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date: 28 February 2024

The Central American Coffee Commodity Chainfree

The Central American Coffee Commodity Chainfree

  • Mario Samper KutschbachMario Samper KutschbachIndependent Scholar, Costa Rica


Coffee production has been a significant economic activity in Central America since the 19th century, and it has played an important role in shaping social relations, politics, and culture in various ways over time, both within coffee-producing areas and in each country. Coffee continues to be a major export crop, although the region’s economy has diversified, and the prospects of coffee as a commodity and a way of life will influence the fortunes of many in the highland areas of the isthmus. The Central American coffee commodity chain, from planting, care of the coffee groves, and harvesting through transportation, processing, and storage to shipping, roasting, and distribution abroad and within each country, has evolved in response both to internal dynamics and to changes in the world market for coffee and consumer demand, international trading systems, capital flows, and marketing systems. The supply of credit and the exchange of knowledge and information on the market as well as technical expertise and the provision of inputs, genetic material, and equipment have helped shape and reshape this value chain. Farmers’ strategies and cooperative endeavors, as well as local processing, gathering, and storage facilities and financing and regulations, have adapted to changing trends and to market downturns, recoveries, and segmentation. Vertical and horizontal integration of the various links in this chain have also evolved, in ways that differ from one country to another. While historically there has been a trend toward concentration especially in processing and export, there has also been fragmentation and greater involvement of small- or medium-scale producers in cultivation and in primary processing in specific countries or areas. Certain pests and diseases, whose geographical distribution and severity have been related to agro-ecological conditions and practices, have also contributed to modifications in productive systems. Climate change has had increasingly severe short-term impacts on the frequency of extreme events and variability of rainfall and temperature, while warmer average temperatures have begun to affect the altitudinal range of coffee cultivation. There is definitely a future for specific types of Central American coffee, but not necessarily for all current areas, farms, and firms specializing in this tropical product.


  • History of Central America

Production, processing, and trade of coffee expanded in the mountainous regions of western Central America during the 19th and 20th centuries and have played a major though diverse role in the economies of all five countries in the region. Coffee became a significant export crop in Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua in different periods and to a greater or lesser extent. Where and how coffee has been planted, pulped and dried, transported, roasted, and distributed have also had substantial but varying impacts on local environments, social interactions, politics, and culture.

Coffee has brought prosperity to many in Central America, not only the owners of large estates and processing or export firms but also many medium- and small-scale farmers, local merchants, and others directly or indirectly related within this value chain.1 Coffee production has also been associated with landholding concentration and forcefully recruited or poorly remunerated labor, especially in northern Central America, as well as with hardship among unemployed coffee workers in various parts of this region, with emigration in times of crisis, and with conflicts between smallholders and beneficiadores who have controlled processing to a larger extent in Costa Rica than elsewhere in the isthmus.

Historical trends and transformations in the Central American coffee commodity chain are key to understanding the recent development, current challenges, and future prospects of this value chain and of the rural areas where coffee has been or may become an engine of development, or where it has negative environmental and socioeconomic impacts and adverse effects on the social fabric and cohesion, local governance, and cultural identity that also require an historical understanding.

Coffee in Central America

Roughly one million hectares are currently planted in Central America with this perennial tree, which can last several decades with regular pruning although under current, relatively intensive systems it is usually cut down and replanted more frequently. The largest areas are now in Honduras, followed by Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica (Figure 1), in that order.2 There are currently more than 400,000 coffee farmers in Central America, most of them with small- to medium-scale holdings.3 The number of smallholders in the primary link of this value chain has expanded recently in recent years, especially in Honduras but also in Guatemala, where large estates at lower altitudes have shifted into rubber production and some 50,000 smallholders in the highlands have begun to produce high-quality coffee.4

Figure 1. Expansion of coffee cultivation, 1850–1970. Map by John V. Cotter in Carolyn Hall and Héctor Pérez Brignoli, Historical Atlas of Central America (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press).

Copyright © 2003 by University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Since the 19th century, Central American coffee has been grown mainly in the western and central mountains and valleys, from Guatemala to Costa Rica, or approximately 15.5o to 8.5o North latitude. The climate west of the continental divide is bi-seasonal, with a rainy season beginning in April or May, when coffee begins to flower, to October or November, and a relatively dry season thereafter, when most of the highland coffee is harvested, although some is picked during the last weeks of rain. Eastward, there is no clearly defined dry season, the coffee bushes may flower several times, the berries ripen slowly, and the harvest can extend over several months. Water content of the fruit is greater and density of the seed that is separated from the hull is lower in the more humid areas, with a negative effect on the overall quality of the coffee bean that is subsequently dried and ultimately roasted. Drought during the growing season or heavy rainfall and exceptionally strong winds while the bushes are flowering can reduce production substantially.

Historically, coffee from several Central American countries has been recognized as a high-quality product, first in Europe and more recently in Japan and the United States. Originally, coffee primarily from Guatemala, Costa Rica, and to a certain extent El Salvador attained this reputation, but coffee from specific locations in Nicaragua and Honduras has also won international awards in recent years. The process of producing high-quality coffee involves the complete value chain, from planting, care of the coffee groves and harvesting, through primary processing or depulping, storage and transportation, roasting, and distribution.5

Altitude affects the quality of coffee, which in Central America is planted mostly between 600 and 1800 meters above sea level but can be found at lower and higher altitudes. Better coffee is usually harvested above 1000 meters, and while the volume of grain per hectare tends to be lower, it fetches better prices and can thus be profitable. Lowland grain is of inferior quality, but productivity and costs as well as differentiated demand make it feasible to produce coffee in these areas, and there is in fact a recent trend in that direction, usually with Robusta rather than Arabica coffee.6

Average yearly temperatures in Central America’s coffee-producing zones are within the optimum range, from 17o to 23o centigrade, with somewhat cooler temperatures in the evenings. Moderate seasonal variations in temperature ensure that frost is not a major concern within the altitudinal ranges of coffee production in the region, as opposed, for example, to the subtropical areas of Brazil.

