Discovering Coffee Culture in Nicaragua

March 11, 2015 by

Food, Drink & Travel, Places to Go, South & Central America, Things to Do, Travel Advice & Inspiration

Coffee beans

Coffee beans

Coffee has played an important role in Nicaragua since its arrival in the 1800’s. Large-scale coffee crops started making an appearance in the 1850’s and by 1870, coffee was the primary export crop of Nicaragua. According to the Equal Exchange Co-op, whose mission is to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers, more than 40,000 coffee-farm families cultivate coffee beans, many of which help preserve the country’s forests and threatened biodiversity. By the late 1990’s, coffee production contributed  $140 million US to Nicaragua’s economy and provided the equivalent of 280,000 permanent agricultural jobs. It’s estimated that 95% of Nicaragua’s coffee farmers are micro and small-scale producers.

Nicaragua has three primary coffee growing regions – the Pacific plains, central northern mountains, and the Atlantic coastal lowlands. The majority of beans are produced within the central northern mountains including the Segovias (Estelí, Madriz, and Nueva Segovia departments), and Matagalpa and Jinotega departments.

According to the Coffee Hunters, the main varietals of coffee beans harvested in Nicaragua include Bourbon, Caturra, Maracatú, Maragogype, Pacamara, Javanica, Catuaí, and Catimor. Give or take, coffee beans in Nicaragua are typically harvested from October through February. Once harvested, the production is primarily carried out using the traditional wet process, where the coffee cherries are fully washed to extract the beans, which are then dried on parchment in patios.

Café Las Flores is one of the most respected coffee producers in Nicaragua. For over three generations, this family-owned company has cultivated and produced coffee from start to finish to ensure the utmost quality. Beans are grown at Hacienda El Progreso, which has become an eco-tourism destination in itself.

The Palazio family began cultivating coffee on the Mombacho Volcano near Granada back in the 19th century. Hacienda El Progreso holds the distinction of being the first Nicaraguan farm to obtain 98.21 points out of 100 on their Rainforest Alliance certification. This designation certifies the farm is truly sustainable and has taken extra measures in the areas of lowering water pollution and social erosion, reducing threats to the environment, protection of wildlife, and more.

Visitors to Hacienda El Progreso will learn the process that takes a coffee bean from the tree to the final product in your coffee mug. Then learn about the history of the coffee farm and coffee farming as a whole in Nicaragua.

Current production at Café Las Flores includes offerings like:

Rainforest Alliance: Café Las Flores Rainforest Alliance Certified is a single origin coffee cultivated at Hacienda El Progreso. It’s balanced and highly aromatic, with sweet chocolate undertones.

Grandes Cosechas: Original blend of the best Nicaraguan beans from the harvests of the Mombacho Volcano, Matagalpa, and Jinotega coffee regions. It’s considered a well-balanced roast, with citric essences of sweet lime and hints of chocolate.

The growth of the coffee industry in Nicaragua has been hindered over the years due to political strife and natural disasters. A civil war during the 1980’s resulted in no coffee exports to the United States, followed by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Both had a devastating effect on the coffee industry in Nicaragua. However, Nicaraguan coffee is once again gaining acceptance in the United States with more and more exports landing on the shelves, while brands like Starbucks are reportedly working on agreements to potentially use Nicaraguan beans.

Book a coffee tour in Nicaragua or see other things to do in Nicaragua.

Contributed by Erin De Santiago

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