Nicaraguan Coffee Overview
It was in 1795 that Arabica coffee was first introduced to Nicaragua. Still, it was a rocky start hindered further by earthquakes and hurricanes, as well as civil wars within the country and U.S bans on imports during the cold war. It was not until the late 20th century that the Nicaraguan coffee industry thrived and was able to stand on its own feet, supporting nearly 300 000 workers, and all thanks to its coffee farmers that persisted throughout the disruptions. Most of the coffee grown is exported around the world, but what is produced for locals, has various applications. Besides consuming the coffee, the local often sell coffee for cash, or in the most extreme cases coffee is traded for oil and other necessities. This is just one of the ways coffee helps the economy of the country.
Almost 95% of the coffee grown in Nicaragua is high altitude shade-grown. Growing coffee on altitudes between 3600 and 5200 feet above sea level helps it meet the Strictly High Grown coffee specifications, along with a fertile volcanic soil and a favoring climate. Some of the best Arabica coffee varietals are grown in Nicaragua, such as Bourbon, Typica, Catimor, Caturra etc. Many farms are located amongst wild forest and coffee is often grown under the protection of shade trees.
High Altitude Nicaraguan Coffee Farm:
There are many different farm types in Nicaragua from small hold producers working with co-operatives or groups to large estate farms under private ownership.
The harvest season in Nicaragua is from October to March meaning coffee usually arrives in the UK between February and May. Coffee is usually harvested by famers or by pickers employed to work on farms. The best farms will make sure that cherry is harvested using very selective methods.
Carefully selected coffee cherry ready for processing:
- Naturally process - The cherries are left to dry on patios or raised beds in the sun. It can take severl weeks for coffee to dry depending on layer thickness and weather conditions.
- Washed process - the most common method used all over the world. The fruit of the cherries is removed by water and machines, leaving only the seed (bean). There are many variations of this method.
- Honey process - the outer layer of the cherry is removed, leaving only the mucilage which feels sticky and as it dries feels like honey. There are many variations of this method used.
- Experimental processing - the best coffee we've every had from Nicaragua was a washed processed yeast fermented coffee! Some producers are experimenting with different types of fermentation and the results are often incredible.
Honey Process Coffee:
Nicaraguan coffee has the potential for very varied flavours which largely depend on varietal and processing method. Coffees will typically showcase juicy fruit flavours when processed as high quality natural and honey coffees. Washed coffees tend to have a mild, balanced flavours profile with medium acidity and chocolate, nut with gentle fruit flavours. Experimental process coffees can showcase some very interesting flavours. The Nicaragua La Bastilla San Pedro yeast fermented washed coffee has flavours of rum, pineapple and coconut!