After thoroughly enjoying coffee from the country's last harvest, we returned for only our second time to Nicaragua in February. To reconnect with the producers we first met in 2018 was crucial, especially the farm manager of Cerro de Jesus, Laura Maria Lintner Riviera, to catch up on how this year's crop was progressing after last year's deliciousness.
There is a push, globally, for farmers to experiment with fermentation profiles, to try and maximise the potential of their coffees, and "turn up" the volume on what are quite often already excellent, clean and sweet cup profiles. Driven by demand from certain quarters of the Specialty industry, it has the potential to cause issues if not appropriately managed, but on looking around the wet mill at Cerro de Jesus, we saw a familiar face. Judith, who used to be a cupper in the Caravela lab in Ocotal is now the mill manager, ensuring they undertake the best steps possible when it comes to processing each batch of harvested coffee cherries.
At Cerro de Jesus, Judith takes brix readings and tests a 300g representative sample for colour, weight and volume to gauge the ripeness of the picking, which helps determine how long to ferment the depulped coffee cherries. Some of the varieties grown at lower elevations on the farm are processed with mechanical demucilaginators, but the single variety lots from higher elevations that we tasted are fermented in tiled tanks before being washed and graded in recently refurbished channels before taken to Ocotal to be slowly dried down to optimal moisture content.
This lot is comprised of Caturra and Catuaí selections, of which there are several plots around the estate; however, other unusual varieties, including Pacamara, Java and Tekisic are also grown. Around nine hectares have recently been replanted with Java as they find the cup profile to be particularly high performing from their farm. The first coffee we ever tasted from the estate was a Java selection, so we can verify they can produce great cups, but unfortunately, the new Java trees require extra nourishment and treatments which the farm is struggling to afford.
As well as food and accommodation for both the full-time staff and pickers employed for the harvest, they also provide essential equipment to the workers, including gloves and masks for those pruning and spraying coffee trees, and high-quality ropes and safety harnesses for those managing the estate's shade trees. These expenses, coupled with a general increase in their cost of production, put a strain on the estate, whilst Nicaragua's current financial and political climate make securing loans to allow reinvestment in the farm difficult. To compound the struggle, a change to Nicaragua's property law has recently come into effect, meaning anyone within 15 miles of a border with another country doesn't technically own their land any more. Cerro de Jesus sits on the border with Honduras with some of their nature reserve actually in the other country, so now they are classed as merely leasing it from the government. As their status as a landowner has been snatched away, application for financing from the banks is severely affected.
We hope that by working with them once again through the purchase of 6900kg of coffee, we can do our bit to support their work as coffee producers, as providers of jobs and opportunities for the community and as custodians for the natural springs, wildlife and forestry on their estate. In roasting this selection of Caturra and Catuaí for espresso, we're finding the coffee to display great balance and poise, with integrated acidity and bags of sweetness to boot.
Jalapa, Nueva Segovia, Nicaragua
Satisfying yet complex, notes of dark chocolate, almond and liquorice drive a full, sweet cup. Look for integrated fruit tones of yellow plums and raisins.