Carmen and Rafael Silva are part of the long legacy of coffee production in the Silva family, which stretches back to the 1870s.


Sicafe Coffee includes six family-owned farms in El Salvador, a mill, and exporting company, all focused on specialty coffee, and they’ve won the Cup of Excellence nine times.


Carmen and Rafael say that coffee farming is demanding work, especially because your success often depends on factors outside of your control, particularly the climate.

Carmen and Rafael Silva

Co-owners, Sicafe Coffee

Expertise: coffee agriculture, green coffee exporting, sustainability, coffee processing, coffee roasting, Q-processing

Coffee insight: While the US has the greatest coffee consumption of any country in the world, it’s only the second highest in consumption per capita; Finland actually takes the top spot in that category!

Coffee fun fact: The Silva family have been coffee producers since the 1870s, and their oldest farm, Finca La Siberia, is one of the most celebrated in the world today.

Carmen and Rafael’s Coffee Origin Story

Carmen had worked in several industries, including the airline industry, when she met Rafael Sr., a fifth-generation Salvadoran coffee producer, who introduced her to coffee agriculture for the first time 35 years ago. “His passion is coffee producing, so it was awesome, because I started going with him to the farm and getting to learn all the different things that you do with the farm,” she recalls. “And I was fascinated, really fascinated.”

When she and Rafael married, Carmen took over daily management of the family business, and together with Rafael Sr., she pursued new avenues for innovation—focusing on high-quality coffees, working directly with clients, and entering their coffees in competitions like Cup of Excellence.

Carmen What’s your favorite brewing method? Aeropress What’s your coffee drink of choice? washed Pacamara, Black How many cups of coffee do you drink a day? 5
Rafael What’s your favorite brewing method? Kalita Wave What’s your coffee drink of choice? washed Bourbon, black How many cups of coffee do you drink a day? 15 to 20

Rafael Jr., Carmen’s oldest son, says that while he grew up on his family’s coffee farm, he never envisioned having a career in coffee. After graduating from college and spending several years working in the retail industry, Rafael started to find his way back to coffee. “People would come up to me and start talking to me about coffee when they would see me at my desk brewing myself a Chemex…slowly coffee started growing in me,” he says. Eventually, that passion became so strong, he talked to Carmen about joining the family business when the time was right.

Carmen and Rafael’s Current Roles

The Silva family run the award-winning Sicafe, which includes six family-owned farms in El Salvador, a mill, and exporting company, all focused on specialty coffee. In fact, Sicafe’s coffees have won the Cup of Excellence an incredible nine times.

Rafael credits his mother for building the personal bonds that blossom into strong client relationships that are so important to the business’s success. “I think something very important to the success of Sicafe’s sales comes to the relationship she has built with all of our clients,” he says. “She knows them on a very, very personal level. She knows all their children’s names, their ages, and she remembers them…I think that is very important because, in many cases, it is not a business, a transaction; it is more of a relationship on a personal level, and that’s thanks to Carmen.”

When Rafael came onboard in 2016, he followed in his parents’ footsteps, bringing an innovative spirit to their product offerings, both in terms of varietals and in terms of processing methods, with his parents’ support. Carmen explains, “I know you have to be innovative in this field, and now more so, because the competition is great all over the world.”

What Fuels Carmen & Rafael’s Work

Carmen and Rafael are proud of the way Sicafe carries on a long family tradition of coffee agriculture. Rafael explains, “Our trajectory in coffee has been very long. All farms, all agricultural techniques, all knowledge has been passed down through the generations. That’s how everything has worked in our family ever since.”

What Carmen and Rafael Want Coffee Drinkers to Know

Carmen and Rafael hope more people will recognize that coffee farming—and agriculture in general—is incredibly demanding work, especially because your success often depends on factors outside of your control, particularly the climate. “You don’t know when you’re going to have a drought or going to be having storms or anything,” Carmen explains.

Rafael echoes his mother’s point, adding, “In agriculture, it is very difficult because we have to deal with things that we cannot control. One of the most important things we don’t control is nature. And dealing with nature is very, very tough.”

Both agree that if they could change one thing in the industry, it would be building a system where there’s less risk for producers. “The producer has 100% of the risk in the value chain,” Rafael explains.

How Carmen and Rafael Cultivates Community through Coffee

Sicafe isn’t just focused on delivering exceptional coffees; they’re also deeply involved in supporting other coffee producers. As part of the processing and exporting arms of the business, Sicafe works with more than 25 producers across El Salvador and actively looks for ways to support those communities in navigating the unpredictability of nature and of the market. For example, Rafael shares, “Two years ago, [there were] three large storms… The entire medical facility fell down, and they asked us to provide the wood to build it back up. So we did that. And everywhere we can, and any way we can, we try to help out.”

Carmen and Rafael say they also value the connections they’ve formed with producers in other coffee-producing countries. Rafael says, “Something that I’ve loved about having met these producers in other countries is the sharing of experiences. Not only in varieties, but in farming, in processing, in sales. Even though we share very similar things, we also do things very differently at times as well, and learning from them is very important.”

Where You Can Find Carmen and Rafael

Sicafe website: https://www.sicafesa.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sicafecoffee/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SicafeCoffee/

U3 Coffee exists to create the most meaningful coffee experience for millions of mindful, motivated humans like you. Because here, we’re United by Coffee.

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