Coffee Connoisseurs Take Heed

I thought that it would be easy to find a bus going north, to take me 12km to one of a bunch of coffee plantations that exist in the region. Someone recommended a particular one to me. It seemed that it would be easy to find the bus to get there, but it wasn’t.  After walking for a couple of kilometers, and ending up on a road with no sidewalks, I flagged a cab to take me to the bus stop that I had finally gotten so close to.

Upon being on the ridiculously claustrophobic and crowded US school bus that puttered uphill -no one seemed concerned about the weight of people over cramming this traditional way of transport- I regretted not taking the $15 dollar cab ride to the farm.

About 25 minutes after getting on the bus, the conductor yelled back to me:

Selva Negra!

Having two bags, small as they were, made it more brutal to plow through a crowded aisle. What got me through is that I smiled and laughed the whole way. The people in front of me reciprocated with smiles of their own.

Like most people in the US, I enjoy a good cup of coffee or two or three in the morning.  The main reason I drifted up to these less touristy highlands is because I wanted to visit a coffee farm, something that I’d never had the privilege of doing.

La Selva Negra, or Black Forest, 12 km north of Matagalpa, would provide me with this opportunity.

In the late 19th century, the Nicaraguan government recruited Germans to come here to start coffee farms.  When a Nicaraguan person has green eyes, one assumes that he or she is from the Matagalpa region.

I would come to find out that harvesting season ended a week ago. Perhaps this was the reason that, to my surprise, I was the only one who showed up for the second and final tour of the day at 3pm. The other tour is given at 9am daily,  when someone shows up for it.

The tour was given to me by a retired 70-year-old civil engineer of the farm who looked to be around 60. Perhaps this is because he’s worked and lived on the organic farm, breathing the clean air at an altitude of 1,570 meters or 5,150feet.

I was fortunate to get a personalized, one-to-one tour from this well-educated and kind man.

While on this coffee plantation which was founded in 1890, I’d forgotten that I was in the second most poverty-stricken country in the Americas, as La Selva Negra feels like the developed world.

I learned the following from my bilingual guide Eduardo, who goes by Eddy, and who loved the fact that he could explain things to me using both languages:

● I was on a finca (farm), also known as an hacienda, and that everything produced here, primarily, but not limited to coffee, is organic.  No pesticides are used. All waste is turned into compost and reused.

● La Selva Negra received the world’s 2007 Most Sustainable Coffee Farm award from the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America).

● The farm has Jersey cows, pigs and chickens. The beef, pork, chicken, cheese, fruits and vegetables are all organic. I ordered a veggie dish at the restaurant which contained cheese that was the tastiest and most flavorful that I’ve ever had.  I’d never consumed cheese on an organic farm. I don’t know what it was called but it reminded me of of a goat cheese.  You can see the two white balls on either side of the quail egg at the end of the plate.

● There are about 200 people working on the farm, all of whom are provided housing and schooling for their families. The farm acts as a small, idyllic community.

● Nicaragua is a country that’s less macho than most in Latin America, as this farm is managed exclusively by women.

● The coffee plants are called ‘sombra’ or shade plants. These plants were originally imported from Ethiopia.  Sombra plants produce a better quality coffee and more oxygen, which is in turn, better for the environment.

● The sign(below), which I photographed at the entrance to La Selva Negra, provides more information about this fascinating coffee plantation.

● The average adult in the US consumes three cups of coffee per day. Multiply those three cups by the amount of adults in the US, and you’ve got the biggest coffee market in the world.

Selva Negra Organic Coffee is sold at WHOLE FOODS in the US.  Eddy asked me if, upon my return to the states, I could go to a whole foods store and take a picture of this coffee, and then email it to him.

After the tour I walked back to the main road and continued my ascent to the sleepy town of Jinotega.


8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by saracena8 on February 10, 2011 at 12:35

    Nice job!


  2. I’m love your blog.


  3. I couldn’t help but notice are those your web page traffic stats in the top picture? Your blog is taking shape nicely. I’m growing dependent on my blog-fix each day.


    • Thanks Al! Yeah those were my stats. 64 unique readers so far today, 70 yesterday and 80 on my best day thus far. And this is all word of mouth, family and friends. I have so much to learn and so much to do to make it more professional and host it myself -not through wordpress- still need to keep focusing on the writing: This is numero uno. Thanks to everyone who’s been reading!


  4. I think that I’ll grab a cup of coffee right now. I doubt the “K cup” coffee at work is organic, but it is not bad and free. Cool post. I learned some coffee farm spanish. Just don’t quiz me. I love reading your posts.


    • Posted by Seantonio Verde on February 8, 2011 at 13:38

      Very cool post and pics. I enjoyed it too. Just finished sipping on a K-cup brewed cup of java myself. I like the little translations you threw in there. I now know how to say farm in español.


      • Yeah I think it’s cool to throw a little bit of Spanish in, adds to the authenticity. I was pretty much immersed for a bit there, spoke hardly any English as I saw hardly any tourists. Now I’m back down in the hot lowlands. Was so nice to be up in the perfect climate of coffee country.


    • Free coffee is good. I explained to Eddy my guide that companies who provide free coffee to their employees get more production out of them. You work faster because of the coffee. This gives you more time to read blog posts. I’ll do my best to keep them coming. Thanks a million!


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