Global warming as a medium- to long-term trend and greater short-term variability of rainfall and temperature are a significant concern for coffee growers, their associations, and related public institutions. Historical trends and projections based on climate models suggest that the production of Arabica coffee may decline as that planted at lower altitudes is more seriously affected by higher average temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns, as well as certain diseases and pests, and also the effects of changing spatial distribution of bee populations on pollination of coffee trees. On the other hand, climate change may offer new opportunities for coffee cultivation in certain areas, especially at higher altitudes, where it has not been present historically and is not yet feasible.7

The soils where coffee has been planted in this region are often volcanic in origin, and usually quite fertile, although nutrient depletion and erosion, under continuous cultivation of a single crop and heavy rains, diminish their natural fertility over time. This may be compensated for by the use of organic or chemical fertilizers, and in certain areas the natural addition of ashes through eruptions, while stressful for the plants at the outset, may eventually restore certain nutrients to the soil. Since some of the major coffee areas of Central America have been in production for over a century, the original fertility of the soil has long been depleted, and substantial costs are incurred in artificial fertilization.

Historical Trends and Transformations

Coffee was brought to northern Central America in the mid-18th century, originally as an ornamental plant. It was apparently introduced to Guatemala by the Jesuits well before their expulsion from Spanish America in 1767; there are references to coffee groves and local coffee trading as early as 1744, and some coffee was planted in Guatemala, on a small scale, by the turn of that century.8 The Coffea arabica bush may also have been planted in the early 1740s in El Salvador, probably as an ornamental plant and perhaps for local consumption.9

Coffee was being grown by the early 19th century in certain plots in central Costa Rica, the poorest and southernmost province of the General Captaincy of Guatemala in colonial times. Small amounts were shipped overseas toward 1820 and more substantial shipments began in the 1830s, when direct trade with Great Britain after independence opened a major market for coffee, and subsequently through British ports to continental Europe, especially to Germany and also to France.

Coffee production expanded rapidly in central Costa Rica, partly because it did not have to compete with other well-established export crops. While Costa Rica was part of the Federal Republic of Central America, from 1824 to 1848, coffee production and exports grew substantially. By 1846 this small country was exporting 83,077 hundred-pound bags of dry grain, or some 3.8 thousand metric tons. During the latter part of that century, Costa Rica´s coffee exports increased to 10,000 metric tons by 1870, then fluctuated around that amount for a decade, and trended upward once again until 1898, when some 20,000 metric tons were exported from this country (see Figure 2). While small- and medium-scale coffee farmers were quite important in this country, large estates developed in several parts of the Central Valley as coffee-growing expanded first westward from the area of colonial settlement, and then eastward through the Turrialba-Reventazón valley, where transportation costs and duration dropped with the construction of a railroad toward the Caribbean port of Limon, completed in 1890. Landholding patterns varied within the Central Valley, as family farming played a major role in westward settlement, while large estates dominated eastward. Centralized wet processing facilities or beneficios had been established since mid-century on the larger farms, and the coffee of smallholders was processed there.

In Guatemala, cochineal for dyeing textiles expanded rapidly after Independence and was the country’s main export between 1840 and 1868. Production of coffee expanded slowly in this country between the early to the mid-19th century, and there are occasional records of small amounts being exported during that period.10 Exports grew substantially during the latter part of the 19th century, surpassing those of Costa Rica by the 1880s and reaching almost 30,000 metric tons by 1898 (see Figure 2). While indigenous communities lost their land in areas where coffee could be planted, Indian communal landholding remained in the highlands, at altitudes unsuitable for coffee production. Seasonal workers were drafted, often forcefully or through debt peonage, from those communities, especially for the coffee harvest.

Figure 2. Volume of Costa Rican and Guatemalan coffee exports during the second half of the 19th century.

Source: Robert G. Williams, States and Social Evolution. Coffee and the Rise of National Governments in Central America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press), table A.1, 265–274.

Indigo production for the European textile industry, already significant in El Salvador during Colonial times, continued to expand after Independence, and the blue dye was this country’s main export until the 1870s. Coffee was being exported from El Salvador by 1855, albeit on a small scale, and its production and trade expanded rapidly from the 1860s through the 1890s, partly due to declining cost of transportation and greater availability of financing for investment in coffee groves.11 Liberal reforms in this country, after 1871, directly affected indigenous communal landholding, enabling access by persons of Spanish descent and mestizos to land where coffee could be produced, and creating a readily available workforce.

Some coffee had been grown in southwestern Nicaragua since the mid-19th century, and a certain amount was sold to travelers going up the San Juan River by steamboat to cross the isthmus en route to California during the gold rush there. Commercial coffee production grew slowly over the next half century, at first primarily in the Carazo plateau and the mountains near Managua but also in the northern area of Matagalpa and Jinotega, especially by German immigrants.12

The Honduran economy in the 19th century was largely based on extensive livestock raising, and toward the turn of the century mining and banana production were also significant. Coffee production was primarily for local consumption, and official exports were negligible, although some Honduran coffee may have been exported at the time via El Salvador.

Most Central American coffee exports from the early to the mid-20th century originated in Guatemala, whose production more than doubled, and El Salvador where it trebled by 1959 (see Figure 3). Costa Rican and Nicaraguan coffee exports were fewer and grew at a slower rate, although Costa Rica’s exports once again expanded rapidly during the 1950s, when Honduran coffee exports also began to grow.

Figure 3. Volume of Central American coffee exports, 1901–1959.

Source: Williams, States and Social Evolution, 265–274.

From the late 19th century through the 1930s, German immigrants especially to Guatemala and Costa Rica became involved in coffee farming, local processing, and exporting to their fatherland, where high-quality grain was appreciated. Local owners of large estates and processing plants also exported greater amounts of coffee to Germany, often via London. During World War II, Germany could not import Central American coffee, shipping to England became increasingly risky, and the region’s exports shifted primarily to the United States, where mass distribution focused more on volume than on quality. After the war, exports to Europe gradually recovered, and quality was once again emphasized. Prices improved substantially, and this fostered first the expansion of coffee production and subsequently investments to increase the productivity of coffee groves.

From the early 1960s to the late 1980s, the world coffee market was regulated by the quota system of the International Coffee Organization (ICO), and most of the region’s coffee was exported to member countries of the ICO under the quota system. Other markets, such as the Soviet Union, imported some Central American coffee, at lower prices.

Central American coffee exports continued to grow during this period, although they declined during the 1980s in El Salvador and Nicaragua (Figure 4), during the civil wars in both countries. Expansion of coffee production and exports continued during that decade in Guatemala as well as in Costa Rica, where new varieties and cultivation systems led to higher productivity, and in Honduras where production was more extensive.

Figure 4. Volume of Central American coffee exports, 1961–2013.

Source: FAOSTAT.

