Nicaragua is a country of vast cultural and ecological beauty and diversity. The largest country in Central America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the North, Honduras to the South, with the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean seas on the West and east coasts respectively. Due to its high volcanic mountains, natural reserves and tropical climate, together with its abundant fertile soils , Nicaragua is steeped in a rich agricultural heritage.
Coffee has been central to Nicaragua’s identity since its introduction to the country in the mid 1800’s and plays a vital role in the country’s economy. With a history of civil war, natural disasters and a fluctuating market, development of the coffee sector hasn’t come easily. Coffee is grown mainly in the North Central Region of Nicaragua, concentrated in the highlands of Jinotega, Matagalpa, Estelí, Madriz and Nueva Segovia. These areas offer a vast array of natural biodiversity, volcanic soils and tropical forest environments which create unique microclimates for coffee cultivation.
|Annual production:||2.2 million|
|Altitude range:||400 - 1700 masl|
|No coffee farmers:||45,000|
|Harvest times:||December - March|
|Key growing regions:||Jinotega, Matagalpa, Estelí, Madriz and Nueva Segovia|
|Typical varieties:||Caturra, Borbons, Paca, Catuai, Catimore, Maragogype and Pacamara|
|Grading system:||Graded by altitude, SHG (Strictly High Grown) and HG (High Grown)|
|Processing type:||Washed, Natural and Honey|
Today almost 45,000 families rely on coffee for their livelihoods, 97 percent of which are smallholder producers with an average farm size of just 14 hectares. The most common varieties cultivated are Caturra, Borbons, Paca, Catuai, Catimore, Maragogype and Pacamara.
Traditionally Nicaraguan coffee is washed and dried on patios, although Natural and Honey processing techniques are on the rise. Small coffee farms commonly have mirco mills which are capable of processing coffee during harvest as well as drying facilities, such as patios or raised beds. Due to high humidity and unpredictable rainfall, smallholders often struggle to dry their coffee adequately diminishing the potential for high quality. Subsequently many smallholders will deliver their parchment coffee, either dried or still wet, to nearby collection stations owned by larger estates who have better facilities for high quality processing. Medium and large sized estates are better equipped for focused processing, drying and separation of micro lots.
Almost all coffee is shade-grown across the country with farms ensuring that 50-60% of coffee crops are covered. This slows down cherry maturation, developing a high-density bean, whilst controlling humidity that may lead to disease. Traditionally farms in Nicaragua also dedicate 30% of land to natural forest environments to maintain water resources for better coffee production and resilience.