cotton filters, something I have never seen before.
After the tour, which lasted over an hour, I walked to Ataco. It is a very small town, much like Juayua, but has two churches.
Iglesia el Calvario is on the route to Mirador de la Cruz, a large cross and lookout point.
There are so many species of butterflies in Central America it is like being in the butterfly garden at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, but in real life.
They flutter past as you walk, seeming to play with you like dolphins swimming with surfers.
One thing I love about this town is the old street lamps, which are ornate and found everywhere.
I ate a wonderful vegetarian sandwich at Tayua; they bake their own bread and have a gorgeous patio.
I forgot to mention that women carry things on their heads.
For whatever reason men don't. I saw a couple the other day and the husband (carrying nothing) kept turning around and telling his wife (carrying something) to hurry up.
La iglesia Ave Maria.
Concepción de Ataco is an easy day trip from Juayua. It is colorful and quaint, and super mellow.