After 1989, when the ICO quota system was indefinitely suspended, Honduran coffee exports grew most rapidly, those of Nicaragua grew at a slower pace, while Guatemalan exports increased until the turn of the century but then dropped and subsequently stagnated (see Figure 4). Salvadoran and Costa Rican exports fluctuated during the 1989–1993 price drop and then trended downward. By 2013, Honduras had become the main coffee exporter in Central America, followed by Guatemala, and Nicaragua had surpassed both Costa Rica and El Salvador in terms of volume.

Figure 5. Coffee area harvested in Central American countries, 1961–2016.

Source: FAOSTAT.

Overall, the coffee area harvested in Central America went from close to 600,000 hectares in 1961 to one million in 2016. Interestingly, the 1989–1993 crisis in the international coffee economy did not lead to a decline in the overall area harvested but rather to a more rapid increase after the previous decline, during the early to mid-1980s (Figure 5).

The area harvested in Guatemala, by far the largest throughout most of this period, underwent a very moderate growth, while that in Honduras grew significantly, especially since the 1990s, and in recent years has been greater than in Guatemala. There was a moderate increase in the area harvested in Nicaragua, but in Costa Rica and El Salvador it remained more or less constant at a very similar level (see Figure 6).

Figure 6. Coffee area harvested in Central American countries, 1961–2016.

Source: FAOSTAT.

Yields per hectare, which were highest in El Salvador in the 1960s, declined thereafter in that country and are currently by far the lowest. In Costa Rica they grew through the 1980s, fluctuated during the following decade while they remained substantially higher than elsewhere in the isthmus, and have declined since the turn of the century. Yields in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, lowest at the outset, have increased gradually over time and are now approaching those of Costa Rica (see Figure 7).

Up to the mid-20th century, the expansion of Central American coffee production and exports was based primarily on the growth of the area planted and harvested. During the latter part of the century production became more intensive, first in El Salvador, then in Costa Rica, and subsequently in the other three countries of the region. Since the ICO quota system broke down in 1989, production and exports continued to grow in Honduras, where coffee expansion was more recent.

Figure 7. Yield of coffee harvested in Central America, 1961–2016.

Source: FAOSTAT.

The structure of the coffee value chain has evolved over time, as have the strategies of those involved at various stages of the process. These have in part been locally or nationally specific reactions to changes in the markets, including the weakening of the overall control of multinational corporations and an increasingly complex web of connections between coffee growers, international brokers, and overseas roasters. In addition, banks have tended to become more reluctant to finance coffee growing and exports, and financially weaker growers have come to depend more on multinationals to fund their export business. The coffee industry has become increasingly concentrated, and a trend toward “just in time” logistics of international trade in coffee has drastically reduced the absolute and relative weight of formerly dominant inventory traders.13 Within the region’s coffee economies, there has been a trend toward smaller milling units, and those who process their own and sometimes their neighbors’ coffee have entered into new types of arrangements for local and international sale and shipment of their coffee.

The Central American Coffee Commodity Chain

Production, processing, transportation, trading, and consumption of Central American coffee evolved as a locally based commodity chain, linked to the international coffee market, supply chains, and networks connecting producers in Latin America, Africa, and Asia with consumers in Europe, North America, and other parts of the world (Figure 8).

A closer look at each link in this regional value chain will allow us to better understand its general characteristics and variations, before discussing vertical and horizontal integration within it.

Figure 8. The Central American coffee commodity chain.

Source: Prepared by author.

Cultivation of Coffee

Varieties of coffee, or “cultivars,” planted in Central America changed over time, improving productivity but with mixed effects on quality. The main commercial species, Coffea arabica, has been strongly predominant in the region, although some Coffea liberica and Coffea maragogype was planted in the 19th century. The taller, sturdy Coffea robusta can be found in certain lowland areas, and also as the basis for grafting Arabica coffee due to its resistance to certain root diseases at higher altitudes. The original typica variety of Coffea arabica was gradually replaced by the Bourbon variety and other cultivars of that same species during the first half of the 20th century. After mid-century, dwarf cultivars began to spread in the region. Some, such as the Villa Sarchí and San Ramón cultivars, grown in the western part of the Central Valley in Costa Rica, originated locally in a spontaneous manner, early on, but did not become widespread. Commercial hybrids such as the caturra, found in Brazil in the 1960s, spread in Central America during the following decades, and new varieties were developed by crossing previously existing ones in search of greater resistance to certain diseases and higher productivity.

Cultivation systems have become more and more intensive, as densities increased from about 1500 to 5000 or more coffee bushes per hectare, partly due to the introduction of dwarf cultivars but also to new pruning systems and heavy use of agrochemicals for manuring and to control pests and diseases, together with the reduction or elimination of shade trees. This multiplied the productivity both of the land and of labor, although it may have had a negative effect on quality of the grain, as compared to traditional varieties under shade. Said intensification took place earlier and to a greater extent in Costa Rica, while systems remained less intensive elsewhere in the region.

The use of shade in Central American coffee groves, since the latter part of the 19th century, improved the longevity of the coffee bushes and, depending on the type of shade trees, enriched the agroecosystems in coffee groves. Legume trees, especially Erythrinas, have been favored because they can be pruned, thus regulating shade during the year, and their root systems contribute to nitrogen fixation in the soil. Plantain and fruit trees have also been planted in coffee groves, providing food crops, although they tend to compete for nutrients and water. The reduction and elimination of shade after 1980, first and foremost in Costa Rica and subsequently in certain other areas of Central America, made the plant bear more fruit thanks to greater availability of energy from sunlight. There are, however, growing concerns about the environmental sustainability of shadeless cultivation and whether it is suited for all coffee-growing areas. Results seem to have been better in certain high-altitude, cloudy locations, but farmers at the lower altitudes have sometimes decided to reintroduce shade. The elimination of shade trees may also affect local microclimates, and it probably is detrimental to biodiversity in general and specifically to bird populations. Multistrata systems with several types of permanent shade trees tend to be more resilient to adverse climate conditions, although productivity of the coffee groves is generally lower.

Manuring, originally with guano from birds and other organic fertilizers, and then with chemical fertilizers, compensated for the depletion of natural nutrients in the soil and helped increase productivity and manage greater densities in coffee groves. Some farmers have moved from chemical to organic fertilizers. Groups of farmers in various Central American countries have opted for this type of coffee production, involving a greater input of labor for weeding and other manual tasks, in exchange for somewhat higher prices and lower cash expenditures. Some small-scale farmers, especially indigenous groups in Guatemala, plant coffee trees under forest cover and apply no fertilizers, and while production per area is low, costs are also minimal.

