Field Notes: Finding Single Origin Coffees in Nicaragua

This past February, I began my annual single origin coffee sourcing trips to Central America, beginning with the Mierisch family farms in Nicaragua. These trips are where I’ll explore the farms, cup some single origin coffees I might want to buy for Zoka, and most importantly, foster relationships with coffee farmers and producers around the world.

I met Erwin Mierisch at a Cup of Excellence competition many years ago, during his eleven-year stretch as Operations Manager for COE in Central America. His sister Eleane helps coordinate the client visits and farm logistics and their father, Dr. Erwin Mierisch, Sr., also known as “Doc,” is the constant scientist; always working on new species of varietals and processing methods. When Erwin is not at the farm, he can be found helping manage the Cup of Excellence competitions around the world.

While in Nicaragua we visited several Mierisch family farms one being the Limoncillo plantation in the Matagalpa region. This is a spectacular place with several incredible waterfalls that speak to the scenic qualities and preservation of existing ecosystems by the family. Their sustainable farming practices and environmental protection has helped this farm achieve the exclusive UTZ certification. Limoncillo sits at an elevation around 1,150 meters, providing small dense cherries perfect for single origin coffees. Three coffees stood out on the cupping table as ones I had to buy for Zoka’s Single Origin coffee lineup: Java Nica Pulped Natural, Fancy Yellow Pacamara Pulped Natural and the Bourbon Natural. All cupped exceptionally well and carried a very pleasant sweetness.

Next we visited the Mierisch’s Placeres plantation, also in the Matagalpa region where the coffee is grown at another high elevation of 1,000 meters. They work to protect the habitats and wildlife on the farm by preserving waterways and wetlands from erosion while focusing on water and soil conservation. These sustainable practices along with safe working conditions has helped the Placeres farm receive the Rainforest Alliance certification. This spectacular landscape grows several varieties of coffee including Java, Catuai, Pacamara and a special hybrid called Ethiosar. The Ethiosar is a cross between an Ethiopian variety Rume Sadan with a local varietal Sarchimore. This delivers a stable rust-resistant coffee crop with a great yield and fantastic cup characteristics.

I left the farms with four single origin coffees and several blenders to incorporate into Zoka’s coffee lineup. More importantly, I was able to spend time with the Mierisch family and enhance my own knowledge of best farming practices. Many thanks to the Mierisch family and their staff for taking such great care of us during our visit, just like they take care of their farms! We’re so glad to have them as Zoka Family Direct Trade partners.

- Jeff