Nicaragua: tales from a small coffee growing community
This time last year, Nicole Climpson travelled to Nicaragua. She still won’t stop going on about it so to put her to good use we thought she could report back on her experience living in a farming community in one of her ‘favourite countries in the world’.
Spending three weeks in the rural village of Aranilla in Miraflores I had firsthand experience of living in a subsistence farming community. A life very different from my own: no electricity, houses with mud floors and two rooms with 7 or 8 people living there along with the prized chicken. I was there on a charity house building project where our task was to make adobe blocks (or mud bricks) to build houses; mainly for young families still living at home. Limited resources require everything to be done manually; we spent three of the days transporting 10 kilo bricks in a human chain up to a house on a hill as there was no other way of doing it.
Needless to say our coffee breaks were somewhat relished.
In this community coffee is generally traded or sold to other families. In David Mendoza Castillo’s back garden he grew a small crop of organic caturra. Ideal conditions for coffee growing at 1360 metres above sea level and an average daily temperature of 20-25 degrees Celsius.
The cherries are handpicked (any colour other than green will do) and milled through a hand grinder to remove the skin. This hand grinder is the cherished possession in the household; used to grind corn three times a day for tortillas. David’s wife Adalous made it look so easy and wanting to involve myself in the full experience I had a go. A minute later and despite my daily brick carrying weight training sessions, I was completely out of breath, arms aching.
After milling, the coffee was then laid on a tarpaulin outside to dry for a few days (depending on the sunshine hours). They roast the beans in a wok on an open fire, requiring constant attention to encourage an even roast. I was excited to hear first crack. And second. And if there was a third crack we would have heard it – the roast process taking close to an hour. The beans were black gold; dark and oily.
After grinding the beans (I steered clear this time to avoid further embarrassment), the grounds were put in boiling water. Their recipe: one litre of water to one spoon of coffee and four spoons of sugar, served black. The end result, whilst hard to stomach at first, was surprisingly addictive after a short while and soon even I was craving more.
The highlight was on our last morning. For a special treat, we rose at 4.30am and walked to a neighbouring dairy farm a couple of miles away to see a different side to farming life. As the cows were milked, we were handed a coffee and some fresh milk – still warm—and it was the sweetest and freshest latte I have had to this day.
I was not in this village on a coffee mission, but it is easy to get the full experience just by being there. The coffee may not be grown for commercial or even specialty purposes; it puts a very interesting perspective on the farmers motivations and value system of importance.
By Nicole Ferris/Marketing Manager