Organic coffee production rejects the use of agrochemicals and involves ecologically sustainable techniques such the use of soil covers and mulching, terracing, and contour planting to prevent erosion; the use of shade trees both to increase organic matter in the soil and to regulate microclimatic conditions; and enhanced biodiversity and resistant varieties or cultivars as a means to control pests and diseases.14 This type of coffee production, which also seeks to be economically viable and socially just, is more labor-intensive than systems that use agrochemicals for weeding and as fertilizers. Organic certification entails an additional cost, offset—together with labor costs—to a greater or lesser extent by premium prices obtained in foreign or domestic markets.

The degree of specialization on farms producing coffee has generally increased, often to the point of single cropping. Historically, however, coffee farms were quite diverse, combining food crops, sugarcane or other commercial crops, pastures, and other uses of the land throughout the 19th century and in many areas well into the 20th. Since then, the trend toward lesser complexity of farming systems has, on the one hand, increased short-term productivity, and on the other hand reduced biodiversity, resilience, and local food production.

Harvesting, Local Transportation, and Primary Processing

Coffee must be picked manually in the mountains of Central America, and this requires seasonal labor. Women and children as well as men have participated in this task, often moving from one coffee farm or zone to another. Migrant workers, often families, sometimes from indigenous communities or neighboring countries, often play a crucial role due to lack of sufficient local workers at harvest time. Payment is usually on a piecework basis, by the amount harvested each day. Selective harvesting of ripe fruit, crucial for quality, is somewhat slower than stripping all the berries at the same time.

The coffee berry is usually taken immediately to collection centers, sometimes located within medium- to large-scale farms, and other times placed at certain points in the road network in areas where small-scale farmers sell their product to processing firms. Middlemen sometimes buy the harvest of smallholders, but regulations tend to favor direct sale to the beneficiadores who process the berry. In Costa Rica, since the 1930s a coffee board has regulated these relationships, and farmers receive an initial payment upon delivery of the cherries and a final one once the dry bean has been sold, generally abroad. Elsewhere in the region, variously sized farms often processed their own coffee, whether in proper processing mills on the larger farms or by small-scale rudimentary pulping on the smaller farms. In recent years there have been two different trends: in some areas, specialized plants not located on farms have processed coffee coming from larger regions, as transportation has improved, while on medium-sized farms in certain high-altitude areas small-scale technified wet processing plants, or microbeneficios, process their own and some neighbors’ coffee.

Local transportation evolved from oxcarts and pack animals to small trucks that have also served as mobile collection centers. Trains were sometimes used for transportation to larger storage and processing facilities, and more recently, large trucks have begun to move the cherries to centrally located plants. Since the fruit has to be pulped within approximately twenty-four hours of harvesting, unless the whole cherry is sundried, moving the fruit to these facilities is time-sensitive and dependent on the conditions of roads and the means of transportation.

Primary processing, to separate the seed from the pulp of the coffee berry, may be done by the dry or wet methods. The former was used originally in Costa Rica, as in parts of the West Indies, in the mid-19th century, on a relatively small scale. It involves drying the cherry in the sun and using animal traction to separate the dried husk from the seed. It was also applied at first, on a larger or smaller scale, in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras. The whole cherry was dried, then husked with mechanical or animal-driven machinery, and subsequently cleaned and classified.15 Production of this type of dry-processed coffee, also called “natural coffee,” has increased in recent decades in response to demand especially from European buyers, and “honeys,” also sun-dried but with part of the sweet cherry flesh or mucilage still attached to the bean after initial depulping, are also gradually becoming more significant, and are strongly associated with Costa Rican coffee.

Wet milling became widespread in Costa Rica and Guatemala during the latter part of the 19th century, but while in Costa Rica these mills were mainly on the larger farms and sometimes in independent processing plants, and often processed the coffee of medium- and small-scale farmers in the area, Guatemalan coffee mills were usually smaller and primarily processed the coffee of the medium- to large-scale farms on which they were located. In Costa Rica, coffee farmers’ associations or cooperatives also established or acquired wet-processing plants. The number of wet-processing beneficios in Costa Rica declined from over 200 in the late 19th century to just over 100 in recent years, while in Guatemala there are some 3000.16

In Honduras, where coffee production expanded later, especially after the mid-20th century, mostly on relatively small and widely spread out farms, often with poor transportation, coffee was usually pulped on the farms, then dried and sent for final processing in neighboring towns. As in Colombia, the first stage of wet method processing has been done on a small scale, with simple equipment, on smallholders’ farms, although some farmers’ cooperatives have begun to process their members’ coffee on a larger scale.

Preparation for export and for the local market involves drying the grain or seed, whether in the sun or using mechanical dryers. Final preparation for sale to exporters, and also to coffee merchants in the country, requires threshing, classification by size and density, and final selection of the grain. In processing plants, gravity is used for the initial classification, based on weight and size of the seed, but final sorting requires taking into account other attributes. At first sorting was done manually, often by women, and the grain is still sorted by hand in some regions. Elsewhere, sorting equipment is used, with a variety of techniques and different levels of sophistication. These include vibration, airflow, and sieves for initial sorting, while final sorting by color involves either the human eye and hand or optical laser sensors and compressed air. Centralized plants have been established in recent decades to complete the preparation of coffee from several wet-processing mills for export.

Shipping Coffee Abroad

Transportation to ports also evolved from oxcarts and mule trains in the middle decades of the 19th century to railroads toward latter part of that century or early 20th century, and trucking especially after mid-century, as local roads for motor vehicles improved.

