Flora del Socorro Montenegro Blandón and her family operate Finca La Estrella in Nicaragua’s Northern department of Jinotega. We had the opportunity to visit Flora’s farm the other day, hosted most graciously by Soppexcca, a cooperative based in Jinotega of which Flora is a member.
Flora has met with tremendous success with her farm, placing 18th in the first ever Nicaragua Cup of Excellence in 2002 and 4th in 2004. Her 2004 auction lot, an 18 bag (about 2400 lb) selection of the best coffee her farm produced that year, sold for $5.00/lb. The coffee was described by the international jury members by the following descriptors:
“Expansive, layers of flavors, very sweet, jasmine, velvety, floral, juicy, sweet acidity, well balanced, good at all temperatures, smooth body, cantalope, spicy, chocolate aftertaste”
Mmm, sounds nice! When we arrived at the farm we had an opportunity to sit down at the farmhouse with Flora and ask her a number of questions about farm life and what winning the Cup of Excellence meant to her. We enjoyed hearing about how she used the money from selling her amazing coffee for such a high price to invest back into her farm, her community and her cooperative. Sadly, the only thing she declined to comment on was the secret to winning the Cup of Excellence!
After our chat we were served a delicious lunch of fresh tortillas, cheese made on the farm and chicken vegetable soup. It was very satisfying alone, but what topped off the experience was being served coffee from the farm by the hands of a woman that has actually won the Cup of Excellence! Incredible!
After lunch we took a tour of the farm. It’s a beautiful high altitude farm producing mostly organic certified coffees. One of the most striking memories I have from this tour is the risk farmers must control when growing coffee organically. Although harvest has not began yet, we did find the odd cluster of ripe cherries near the road. From one cluster of maybe 7 or 8 ripe cherries three of them were infested by “la broca” – the coffee berry borer. The representative from Soppexcca noted that it’s possible for a farm to lose up to 50% of its crop to a very bad broca infestation. For most farmers trying to manage thousands of trees, placing a broca trap like those we saw at Selva Negra on every 6th tree just isn’t feasible. This isn’t to understate the risks associated with conventional pest and fungus controls, but it really made me aware how important it is for those of us on the consuming side of coffee to be aware of the added costs of growing organically and to pay an appropriate premium for it.