Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America. It has an area that is slightly bigger than New York State. On the North of Nicaragua, we have Honduras, and on the South, we have Costa Rica. Coffee has always played an important role in uplifting its economy.
Throughout the political instability of the 20th and 21st centuries, coffee was the main export of Nicaragua. Currently, 330,000 people are employed in the coffee industry of Nicaragua. Due to heavy reliance on coffee exports, the nation’s economy is expected to fall by 5.9% due to the Covid pandemic.
Coffee from Nicaraguan
Currently, Nicaragua’s coffee industry employs 5% of the entire nation’s population, 15% of its entire labor market, and more than half of its agricultural workforce. In 2019, Nicaragua exported roughly $472 million worth of coffee worldwide, increasing by $38 million over the previous year. The biggest customers of coffee from Nicaragua are North America and Europe.
According to a ranking prepared by World Atlas, Nicaragua stood at the 12th position of the top coffee exporters worldwide. Over the years, the yearly coffee production has increased steadily in Nicaragua. In the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the production grew by 3.4%.
In the early days, there were limited washing and processing facilities in the country. Farmers had to struggle and pay extra money to available processing plants. Also, there were very limited resources available to the farmers to educate themselves about how coffee is produced.
During the 1970s and the 1980s, Nicaragua saw nation-wide unrest that resulted from the rage towards the Dictator Somoza family. In the last decade, the country has witnessed many civil movements and political protests.
During these challenging times, the coffee farmers in Nicaragua could not reach the global market. As a result, they had to sell their coffee harvest locally at a lower price. This has led to many farmers switching to other professions altogether. But the overall number of lands used for coffee production remains very high.
The coffee profile of Nicaraguan coffee varies significantly. The coffee’s final taste and flavor depend on the region where it was produced and its microclimate. However, it is mostly known to have a bright, floral, smooth body and chocolaty flavor.
Characteristics of Nicaraguan Coffee
We know that coffee produced at a higher altitude is considered to be of better quality. But in Nicaragua, high and low coffee farms produce good quality coffee throughout the year.
Popular coffee varieties from Nicaragua include Marogogipe, Pacamara, Bourbon, Catuai, Geisha, and Pacas. After the coffee is harvested, they go through a rigorous step where it is washed and processed; despite washing being the most prominent processing method, farmers from Nicaragua experiment with other fermentation methods and processing.
People who are serious about coffee know what Cup of Excellence is. It is the most respectable and rigorous global competition for quality coffee from around the world. It is known for its detailed assessment criteria. Nicaragua won this competition back in 2002.
Unlike other countries from around the world, which are top producers of coffee, Nicaragua doesn’t grow coffee throughout the country. There are certain regions of the country that are suited for the best quality coffee. These areas are mainly divided into five separate regions- Esteli, Jinotega, Madriz, Matagalpa, and Nueva Segovia.
Each of these areas has different microclimates. And as a result, the final coffee that is harvested tastes different. Coffee from Esteli and coffee from Madriz will have completely different flavors despite being produced in the same country.
Coffee farms in Nueva Segovia aren’t affected by heat and changes in weather patterns. This is because most of their farms are situated above 1,500 meters above sea level (M.A.S.L.) On the other hand, coffee grown in Jinotega are less susceptible to various diseases. However, coffee grown in this area does not have complex flavor profiles.
Farmers blame the final quality of coffee on the poor processing methods. Despite growing diverse and rich flavored coffee, Nicaragua’s final taste of coffee is not that premium. This is due to poor quality control practices and unprofessional workers in the coffee processing sector.
Furthermore, as most farmers do not have enough spare money to do the post-harvest processing on their own, they have no other option but to sell their harvest to local dry mills.
In recent years, many effective measures have been taken to ensure financial stability for coffee farmers. Major players in the supply chain of coffee in Nicaragua have grown conscious of the coffee industry’s environmental and social sustainability.
Caravela is a significant coffee importer. They have a business virtually all over the world. North America, Australia, Europe, the United Kingdom, and of course Nicaragua. Caravela has played an essential role in improving coffee quality grown in Nicaragua and improving the farmers’ overall living standards.
They have a Grower Education Program that enlightens the farmers about various aspects of coffee production and how they can get a higher price for their harvest.
Over the years, Nicaragua has improved its coffee quality. Coffee remains one of their main exports, and it will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. However, to maintain their stronghold, they must try and improve the quality of their coffee. In recent years, the country has not witnessed any major political upheaval, which only bodes well for its coffee industry.