This sourcing trip was a little different than most
We’ve done a lot of direct trade work in Nicaragua in recent years, which is why it’s no surprise that this large Central American country is one our favourites to visit.
Visiting Nicaragua for the first time is an incredibly humbling and jarring experience. In Nicaragua they depend on coffee and there’s nothing quite like a trip to the northeastern part of the country to drive that home. Only, this sourcing trip was a little different than most. For the first time Andrew and Jeff, our friends and partners from ThirstFirst, travelled to Nicaragua with us.
Rain, rain, go away
We explored the grounds of the Soppexcca cooperative and could tell right away by the look and size of the coffee lots that it was not business as usual.
Typically, the month of January is very hot and very dry in Nicaragua – ideal conditions to dry freshly washed coffee beans – only this year the rain would not let up. Many of the co-ops in this part of the world still rely on the sun-drying process, this is where coffee beans are laid out to dry in the open air on a cement patio, so unexpected wet weather can really affect a farmer’s output, not to mention put them weeks behind schedule. Fortunately, Soppexcca did have a handful of seasonal lots for us to cup.
This visit, though, was a not-so-subtle reminder of the challenges coffee farmers and co-ops around the world face when weather conditions are inconsistent.
Organic coffee farming through the eyes of the grower
A sourcing trip to Nicaragua would not be complete without a visit to Finca Los Pinos in Jinotega, the home and coffee farm of our longtime Fair to Farmer partner Byron Corrales.
Not one to sit on his laurels, we’re always excited to see the creative varietal hybrids Byron and his team are working on in a given season. We met Byron at Sol café, the café inside Cecocafen co-op’s dry mill in Matagalpa where we cupped some of his exceptional coffee before heading out by truck to his farm.
A biodynamic coffee farmer, Byron’s commitment to organic coffee production is second to none. Here’s what Jeff from ThirstFirst had to say about his time with Byron:
“The experience for me was very humbling. What Salt Spring is doing to better the lives of the people they deal with in Nicaragua is extremely heartfelt and fulfilling. I am that much more passionate about coffee, the processes and the industry now that I’ve seen it first hand. One thing that really hit home was the fact I use organic products because I feel they are better for me. And yes they are, but the real benefit of using organic products (coffee) is the positive impact it plays on the people growing the product.”
Jeff’s thoughts echo those of Salt Spring Coffee wholeheartedly. When Salt Spring Coffee started in 1996 we set out to create a company with great coffee that doesn’t compromise the earth – or its people. Organic coffee production helps keep pesticides and chemicals out of waterways, like creeks and rivers, and helps protect ground water.
A visit to Prodecoop and its dry mill
Despite the fact that they have faced some of the same weather-related challenges as Soppexcca co-op, Prodecoop has managed to produce some extraordinarily beautiful coffee this season. Out of the 12 coffees that we cupped, two stood out: one from co-op José Alfredo Zeledón and the other from co-op Zacarias Padilla, both from the San Juan del Rio Coco region in northeastern Nicaragua (about a three-hour drive from Jinotega).
What excites me most about the cupping scores of these two coffees is that José Alfredo Zeledón and Zacarias Padilla are the two co-ops that received chippers last March (2011) through our Fair to Farmer program. To be able to taste the difference the chippers have made, and to see these two coffee communities benefiting from the equipment is incredibly rewarding.
Thanks to Jeff and Andrew from ThirstFirst for accompanying us on this incredible visit to Nicaragua.
Until next time,