Journey to Origin - Nicaragua

This year I had the privilege of travelling with the team from First Crop Coffee to visit a number of farms in Central & South America. The purpose of the trip was to develop stronger ties to the farms we support, build relationships with the farmers, their families, and workers and to search for exciting new coffees to roast and serve at Commonfolk.

 Storing dried parchment before hulling at Finca La Hammonia

Storing dried parchment before hulling at Finca La Hammonia

Our next stop was Nicaragua, a small country of about 6 million people in Central America. We headed north from Managua to the highlands surrounding Matagalpa - prime coffee growing region and stayed at Selva Negra; an eco-retreat and farm that produces La Hammonia coffee. Selva Negra is a truly amazing farm.

It aims to be fully self-sustainable and organic and it produces all its own energy, food, water, and even fertiliser.

 Mausi and Eddy's German heritage can be seen in the buildings, food and culture of Selva Negra

Mausi and Eddy's German heritage can be seen in the buildings, food and culture of Selva Negra

The farm was established by Mausi Hayn and her husband Eddy Kühl in 1975 and they now run it with the help of their daughters. The farm is nestled in the middle of pristine rainforest and the family have gone above and beyond Rainforest Alliance standards by planting dense shade trees to produce a truly shade grown and sustainable coffee. Coffee isn't the only commercial crop that Selva Negra produces. Cattle, pigs, and other livestock are reared for slaughter and dairy. The farm also manufactures its own cheese, baked goods, fruit and vegetables. What isn't sold in the eco-lodge and restaurant is sent to market.

 The process of extracting methane from the waste produced during coffee processing

The process of extracting methane from the waste produced during coffee processing

Nothing is wasted at Selva Negra. During coffee production there is a lot of nutrient rich waste water that, if put back into the natural system, could cause a lot of damage. Selva Negra have set up an ingenious system that turns this waste product into methane gas which is used to generate power. All of the discarded coffee cherry is composted and used to fertilise crops. There is even a lab were natural minerals and plants are used to create all the fertilisers, biodynamic solutions, and pesticides that the farm needs.

Organic coffee takes a lot of hard work but in the case of La Hammonia the results speak for themselves.

 Organic coffee cherries from Finca La Hammonia

Organic coffee cherries from Finca La Hammonia

The family have established a roasting and cupping facility so that all the coffee produced can be graded and scored. La Hammonia’s export quality green coffee is actually a blend of many smaller lots grown throughout the farm. The resident coffee team carefully construct the blend to exhibit the finest characteristics La Hammonia has to offer.

Selva Negra are punching well above their weight. Although they only export the relatively small amount of 4 containers of coffee a year - it’s the impact of the way they farm that leaves the biggest mark. For other coffee farms seeking to improve their sustainability and quality, La Hammonia is a beacon of what is possible. Selva Negra is truly a modern farming marvel and will hopefully be leading the way for years to come.

 Selva Negra have an entire building devoted to roasting and QC

Selva Negra have an entire building devoted to roasting and QC

 

 

 

Sam Keck