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:
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.
● 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.
● 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.