At the time of Independence, transportation to the Pacific ports, using trails for pack animals established during the Colonial period, was difficult, time-consuming, and costly for moving substantial volumes of a product that was subject to damage from humidity. When coffee production began to expand in Costa Rica, an oxcart road was built in the early 1840s from the Central Valley to Puntarenas, but reaching the coast could take up to a week. The San Juan River and overland route in southern Nicaragua, allowing passengers and goods to move from the Caribbean to the Pacific coast, was also used to ship small amounts of coffee in the mid-19th century. In Guatemala, coffee was moved to port over long distances by mules and oxcarts, slowly and at considerable cost, though roads were improved in the early 1870s from the main cities and coffee-producing regions to ports on the Pacific. While distances to the coast in El Salvador were comparatively short, cost of transportation was a major limiting factor for the expansion of coffee production, with less value per volume and weight than indigo.17

Railroad construction in Central America, often funded by overseas investors and controlled by foreign companies, was crucial to move coffee more rapidly, safely, and at a lower cost to the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. The Panama railroad, completed in 1855, became an alternative to rounding Cape Horn for shipments from Pacific ports. In Guatemala, three railroads to the western ports were completed between 1884 and 1898, and the much longer track to Puerto Barrios, on the Caribbean coast, was completed in 1897. In El Salvador and Nicaragua, relatively short railroad lines connected the main coffee-producing regions to Pacific ports by the end of the century. In Costa Rica, the rail connection from the Central Valley to the Caribbean port of Limón came first, by 1890, and the electric train to the Pacific port of Puntarenas was completed in 1910.18

Overseas shipping in the 19th century was mainly from Pacific ports, southward to Valparaíso, where some Central American coffee was initially relabeled as if it were Chilean, then around Cape Horn and across the Atlantic. Vessels were at first sailing ships, but by the mid-19th century steamships were calling regularly at Central American ports. Duration of sea voyages was cut in half, and costs declined during the latter part of that century. Once railroads connected western Central America with the Caribbean, in Costa Rica and Guatemala, most coffee was shipped directly to Europe by this route. Shipping companies were foreign-owned, at first primarily British, then also German and from the United States. Completion of the Panama Canal in 1914 further reduced shipping costs and time, as steamships coming from Pacific ports of Central America could cross over to the Caribbean. As the market in North America grew, especially during and after World War II, coffee was shipped increasingly from Caribbean ports to the Eastern seaboard of the United States and from the Pacific ports of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Costa Rica to California.

Exporters of coffee from Central America in the 19th century were often owners of processing plants, sometimes also of coffee estates, or individual merchants who purchased their grain, including citizens of each country and foreigners—mainly Europeans—residing there. Initially, the captains of some vessels received consignments of coffee, as in the case of William Lacheur in Costa Rica. Subsequently, consignments were sent by the owners of processing mills to importers abroad, who paid the exporters with the proceeds of their sales in Europe or the United States. Specialized export firms developed during the latter part of the 19th century and during the first half of the 20th century. These often belonged to foreign nationals, among whom Germans played a major role until the outbreak of World War II.19 During the latter part of the 20th century, federations of coffee grower cooperatives, especially in Costa Rica, became major exporters, and smaller, local cooperatives began to export directly after the breakdown of the ICO quota system and the 1989–1993 severe drop in international prices for coffee.

Financing of coffee production and processing often came from exporters, international traders, or wholesale importers of coffee. Commercial and financial relations were intertwined, as credit went from importers to exporters to processing firms, and ultimately to coffee growers. Local lending by farmers and sometimes by merchants was frequent in some areas, such as Carazo, the most important coffee region of Nicaragua from 1880 to 1930, where mortgages and property resale agreements, or pactos de retroventa, were usually payable in coffee.20

Local banks, mostly private, also financed the coffee business. Government-supported financial institutions created in Guatemala during the early 1870s were short-lived, but several private banks established between 1877 and 1881 provided funding for coffee production and processing.21 Four private banks were set up in El Salvador during the 1880s, with some government support, and authorized to issue currency.22 In Costa Rica, the first successful commercial bank, Banco Anglo Costarricense, was established by British investors and Costa Rican coffee growers in 1863,23 followed by several others. The government became directly involved in 1914, when the Banco Internacional was established, and after 1949 the nationalized banking system financed coffee production and processing in Costa Rica, usually through the beneficiadores.

During most of the 19th century, Central American coffee was sold as a physical, existing commodity. The trade in Central American coffee “futures”—commitments to buy or sell a certain amount or type of coffee at a future date—began in the late 19th to early 20th century. The Hamburg Coffee Exchange, opened in 1887, was an integral part of the two-pronged strategy of the recently established German empire, to combine massive purchases of low-cost Brazilian coffee for the working class with control of an increasingly vertically integrated value chain for higher-quality Central American, especially Guatemalan, coffee for middle- and upper-class consumers in Germany.24 The New York Coffee Exchange, founded in 1882, initially dealt primarily with Brazilian coffee until 1928, when contracts began to be adopted for Colombian and Other Mild coffees, including those from Central America; it subsequently became the main exchange for Mild Arabica futures.25

Roasting and retail distribution in these overseas markets evolved from small-scale roasters who purchased green coffee from importers and wholesalers and sold their roasted coffee directly to consumers and to large national and multinational firms. Nevertheless, local roasters remained important in Europe, where discriminating consumers often preferred Central American and Colombian coffees. North American supermarket chains catered to household consumption of ground coffee, and required volume rather than high quality, while some small-scale local roasters catered to more selective consumers. Retail chains of coffee stores expanded the US market for coffees from specific origins, including those from Central America. Small-scale roasters continue to control niche markets for high-quality coffee of specific national origins, including that from Guatemala and Costa Rica. Award-winning lots of Central American coffee are also in high demand in Japan, where they fetch very attractive prices. In Europe, Fair Trade, organic, and specialty coffees from this region are sold through specialized channels.

Historically, local trading and consumption of coffee in Central America tended to focus on a lower-grade product that could not be profitably exported. In Costa Rica, it was combined with sugar and other products to make the required amount of café torrefacto to cover domestic demand, and export-grade coffee only became widely available locally during and after the 1989–1993 international coffee market crisis. In Guatemala, well-prepared, pure coffee has been consumed locally, but instant coffee is widely sold, as in El Salvador and Honduras.

International price trends and major fluctuations have not been determined by Central American production but rather by that of Brazil, Colombia, and other major exporters, in combination with consumption patterns abroad and growth; scarcity or surplus green coffee; downturns and recovery of international markets; and control of the latter by large-scale traders. Declining costs of production were a significant factor since the 1970s, and the breakdown of the ICO quota system after 1989 changed conditions in the international market.

From 1989 to 1993, a sharp and sustained drop in the price of all types of coffee followed the suspension of coffee quotas. Prices recovered over the next five years, only to drop again to a new low toward 2002. They recovered substantially over the following nine years, peaking toward 2011, only to drop again since then. Variations have been similar for the three types of Arabica, including the “Other Milds” category where Central American coffee is classified, although interestingly, their price has recently been slightly higher than “Colombian Milds,” rather than somewhat lower as they had been historically (see Figure 9).

Figure 9. Average yearly price of Colombian Milds, Other Milds, Brazilian Naturals and Robusta coffee.

