Cafe 503: A coffee that gives back

Thirty-nine-year-old Salvadoran-American William Salamanca, cofounder of Café 503 talks about the goals and inner workings of his business. Giving insight on how his idea to give back to his community and produce quality coffee merged to form Café 503.

Salamanca and his friend Jorge Raul River began working on this project ten years ago but launched it in 2011. Rivera is the coffee producer. Rivera and his family have been producing coffee since the 1920s; they have land in El Salvador where they cultivate the coffee. Café 503 is cultivated, roasted and bagged in Finca Santa Rosa located in Chalatenango El Salvador.

Cofounder Rivera produces Café Santa Rosa, but Salamanca had a vision of giving people what they want, while also giving back to his community. Salamanca thought that coffee was the best way to do so, given that Latinos consume a lot of coffee. So he created Café 503.

The social project idea started to form, as Salamanca observed the crime that surrounds the children at an early age. He noted that many children “don’t have many chances within their community” to explore different artistic elements and other components on life.

Ironically, Salamanca was born in Los Angeles, California and moved back to El Salvador at the age of seven. He moved when his parents observed the danger that gangs that surrounded them posed. They also realized they had “more opportunities back home for the goals they had in mind,” stated Salamanca. He also added that they “wanted to move [him] away from the gangs. Salamanca and his family left California in 1986 and returned to El Salvador in the middle of the civil war.

In El Salvador, Salamanca learned to love and appreciate everything about the culture. Because of that love he wanted to give “[his] people something they could identify with.” Salamanca wanted to give back to his community, but instead of asking for donations, he wanted to “replace something people are already buying.” He further explained, “People are already buying Folgers and consuming it every morning. So why not buy Café 503 and feel good every morning, because as you’re drinking your coffee, you’re also helping out a child in El Salvador.”

That is how he came up with the name café 503. Salamanca wanted to take the Salvadoran area code as ” a symbol to any other Salvadoran around the world.” In hopes that they would “see the logo and know it’s a product from our country,” said Salamanca.

The goal of café 503 is to run a non-profit soon and expand the social work they are doing even further than just Santa Rosa, El Salvador. Currently, café 503 has adopted the local school in Santa Rosa. The small school contains two classrooms that houses sixty students from the ages of five through thirteen. Santa Rosa is 4.5 hours away from the capital of El Salvador- San Salvador. So it is “hard for the community to get any outside help,” explained Salamanca.

With every bag of coffee that is purchased 30% goes back to help the community in Santa Rosa and the rest is used to cover the costs of packaging, transporting, and shipping. Salamanca shared proudly that with that 30% Café 503 and himself have managed to make the local school of Santa Rosa, “the only school in the region with a marching band. But that is not all he wants to do; he wants to help the children break the cycle and know that they do not have to pick coffee beans for a living. He would like to have them “express themselves and learn through art.” He wants the children to know that there are more possibilities out there for them, “all they need is an opportunity,” he said. Salamanca hopes to provide more than just musical instruments soon; he hopes to one day provide the children in that community with an additional classroom and access to technology.

In 2018 Café 503, together with Jorge Rivera, participated in the Cup of Excellence. The Cup of Excellence is an annual competition held in several countries to identify the highest quality of coffee that is produced in different regions. Café 503 made it past several rounds and placed in third. Salamanca was excited, and as he explained that this is “like the Oscar’s for Coffee.” He is not only committed to giving back put to producing the best quality coffee in El Salvador and share it with others around the world.

In Cafe Axul as they prepare a Cafe 503 Pacamara Honey by the V-60 Method.

As café 503 continues to grow, and as Salamanca also continues to learn more about the business he hopes to teach the community many things; The most important two are “how to run a small business and how to give back to the community.”

You can purchase their coffee here: