Attention: Nicaragua

by JulieCraves on July 18, 2006

The situation and the role of coffee: Nicaraguan coffee made recent news, with a story on how organic coffee is losing its appeal to Nicaraguan coffee farmers. About 10% of the country’s coffee exports are organic, but producers feel there isn’t enough of a price premium to make the lower yields and extra effort (and certification costs) to produce organic coffees worthwhile.  Higher demand and increased volume of organic coffee worldwide has lowered prices, and according to the article, farmers are sometimes only receiving $1.05/lb for organic beans.

Nicaragua has suffered through civil war and natural disasters.  In 1998, Hurricane Mitch devastated the region and displaced many coffee farmers.  Coffee is an extremely important export crop, and 200,000 Nicaraguans depend on the industry.

Birds in coffee-growing regions: Organic and shade coffee are crucial for biodiversity in this country. Many of North America’s breeding birds — such as Blue-winged Warbler, Least Flycatcher, and the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler — winter in Nicaragua.

In addition to migratory birds, coffee-growing areas of Nicaragua are critical to resident birds. They are included in the North Central American Highlands Endemic Bird Area (EBA).  EBAs are designated by BirdLife International as areas which have a high percentage of species with restricted ranges.  This EBA is given urgent conservation priority, and the account states, “The montane forests are especially affected at 1,000-1,800 m by the growing of coffee without shade trees.”

About Nicaraguan coffee: Coffee in Nicaragua is often grown under dense shade.  Coffee is usually wet-milled at the farm. The profile of coffee from this country is best described as very approachable, clean, and with good balance. Kenneth Davids of Coffee Review considers Nicaraguans “subtle, suave, and lyric.”

The C&C tasting panel and I have tried several organic Nicaraguan coffees: from Heine Brothers, Great Lakes Roasting Company, and the Counter Culture Matagalpa Cafe San Ramon listed below.  These coffees are classic coffees, friendly and subtle,  medium-bodied and straight-forward. They are not especially complex, and serve as great all-day coffees that would be excellent introductions to tasty, sustainable coffee for your Folger-swilling friends.

My favorite Nicaraguan is the Counter Culture; note that they also market the Matagalpa San Ramon as one of their shade-grown Sanctuary coffees, available at retail outlets such as Whole Foods. There are delicious hints of chocolate in this coffee, which is especially good in any kind of immersion brewer, such as a french press.  Counter Culture has a strong relationship with growers in this region through the Sister Communities of San Ramon. The farm, Finca Esperanza Verde, has an ecolodge and a butterfly farm, and like the rest of the area, is a great birdwatching destination.  The Counter Culture involvement is a perfect model of relationship coffee.

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Revised on March 23, 2014

Posted in Coffee regions

green la girl July 19, 2006 at 12:08 am

What about Equal Exchange's Cafe Nica? That got started like 20 years ago, when the US had an embargo against Nicaragua —

BirdBarista July 19, 2006 at 7:07 am

There are lotsa good Nics out there…I just ran through some roasters and pulled out a sample, looking for a variety of roast profiles and single estate origins when possible. For readers Equal Exchange Cafe Nica is organic, three roast different roasts, no estate specified.

Scott August 20, 2006 at 7:51 pm

At least some of Equal Exchange's Cafe Nica comes from San Ramon. I was there in December 2005 and saw one of their labels tacked to a door at one of the farms. Also, I saw a bag on the shelf at CECOCAFEN's Solcafe dry mill in Matagalpa. (The San Ramon coop is part of CECOCAFEN.) The bag was in the cupping room where they have a bag from each place that they sell their coffee to. BTW, I was living at the house of the San Ramon coop president, who is featured on one of Counter Culture's "meet the farmers" posters. Sr. Valenzuela was so proud of that!

BirdBarista August 21, 2006 at 8:43 am

I hope to visit Nicaragua in 2007 or 2008, and will make sure to visit a few fincas. Thanks, Scott!

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