Under the new, deregulated international market conditions, coffee producers in Central America adjusted in various ways, including improvement of quality and marketing to access niche markets for gourmet, environmentally friendly, and socially responsible coffees. During the 1989–1993 crisis, certain firms that produced and exported coffee realized that they could sell part of it locally at relatively good prices to the growing tourist sector and also to national consumers who appreciated quality and were willing to pay a better price than for café torrefacto. These and other firms continued to cater to the domestic markets, even as they continued to export coffee when conditions on the international market improved. Others, in less favorable locations or without the means and support mechanisms to improve quality and access niche markets, have faced greater difficulties.

Market niches for coffee with special attributes have expanded in North America, Europe, and Asia, and top-quality lots of Central American coffee from specific farms or areas, especially those that have won international awards, command very high prices. Organic coffee premiums, as well as those for bird-friendly or shade-grown coffee, seek to stimulate ecologically sustainable production. Fair Trade coffee prices, usually paid to smallholder cooperatives, reward compliance with certain environmental and labor standards, tend to be more stable and attempt to improve income of small-scale producers.

Vertical and Horizontal Integration

The overall structure of the Central American coffee commodity chain and that of each national segment of this chain have evolved substantially over time as production expanded throughout the isthmus, both in terms of area and through intensification. Changing technology for cultivation and processing, local transportation, and shipment overseas, as well as for roasting and distribution within each country and abroad, have redefined the technical organization of production and exchange of coffee from the various regions in each country, and from the Pacific and Caribbean ports to those in Europe, the United States, and more Asia and the Middle East. Transformations in economic, social, and political relations among participants within each link and between links, as well as horizontal and vertical integration of the coffee commodity chain as a whole, have significantly altered the bargaining power of the various stakeholders, concentration of assets, distribution of revenues from coffee sales, and the overall impact of coffee in each society. Cultural patterns of consumption and the social meanings of coffee, both within Central America and overseas, have changed significantly.

Horizontal integration within each link of this value chain involved both the establishment of large estates and corporate firms and the purchase or foreclosure of variously sized farms or processing plants. Small- and medium-scale producers, in turn, established cooperative arrangements to benefit from economies of scale in buying chemical inputs, providing technical support services to their members, or bargaining with processing and export firms.

Collection networks allowed private and cooperative processing firms to cover larger geographical areas and receive more coffee, while technical improvements and larger mills, as well as ownership of mills in several places, increased processing capacity and efficiency. However, especially since the 1990s, small-scale but technified microbeneficios have allowed middling farmers to process their own and neighbors’ coffee independently.

Domestic roasting and distribution tended to be in the hands of relatively few, mainly national firms (some owned by foreigners living in the country), until the recent entry of corporations such as Starbucks and the Colombian Coffee Federation through its Juan Valdez stores.

The export business has, overall, become increasingly concentrated over time, and multinational corporations came to control a greater percentage of exports from the region in the last quarter century. However, a number of cooperatives also became major exporters in the latter half of the 20th century, and there are some smaller export firms geared toward specific, niche markets.

Vertical integration has been a long-term trend in the Central American coffee commodity chain, as more farm owners became involved, individually or through cooperative associations, in the processing, domestic marketing, and export business. Since the late 20th century, international buyers and roasters have also purchased processing plants and become exporters of Central American coffee. Certain international firms have even bought estates to produce coffee directly, thereby controlling all links in this value chain.

Historical Trends and Future Prospects

Coffee production, processing, shipment, exports, distribution, and consumption played a major role in the economic, social, and political, but also environmental and cultural, history of each Central American country for extended periods. This took place first in Costa Rica, by the mid-19th century, then in Guatemala and El Salvador during the latter part of that century, subsequently in Nicaragua—though to a lesser extent—and more recently—and quite significantly—in Honduras. In many rural areas, in the valleys and slopes of the western and central mountain ranges, it came to dominate the landscape and influence social interactions in significant but very diverse ways. For the region as a whole, the development and transformation of the coffee commodity chain played a major role in export growth and trade, improved transportation networks, and establishment of private and public financial institutions. These trends interacted with changing access to land and labor relations and concentration of wealth and power, and contributed to the political and cultural evolution of all five countries, at different times and in various ways.

As Central American economies continue to diversify, the relative importance of coffee in their exports will further decline, although improvements in quality and marketing will allow producers in favorable geographic locations to be able to innovate in production, processing, organization, and marketing to obtain better prices for their coffee. Coffee will retain its significance as an economic activity and as the means of livelihood for thousands of families in coffee-producing areas, and it may be an engine of development in some, as it has been in the past in others. There will surely be further, major changes in the technical, economic, and social organization of the coffee commodity chain, as well as in its political and cultural implications. It will also very likely contribute to, and be influenced by, changes in how the land and other natural resources are managed, in the sustainability of production systems with various degrees of specialization, in local and regional biodiversity, and in the impacts of and adaptation to climate change, including those pertaining to the geographical location and forms of coffee cultivation.

Understanding the environmental, economic, social, political, and cultural history of coffee in the region should help to comprehend the trends and issues that will play a major role in future transformations, to ask relevant questions about the present and the future of this commodity chain and of the rural areas where coffee will continue or come to be important, and to guide research, policy, and actions with an appropriate historical perspective.

Discussion of the Literature

Early works on coffee in Central America were mostly contemporary in terms of when they were written and their focus on current or recent developments at the time, although they often gave some historical background. A number of them were traveler’s accounts, including those by visitors from other coffee-producing countries, such as Juan Pablo Duque from Colombia around 1938. Others were articles by Central American coffee growers, usually on their own country and based on their experience. Treatises on systems of cultivation or processing provide insight into technological aspects of coffee production. There were hardly any academic studies on the history of coffee written during the 19th century, but certain authors did offer mostly narrative summaries, often within broader works on Central American history or that of a given country, occasionally with a degree of personal interpretation.

For the region as a whole, one early example of an English-language academic study on coffee in the region as a whole is the master’s thesis in geography at the University of Chicago, by Helen Louise Hearst, in 1929, The Coffee Industry of Central America. Later studies primarily address the economic, social, and political aspects of the history of coffee in Central America, with less attention paid to its environmental and cultural aspects. At the regional level, the works by Héctor Pérez, Ciro Cardoso, and Carolyn Hall, three foreigners working in Costa Rica, offer substantive factual and interpretative knowledge on the economic history and historical geography of coffee in Central America. Comprehensive interpretations of the agricultural, technological, social, and political history of coffee in the region by Central American historians were published in the fourth volume of Historia General de Centroamérica, by regional publishers such as EDUCA and FLACSO, and in Central American, European, and North American academic journals. English-speaking scholars, such as Robert G. Williams and Jeffery M. Paige, have also addressed the interrelated economic, social, and political aspects of the history of coffee for the region as a whole.

