What a week! This week started just as all my previous weeks have. Tuesday, I continued weeding the viney plants running through the arranches or ground cover of the garden. These viney plants which I believe are a type of wort, are quite a pain to effectively remove. I feel like I havnen’t event made a dent and wonder if I’ll even be able to finish by the time I leave.
Wednesday, Ben Weiner, the owner and operator of Gold Mountain Coffee Growers showed up with Will. Will is a roaster from Winchester, Great Britain. I tagged along as Ben took him around Finca Idealista. We checked out the rainforest and the cabana all while getting rained on. It was great getting to know Will who is full of knowledge and experience.
After our tour of the Finca, we visited a couple of farmers further up the mountain in a community called Las Nubes. This is where Luis’ family lives and farms. Our first stop was with Don Santos whose relatively small farm has a wonderful stream running through the middle of it and many decorative flowers that make it one of the most beautiful properties I’ve seen here.
As we sat with Don Santos,the first thing I noticed was his warm and welcoming presence. He told us about his experience with farming, coffee, and processing the crop at his own wet mill. Santos works hard to maintain the quality of his product and would like to expand his farm to meet the demand for it but much of his profit is being put towards his daughter’s education. This is a rare situation. In general it is rare for children from these rural communities to get a university level education but it is even more rare for a women from these communities to be in this situation.
After a long struggle to get the truck out of the muck, we moved our way farther into the mountain to visit Don Ronald and his wife Noelia. They have recently finished building a new, larger house for their family of twelve, soon to be thirteen. Ronald and Noelia have a larger farm than than Santos. They’ve even recently planted some trees atop a slope that is too large for even horses to carry supplies up and down from. They have considered a pipe system for transporting cherries at harvest time, or even building a mill at the top so that there is less weight to carry down.
From Ronald and Noelia’s farm, we returned to the office in Matagalpa to cup some coffees. We sniffed and slurped through midnight and the caffeine kept me up until almost three, but I think the three of us had a good time analyzing this year’s harvests.
Running on only a few hours of sleep and a couple of pour-overs the next morning, we all jumped back into the truck and headed to the dry mill, which is located just outside the city of Matagalpa. There is a lot going on there, but Ben showed us the raised beds that he built there for the Gold Mountain coffees before taking us inside. Inside, it is a madhouse! There are men zooming by from every direction with 100lb bags of beans on their backs and machines sorting by density and transporting to other parts of the factory. Gold Mountain has a section of storage for its coffee sacks off to one side of the warehouse where Jairo and some other workers were weighing and bagging beans that will soon be put into storage containers and shipped off to their destinations. We saw a couple of stacks that will be coming to Joe Bean very soon!
From there, we went to a room full of conveyor belts with women sitting on either side swiftly and adeptly sorting through the beans that whizz by and taking out those with defects. These women work tirelessly to ensure the quality of each bag and each varietal. Women are truly the unsung heroes of coffee. By all accounts, women are far and away better than men at quality assurance. From harvest to cup there are women making sure that the coffee that ends up in your cup is as delicious as it can be.
After that, we travelled for a while until we got to the other side of the mountains in Jinotega. Just outside of the city lies a village called La Vida Joven (The Young Life). We met two farmers there doing great things with coffee. Juan Carlos is a very young man who took over his father’s farm when he passed away. He and his wife look no older than 25, but he tends to a few hectares of a couple of varieties of coffee that he will soon expand. We will be receiving his natural process Pacamara this year as well. The farms in this village are at a higher elevation that those in Matagalpa, which makes the climate cooler and heavy with rain. This forces the cherries to take a little bit longer to grow and mature, giving them even more time to build up sugars. Pacamara works incredibly well under these conditions, which is why theirs are incredibly sweet.
Just up the road and across the street is Don Sabino, who graciously invited into his home to chat for a while. He told us about the hard work that he does every day and how there is always something new to learn about how to farm coffee and how to improve for the next time. Sounds like we love coffee for the same reasons.
The rest of the week was spent back at the farm, doing my normal work. On Sunday, I got a chance to meet Don Roger, who produces our Nicaragua natural every year. I couldn’t have asked for a better man to talk to. I’ve never interviewed anyone before, but with a little translation help from Ben, we talked for over an hour. He loves what he does and is a wealth of knowledge, being an agronomist who fell into the coffee market years ago. I look forward to sharing this interview with you all in a few short weeks.