On Monday, as I drove north through Nicaragua to Las Segovias, past towns with roadside stands selling colorful hammocks, I recalled an email that I wrote to my friends three years ago, while I was on my first trip ever to Nicaragua:
“Objective: “cup” (the verb that means to taste coffee, similar to how one does a wine tasting) the new Nicaraguan harvest and choose lots to put together containers of coffee for the customers that fit with their desired flavor profile. Now I thought I was a pretty good cupper, but I am a lightweight compared to these guys. They were getting flavors and aromas that I could only identify after they mentioned them. We did two days of cupping and one day high up in the mountains, visiting cooperatives and farmers at their farms. The farms were absolutely beautiful – the coffee plants were shaded by banana trees, orange trees, and other multi-use trees, like ones with medicinal leaves or bark.“
I left that trip enchanted with Nicaragua– with its devotion to organic farming, its strong presence of women producers, and its young entrepreneurial co-op leaders with a fierce drive to bring their specialty coffee to market.
I wonder what new experiences this trip will bring. This time, I am here with eight coffee buyers from the United States and Europe. We are all invitees of SNV, an international development organization headquartered in the Netherlands. SNV runs a project called Funica – Fundación para el Desarollo Tecnológico Agropecuario y Forestal de Nicaragua – which aims to provide technical assistance to farmers and bring them to the international coffee market. We are visiting coffee organizations in the Las Segovias region to cup coffees and talk to producers who normally might not have direct communication with buyers. The visit aims to provide more transparent market access to base cooperatives who are part of central, larger cooperatives.
Cupping is a large component of this trip, just like it was on my first trip three years ago, but this time there’s the opportunity to discover great new coffees and potential new Nicaraguan suppliers. And I think I’ll be able to carry my weight with the other cuppers this time– at least I have a couple more years of experience under my belt.