By country, Costa Rica has the greater volume of studies on various aspects of the history of coffee, followed by Guatemala where several works focus on issues pertaining to land and labor relations. The historical literature on coffee in El Salvador, though less numerous, addresses key socioeconomic and sociopolitical aspects. There are fewer academic works focusing specifically on the history of coffee in Nicaragua and Honduras.

Primary Sources

Archival and contemporary printed material, including government publications and newspapers, contain valuable and abundant information on coffee, especially for Guatemala, El Salvador, and Costa Rica, where it was historically most important. In Nicaragua, the statistical institute published an overview of the situation of coffee in the country in 1961, and other institutions published statistical information on coffee before and after that. Since coffee has become a major product only in recent decades in Honduras, the volume and quality of the official information available on its production have increased substantially in recent decades.

Certain coffee firms’ accounts have been made available to individual researchers working on their history, or—less frequently—to those interested in the history of coffee in each country. When German-owned firms were taken over by the government during World War II in Costa Rica, their accounts became a matter of public record and are available at the National Archives. Elsewhere in Central America, less detailed information is also available on various coffee firms, both national and foreign owned.

Trade journals and publications by coffee boards have regularly published data on coffee as well as descriptions of coffee farms and discussions of issues relevant to the coffee industry.

Each country publishes statistics with relatively complete series on coffee exports, somewhat less complete information on production, and valuable but infrequent coffee census data, such as the 1935 coffee census in Costa Rica, or summaries of the situation of coffee production in a given country. Nineteenth-century and early to mid-20th-century statistics can be found in works on the history of coffee in each country.

Oral history has been less developed with regard to coffee in the region, with the main exception of Costa Rica where researchers at the History Department at Universidad Nacional conducted extensive interviews with farmers in various coffee-producing regions, with an emphasis on technological changes over time. Coffee farmers have also been interviewed in other countries for studies on relatively recent events, especially the impact of coffee crises and the strategies of farmers to cope with adverse market conditions.

Further Reading

Coffee in Central America
  • Cardoso, Ciro, and Héctor Pérez. Centroamérica y la economía occidental (1520-1930). San José: Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica, 1977.
  • Paige, Jeffery M. Coffee and Power. Revolution and the Rise of Democracy in Central America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.
  • Pérez, Héctor, and Mario Samper, eds. Tierra, café y sociedad. Ensayos sobre la historia agraria centroamericana. San José: FLACSO, 1994.
  • Samper, Mario. Producción cafetalera y poder político en Centroamérica. San José: EDUCA, 1998.
Coffee in Costa Rica
  • Bontou, Veronique, Carine Craipeau, Noëlle Demyk, Brunilda Hilje, Carlos Naranjo, Margarita Rojas, Mario Samper, Paul Sfez, and Margarita Torres. “La caféiculture au Costa Rica.” Geodoc, Douments de Recherche de l’UFR Géographie et aménagement, Université de Toulouse—Le Mirail, Série MOCA 5 Montagnes et Café 43 (1996).
  • Hall, Carolyn. El café y el desarrollo histórico-geográfico de Costa Rica. San José: Editorial Costa Rica y Universidad Nacional, 1976.
  • León, Jorge. Evolución del comercio exterior y del transporte marítimo de Costa Rica 1821–1900. San José: Editorial Universidad de Costa Rica, 1997.
  • Naranjo, Carlos. “La modernización de la caficultura costarricense 1890-1950.” Master’s thesis, Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica, 1997.
  • Vega, Patricia. Con sabor a tertulia. Historia del consumo del café en Costa Rica (1840-1940). San José: Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica & Instituto del Café de Costa Rica, 2004.
  • Winson, Anthony. Coffee and Democracy in Modern Costa Rica. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
Coffee in El Salvador
  • Lauria, Aldo. An Agrarian Republic: Commercial Agriculture and the Politics of Peasant Communities in El Salvador, 1823–1914. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999.
  • Lindo, Héctor. Weak Foundations. The Economy of El Salvador in the Nineteenth Century, 1821–1898. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.
  • Lindo, Héctor, and Knutt Walter (coordinators). Historia de El Salvador, vol. II. San Salvador: Ministerio de Educación, 1994.
  • North, Liisa. Bitter Grounds: Roots of Revolt in El Salvador. Toronto: Between the Lines, 1981.
Coffee in Guatemala
  • Cambranes, J. C. Coffee and Peasants in Guatemala. The Origins of the Modern Plantation Economy in Guatemala, 1853–1897. Stockholm, Sweden: Institute of Latin American Studies, 1985.
  • Fischer, Edward F., and Bart Victor. “High-End Coffee and Smallholding Growers in Guatemala.” Latin American Research Review 49, no. 1 (2014): 155–177.
  • McCreery, David. “Coffee and Class: The Structure of Development in Liberal Guatemala.” The Hispanic American Historical Review 56, no. 3 (1976): 438–460.
  • Rubio Sánchez, Manuel. Historia del cultivo del café en Guatemala. Guatemala: Asociacion Nacional del Café, 1968.
  • Wagner, Regina. The History of Coffee in Guatemala. Guatemala: ANACAFE, 2001.
Coffee in Honduras
  • Baumeister, Eduardo. “El café en Honduras.” Revista Centroamericana de Economía 11, no. 33 (1990): 33–78.
  • Carranza, Alfonso, and Jorge Humberto Orellana. “La Investigación Científica en la Historia y Cultura del Café en el Occidente de Honduras (La pequeña propiedad familiar).” Paradigma 20, no. 32 (June 2013): 135–152.
  • Smith, Erin Sue. “The Evolution of Coffee Markets for Sustainable Development: A Honduran Cooperative's Experience with Fair Trade.” Master’s thesis, California State University, Chico, 2010.
  • Tucker, Catherine M. Changing Forests.Collective Action, Common Property, and Coffee in Honduras. Bloomington, IN: Springer, 2008.
Coffee in Nicaragua
  • Craipeau, Carine. “El café en Nicaragua.” Anuario de Estudios Centroamericanos 18, no. 2 (1992): 41–69.
  • Dore, Elizabeth. “Land Privatization and the Differentiation of the Peasantry: Nicaragua's Coffee Revolution, 1850–1920.” Journal of Historical Sociology 8, no. 3 (September 1995): 303–326.
  • Radell, David. Coffee and Transportation in Nicaragua. Berkeley: Department of Geography, University of California at Berkeley, 1964.
  • Revels, Craig S. “Coffee in Nicaragua: Introduction and Expansion in the Nineteenth Century.” Yearbook (Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers) 26 (2000): 17–28.


