When it comes to coffee, I am spoiled. My awesome brother-in-law, Jason, owns a coffee company with his brother in Denver. They make excellent coffee, and Jason does his best to keep me up to my eyeballs in fresh roasted goodness while we’re in the states. It’s a fantastic family perk. (He he, perk.)
Boca Java has been working with a non-profit on a pretty awesome project, which brought him down to Nicaragua last week for a quick two day trip. The project is called CURE Coffee. From their website: We have partnered directly with farmers to grow and harvest our new estate coffees high in the mountains of Nicaragua. Boca Java roasts the coffee fresh to your order, and donates $3 per bag to Project C.U.R.E., who provides medical and humanitarian relief back to the farmers and their surrounding communities.
His trip was all business, and just happened to coincide with our stay here in Nicaragua. Thanks to my stellar family connections, John and I managed to crash the party and join in on the tours of the coffee farm, which is in the beautiful mountain region of Nicaragua.
After meeting up with Jason, we headed to Jinotega, a smaller town in the northern part of the country. The scenery up there is much different than it is here in Granada, and incredibly beautiful. Our first order of business was a tour of the coffee farm where the beans are grown.
The farm is a huge operation, one that swells to 1,500 workers during the peak of harvest. This building is one of the dorms where some of the workers live.
They have huge kitchens with giant pots of beans cooking to feed everyone. There were four of these going at one time in each kitchen, and massive stacks of tortillas. In the mornings, these cauldrons are full of coffee.
Some of the workers were just coming in from the field as we began our tour.
Everything is picked by hand, and the workers are paid by weight. Here some of them wait to weigh what they picked during the first half of the day.
After a short walking tour of the main buildings, we hopped into the back of this tractor trailer for a true tour of the farm.
It’s an impressive sight. I had expected it to be something like a vineyard -rows and rows of the same plants over and over, beautiful in its order but rather repetitive. Not this farm. They specialize in shade grown coffee, so there are several diverse plants growing throughout the farm, such as black walnut trees, plantains, mangoes and a whole host of others I simply cannot remember.
The views are impressive. Riding in the back of a tractor trailer is very bumpy, however, and hard to photograph from. I had to hold on tight with one hand while shooting with the other. Because of this, I ended up with enormous bruises on my legs from where they slammed into the side of the truck (I couldn’t brace myself for the bumps as well with one hand.) This kind of tour is not for the faint of heart, or for those of us who bruise like a peach. Whatever, totally worth it. The nursery, where new coffee plants are getting ready for planting.Some of the mature plants produce an incredible amount of coffee cherries. They are still green this time of year (harvest begins in November), but the branches are literally drooping down from the weight.
After the farm, we visited the dry mill, where they dry and prep the coffee beans.
These women hand sort the beans for quality.
This machine vibrates at a fast speed to help separate different qualities of coffee. That’s Jason explaining the process :)
The differences between these two qualities may seem subtle, but they are important.
After doing a little bit of work for Boca Java last year, I felt I had a pretty good grasp of the coffee business from the point after the beans have arrived in the warehouse. Now that I’ve been directly to the source, I think I have seen the entire process end-to-end. It’s a bit complicated, but very interesting. As usual, I’m amazed by how knowledgeable Jason is. There is a lot of work that goes into a good cup of coffee.
Here is one last photo of Jason, John, and me enjoying the fruits of that coffee labor in cappuccino form. Delicious, delicious, cappuccino.
Many, many thanks to Jason and the whole entourage for letting us tag along for both the coffee and philanthropy parts of the trip. Touring the hospitals and sitting in on meetings at the mayors office was just as fascinating (if not as picturesque.) If you want to try the coffee you see here and help donate to Project Cure, check it out here. It’s good stuff for a good cause.