I don't know what it is about Nicaragua, but it gets to me. I've only been there a couple of times - once to look for coffee, and once to meet my "Women In Coffee" friends. Each time I was struck by the intensity of the place. It's almost surreal. Scenes from some of my favorite Latin literature came to mind...novels where mystics see the future, the land is personified, and shaman make perfect sense. In Nicaragua, everything is a poem for me.The landscape goes from confusing city life, to desolate flat plains, to lush jungle during a day's drive north toward the best coffee farms. Managua, the capital city, is teeming with people. Roads out of the airport wind through busy commercial streets that soon give way to the workers' district. Factory after factory line the roads. Inside their gates, workers cover round the clock shifts doing anything from packing bananas to sewing sneakers for export. It's not the stuff of romantic poetry, sure, but it's a real and it gets to me. As we drive through the outskirts, the dry scrubby fields are dotted here and there with tiny shelters made of wood, cardboard, and plastic. These are the homes of the workers and their families. Then the sunny sky opens up. A flat, long, straight dual carriageway cuts due north. Not a soul in sight for while, just a distant mountain range promises coffee farms. In those mountains, some of the best coffees can be found.
In the jungles of Nicaragua, gigantic trees offer up vines for swinging, Toucans serve as a distraction to even showier bird species, panthers growl in the dead of night, wild orchids abound, and high quality Arabica coffee is farmed. Nicaragua has a great reputation for Organic coffee production, as well. In the wake of war and political unrest, coffee brought people back to the land and cooperatives were created. The national pride is palpable throughout Nicaragua, although the population remains politically divided. The cooperative structure of its coffee industry fits the people's commitment to the land and their struggle for a better society in general.
Back in June we joined the rest of the coffee world online as Nicaragua's Cup of Excellence coffees went to auction. The coffee we won tasted so much like Nicaragua to me. It has the juicy fruit notes and the resonant brown sugar tones that I love from this area. Produced by small farmers and cultivated using old world traditions, it is a certified Organic coffee. The name of the cooperative is a testament to the common cause of its members. It's simply called "Cooperativa 5 de Junio" after the date of its inception. It's pragmatic and fairly common to name a coop after its birthday, but for me it's like another poem that speaks for the people and the land of Nicaragua.
I can't wait until I can visit again and maybe bring you first-hand news from Cooperativa 5 de Junio. Until then, I will savor every cup of this COE 2006. I hope you'll try it and let me know what you think.
Drink it up!