  • 1. Although “commodity chain” and “value chain” may be viewed as somewhat distinct concepts, in terms of their scope and nuances of interpretation, here these terms will be used interchangeably, and they are applied not to individual firms but rather to the process by which coffee producers in various parts of the world and consumers both within those countries and abroad are connected through various linkages involving cultivation, processing, transportation, and distribution, with various forms of technical and social organization.

  • 2. FAOSTAT database, information on area harvested in 2016.

  • 3. Ileana Gómez, Jean-François LeCoq, and Mario Samper, Las agriculturas familiares en Centroamérica: procesos y perspectivas (San Salvador, PRISMA, 2014).

  • 4. Edward Fisher and Bart Victor, “High-end Coffee and Smallholding Growers in Guatemala,” Latin American Research Review 49, no. 1 (2014): 155–177.

  • 5. Mario Samper, “The Historical Construction of Quality and Competitiveness,” in The Global Coffee Economy in Africa, Asia and Latin America, ed. William G. Clarence Smith and Steven Topik (London: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 120–153

  • 6. Wim Pelupessy and Rafael Díaz, “Upgrading of Lowland Coffee in Central America,” Agribusiness, 24, no. 1 (January 2008): 119–140, foresaw the trend toward the reintroduction of Robusta in lower-altitude areas of the region. Since then, several countries have authorized planting of this species of Coffea; see “The Return of Robusta Coffee,” Business Information, April 11, 2018,

  • 7. María Baca, Peter Läderach, Jeremy Haggar, Götz Schroth, and Oriana Ovalle, “An Integrated Framework for Assessing Vulnerability to Climate Change and Developing Adaptation Strategies for Coffee Growing Families in Mesoamerica,” PLoS ONE 9, no. 2 (2014): e88463; and Pablo Imbach, Emily Fung, Lee Hannah, Carlos E. Navarro-Racines, David W. Roubik, Taylor H. Rickettse, Celia A. Harvey, Camila I. Donatti, Peter Läderach, Bruno Locatelli, and Patrick R. Roehrdanz, “Coupling of pollination services and coffee suitability under climate change,” PNAS Early Edition (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) (September 26, 2017).

  • 8. Coffee groves were reported on the road to Cobán, and some coffee was apparently sent from there to Izabal at the time. Jaime Villar, La tierra templada en la América Central (originally printed in Caracas, and published in Anales de la Sociedad de Geografía e Historia (Guatemala), nos. 1 to 4, (January to December 1958: 68)). Some 656 quintales or hundredweight (roughly 100-pound sacks) were exported from Guatemala in 1802, and smaller amounts were recorded in subsequent years. Regina Wagner, Historia del café de Guatemala (Bogotá: ANACAFE and Villegas Editores, 2001), 32.

  • 9. While this has not been clearly documented, several studies on coffee in El Salvador mention dates as early as 1740. See, for example, “Bilan et perspectives de la filière café au Salvador, Plantations, Recherche, Développement 5, no. 3 (May-June 1998): 177.

  • 10. Wagner, Historia del café de Guatemala, 32–39.

  • 11. Héctor Lindo, “La introducción del café en El Salvador,” in Tierra, café y sociedad. Ensayos sobre la historia agraria centroamericana, ed. Héctor Pérez and Mario Samper (San José: FLACSO, 1994), 55–82.

  • 12. David Robleto, El café en Nicaragua: Un desafío para el futuro (Managua: Publicaciones & Servicios Nicaragua Fácil, 2000), 23–24.

  • 13. The author wishes to express his thanks to Steve Aronson, founder of Café Britt and a very knowledgeable person regarding the international coffee trade, for his valuable insights on this matter. Any shortcomings of the above summary are exclusively the author’s responsibility.

  • 14. Bo van Elzakker, “Organic coffee,” in Coffee Futures: A Source Book of Some Critical Issues Confronting the Coffee Industry, ed. P. S. Baker (Egham, U.K.: CABI-FEDERACAFE Commodities Press. CABI Bioscience, 2001), 74–81.

  • 15. A description of this process for the early stages of coffee production in Nicaragua can be found in Eddy Kühl, Nicaragua y su café (Managua: HISPAMER, 2004): 30–31.

  • 16. Wagner, Historia del café de Guatemala, 75.

  • 17. Wagner, Historia del café de Guatemala, 93–94; Lindo, “Introducción del café en El Salvador.

  • 18. Carolyn Hall and Héctor Pérez, Historical Atlas of Central America (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001), 202–203.

  • 19. Germans played a significant role in coffee production, processing, and trade especially in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. See Wagner, Los alemanes en Guatemala (Guatemala: Editorial IDEA, Universidad en Su Casa, Universidad Francisco Marroquín, 1991); Gertrud Peters, El negocio del café de Costa Rica, el apital alemán y la geopolítica, 1907-1936 (Heredia, Costa Rica: Editorial de la Universidad Nacional, 2016); and Goetz con Houwald, Los alemanes en Nicaragua (Managua: Colección Cultural Banco Nicaragüense, 1993).

  • 20. Julie A. Charlip, Cultivating Coffee. The farmers of Carazo, Nicaragua, 1880–1930 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2003), 122–133.

  • 21. Augusto Cazali, “El desarrollo del cultivo del café y su influencia en el régimen del trabajo agrícola. Época de la Reforma Liberal (1871-1885),” Anuario de Estudios Centroamericanos, 2 (1976): 35–93.

  • 22. Evolución del sistema financiero en El Salvador.”

  • 23. Eduardo Hernández, “Comercio y dependencia en Costa Rica durante los años de 1880–1890,” Anuario de Estudios Centroamericanos no. 3 (1977): 235–265.

  • 24. Justus Fenner, “Shaping the Coffee Commodity Chain: Hamburg Merchants and Consumption of Guatemalan Coffee in Germany, 1889–1929,” América Latina en la Historia Económica 20, no. 3 (Septiembre–Diciembre 2013): 28–55.

  • 25. E. M. Brunn, “The New York Coffee and Sugar Exchange,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 155 (1931): 110–118.