5 Facts About Nicaragua & Coffee
1. WAS MOSTLY FORGOTTEN FOR 4 DECADES
Until the 1970s, Nicaragua was seen as one of the best Latin American coffee producers. A series of natural disasters and political problems led to its disappearance as a coffee exporter for many years. It’s only been in the past 10 years that Nicaraguan coffees have been reappearing in North America.
The troubles began with a major earthquake in 1972 and continued with a civil war in the late 1970s and then political troubles (remember the Sandinistas? and the Iran-Contra scandal?) through the 1980s. Hurricane Mitch in 1998 did more damage to the Nicaraguan infrastructure and economy and the country has been slowly rebuilding for the past 15+ years.
2. IS A SMALL PRODUCER OF HIGH GRADE COFFEES
In the last year, Nicaragua produced about 2.1 million 60 kg bags of green coffee. This is just 1.4% of the world’s coffee production. Most is grown in the Jinotega, Matagalpa, and Nueva Segovia regions in the north of the country.
Only Arabica beans are grown in Nicaragua and almost all of it is grown at altitudes above 800 m / 2500 feet. Coffee grown at higher altitudes takes longer to mature, resulting in denser, more consistent and more flavourful beans.
3. GROWS ORGANIC (BUT NOT CERTIFIED) COFFEE
Most Nicaraguan coffee is shade grown on very small farms (less than 3 hectares or 7 1/2 acres) with organic farming practices, though little is certified organic. This is because most Nicaraguan farmers are too poor to buy fertilizers and pesticides or to afford the fees for organic certification.
4. COFFEE IS DIFFERENT THAN ITS NEIGHBOURS
Surprisingly, Nicaraguan coffees are quite distinct from other Central American beans. A typical Nicaraguan coffee is citrusy, bright and delicate - similar to some of the Ethiopian beans in our Sparkplug Coffee blends - and very different from the full-bodied, rich and chocolatey beans we typically see in Central America. (There is tons of variability in coffee beans depending on the specific farm, coffee trees and how the beans are dried and roasted, so these are generalizations, of course!)
5. IS GAINING RECOGNITION (& $$$) FOR GREAT COFFEE
Buyers are starting to appreciate Nicaraguan coffees and rewarding great farmers with higher coffee prices. In June 2016, buyers at an international auction of Nicaraguan coffees paid US$23.95 per pound for coffee from the Bella Aurora farm in Nicaragua. The average price paid for specialty beans at this auction was US$6.92 which shows the exceptional quality of the coffees. For comparison, the average Arabica green bean coffee price is around US$1.75 per pound.
Sources: World Bank Arabica Coffee Stats for pricing info, the International Coffee Organization for trade stats, Specialty Coffee Association of Nicaragua (ACEN), map and basic country info from The CIA's World Factbook.
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