Let this blog post be the first of many…
First of all, this is my second time in Nicaragua, as last harvest season I worked for Peralta Coffees at the dry mill (where the coffee is dried and processed) near Ocotal, a little town in the Northern tip of this beautiful volcano country. Quite the inspiring year of hard work, meeting the different people who make specialty coffee happen on the ground. To me, “specialty” just means a coffee that doesn’t need blending to make it good.
This season I got invited over again to finish a project that had been lying on the shelve since last year. The project requires me spend many hours walking around the family farms, which brings a type of happiness understood by people who love outdoors. The farms are located near the Dipilto – Jalapa Mountain Range, and at some of them you can actually step straight onto the land of their Honduran neighbours.
The Project: Micro-lot Traceability
Most of the groundwork had been done beforehand through the experience of many years of specialty coffee production and adapting information to the continuous search to improve quality. But in short, the project is focussed on mapping out when, where and how the best coffees are produced, and package this information together with the offers made to specialty buyers. Think about date of picking, plant variety, altitude with additional farmplot descriptions, photos, quality scores and specific ‘geeky’ information such as Brix sugar values (see in the photo below) for cherry ripeness and the hours and type of fermentation in the wet mill. Not sure if the last one should actually be shared as this can be considered as the ‘chef recipe’ determined through many quality trial experiments. This season there are even trials with African fermentation processes, such as Burundi and Ethiopia.
All six farms are divided into geographic plots often divided naturally by the hills sides, small rivers and the fact that generally only one coffee variety is grown there to create unique flavours. Some plots are high up with beautiful views and few shade trees due to lower temperatures. Others are grown at lower elevation, closer to water and have small agro forestry ecosystems in which the coffee is grown next to the existing nature. Altitude, shade and biodiversity has long-time been used in Nicaragua as natural protection for the coffee plants, mimicking the Ethiopian forests from where the coffee plant originates.
There are still differences between the varieties, for example, a Catuai does well on high altitude, where Marsellesa is better protected against certain diseases at 800-1000 meters above sea level.
Together with the systems guy, agronomist, several employees and a programmer, we will be creating a website functionality that combines all relevant information for each individual micro-lot picked on a specific day during the peak of the harvest. The information package includes data from the handpicking, wet mill processing, drying tables and quality control. Taking all the pictures, videos and coordinating the efforts is pretty much where I come in. Not so bad if you want to learn more about what awesome coffee is! Friso
Glad to answer any questions btw