Santa Ana: Our quest to find green coffee beans and a volcano
We enjoyed spending the holidays in El Salvador with the other cruisers that stuck around. Bill and Jean hosted an amazing smoked rib BBQ dinner and everyone pitched in to make quite the fest. The day after Christmas is filled with all sorts of festivities on the island including tug a war competitions and a greased pole climb.
After ringing in the New Year and many of our cruising friends leaving to continue on down the coast, it was time for us to do some land travel.
Since visiting Guatemala back in July of 2022, for a private coffee roasting and cupping class, we have been roasting our own coffee beans on Karuna. We roast our own coffee for a few different reasons. Most importantly we are assured to have a fresh cup of coffee each morning. Pre-roasted ground coffee loses its freshness after a few days and pre-roasted whole bean coffee loses its freshness after about a month. There are times we do not find good coffee in the remote areas we are in, so before we started roasting we would stock up for months when we did find good coffee, to then have it lose freshness after a few months. Unroasted coffee beans can stay fresh up to a year, so for us, this is our best option, plus it's fun to experiment with different roasts.
Back when we visited Guatemala we were given a name of a Salvadoran coffee shop and coffee bean distributor. The place is located in Santa Ana, which is a 3 hour drive from Karuna, not far from the Guatemalan border. We rented a car and decided to spend a few days on land. We were lucky because not only were we finding a green coffee bean source in Santa Ana, but also there are many things to do in and around the quaint mountain town, including a volcano hike.
After setting up a date and time with Marco from Pirómano Coffee, we set up a rental car with Hans, our local rental car guy in the Bahia. We had a nice drive to Santa Ana with only a couple detours trying to find a tractor part for our motor on Karuna, but had no luck.
We didn't quite know what to expect when arriving at Pirómano Coffee. Via WhatsApp Marco explained that he had three different coffee beans and he wanted us to try them before buying. Once arriving at Pirómano coffee we were asked to take a seat and wait for Marco to arrive. We were expecting to get a sample of his different coffee, decide which one we liked, and then be on our way. Instead we were greeted by Marco, he sat and talked with us for a bit, and then he proceeded to present us with an entire cupping experience. I have another blog on our coffee cupping class in Guatemala, if you are unsure what that consists of and can be found here: https://www.svkaruna.com/post/guatemala-world-class-coffee-and-a-surprise-urban-city-experience. After the cupping Doug and I decided on which beans we wanted and Marco went to his warehouse to package the beans. We bought 25 pounds (approximately 11.5 kilos) of green coffee beans. We have been roasting a pound of coffee every two weeks, and we are incredibly satisfied with the quality of beans we bought from Pirómano Coffee. There is a good chance we will visit him again to stock up.
After getting our caffeine fix, we started exploring Santa Ana. We had a room booked at Hostal Las Puertas which was located near the town square. We were able to walk everywhere from the Hostal which was very convenient. We grabbed a bite to eat and headed to the square where you can find Cathedral de Santa Ana. It is quite impressive with its neo-gothic architecture. It was built in 1575 and while we were there, it was getting a bit of a facelift, but you could still see the incredible architecture. The square is surrounded by beautiful buildings and many great places to enjoy a bite to eat and a drink. I even found a vendor selling plants and I now have fresh mint growing on Karuna.
After enjoying the town for a couple days we headed to the highest volcano in El Salvador: Volcano Santa Ana. El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, but has 20 holocene volcanoes. Volcano Santa Ana last erupted in 2005 but is currently deemed safe to hike.
We arrived early to Volcano Santa Ana, as we heard it was best to get an early start before the heat of the day. We were told it was a 4 hour round trip hike and you had to stay with the guided group for safety. We went on a Sunday, which meant we were apart of a very large group. We started our journey at Cerro Verde National Park. We traversed through the jungle and then began the ascent up the rocky volcano. Volcano Santa Ana is just over 7800 feet (2381 meters). Once at the top you are treated to amazing 360 degree views along with the views of the unique turquoise sulfur pond inside the creator of the volcano. Spending some time exploring at the top and having a snack, we decided to be rebels and veer from the group to start the descent. Come to find out, Doug and I are not avid volcano hikers, and climbing down the volcano was a bit tortuous for us. Once we got down to the bottom and to the gate of Cerro Verde, we found it locked and surrounded by a tall fence. Because we left the group, the park was not anticipating anyone back for another hour. Doug climbed the fence and found a security guard to open the gate and release me from grips of the volcano. The projected 4 hour hike was more like a 5 hour hike for us, and a 6 hour hike for the rest of our group. It was a great experience with beautiful views, but I'm not sure Doug and I will be climbing any more volcanoes in the near future.
Next up my mom comes for a visit and we explore more of El Salvador, followed by a visit from our good friend Shane.