Notes From Origin: Nicaragua Part One
Shawn (Green Coffee Buyer and Master Roaster): I arrived late Sunday night in Nicaragua’s capital city, Managua. After a quick dinner I headed to bed so I would be well rested for an early start the next morning. After a three and a half hour ride from Managua to the Matagalpa region I arrived at the farm of Henry and Gabriela Heuck called La Virgen. While touring the farm I learned that it is Rainforest Alliance Certified and grows a number of different coffee varieties including: Marsellesa, Catui, and Geisha. Henry also talked about how his coffee plants were heavily affected by the coffee rust disease about three years ago. He was forced to pull out entire lots coffee trees and replant new ones. He replaced most of them with F1H1 and F1H3 hybrid varieties, these are coffee rust resistant and should produce their first coffee cherries next year.
After the farm tour we headed to the wet mill where coffee is processed after it is picked from the trees. During the harvest season coffee pickers hand select the best cherries on the farm and bring them to the wet mill for weighing and payment.
The coffee cherries are then transferred into a large concrete tank known as the receiving station.
Once full the coffee is moved from the receiving station into the actual wet mill using a water channel. Next the coffee will be sorted, de pulped (removed from the cherry), and put into fermentation tanks for up to 24 hours.
While I always find the milling process interesting I was excited to taste some freshly roasted coffees so we headed in to the cupping lab located on the farm. Cupping is an industry term used to refer to tasting coffees. Freshly roasted coffee samples are brewed in individual cups and then evaluated based on characteristics like body, flavor balance, and acidity. All together I tasted 36 coffees and while all of them were great a few stood out as favorites. You will have to wait to find out which ones but you may get to taste them for yourself soon!
Between the farm tour and the cupping I had a chance to sit down with a local news reporter in Nicaragua and talk about issues like the quality of Nicaraguan coffees and pricing. If you are fluent in Spanish, or have the patience to translate you can read the full interview here.
My day ended around 8:30pm, I was exhausted but also grateful for Henry’s hospitality.
The next day I toured a different part of the La Virgen farm that included some beautiful vista points and learned more about Henry’s social projects on the farm that included a primary school for farm workers children. After lunch we made the three hour drive to Henry’s newest farm called San Francisco that is located in the Jinotega region. This farm is only 5 years old and was abandoned by the previous owner.
All of the trees at the San Francisco farm looked strong, healthy and rust free. I also toured the wet mill on the property and got to see the future building sites of the cupping lab, offices, housing, and store.
Henry dropped me at my hotel in Jinotega around 9pm. I grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed to bed, ready for another coffee filled day on Wednesday.