Field Trip to Nicaragua
The London School of Coffee and Mercanta were very fortunate to be invited to Nicaragua by our good friend Claudia Castellón on behalf of the Jinotega Coffee Project, which supports small and medium-sized producers from the Apanas Lake in the Jinotega region. Claudia has been involved in the specialty coffee scene for many years, having co-ordinated the Cup of Excellence program since it was first introduced in the country.
The Jinotega Coffee Project was set up in 2006 by MAGFOR (Ministry for Agriculture) and AECID (Spanish Agency for International Support and Development) to promote the production of specialty coffee in the area and improve standards of living for the producers.
We invited a select group of roasters, baristas and cuppers from Australia, Japan, Faroe Islands and the UK to travel with us in order for them to experience first-hand the harvest of the 2008/2009 crop.
Our hosts in Jinotega did an exemplary job in organising a very complete itinerary, enabling us to see the coffee through every stage of the harvest and making sure we had fun along the way. We visited numerous farms, cooperatives, wet mills and dry mills in the area and would like to thank everyone who looked after us for their warm hospitality.
London School Of Coffee Training Day
During our trip The London School of Coffee carried out two courses - cupping and barista training - for a group of passionate young professionals, selected by the Jinotega Coffee Project, who are committed to developing the quality of the coffees produced in the area.
The cupping course was aimed at increasing the vocabulary of attributes that could be found in a coffee cup. We brought a selection of coffees from our lab in London, different varieties from Kenya, Guatemala, El Salvador and Colombia. The objective was to give these cuppers the opportunity to taste other profiles and compare them against the coffees from Jinotega.
The exercise that stood out with this group was the sensory analysis of various foods: we tasted citrus and tropical fruits, honey, sugar, molasses, a range of nuts, spices, dark and creamy chocolates - analysing their relation to the acidity, sweetness, mouthfeel and flavour characteristics normally found in coffees.
The Barista course was equally well received. First we covered the technicality and importance of using fresh quality coffee, milk chemistry and machine maintenance. The second part of the course taught the practical skills of brewing the ideal espresso, milk foaming and latte art.
Cupping The New Crop
Producers and cooperatives from the Apanas Lake presented their new crop samples for us to cup. The samples were perfectly roasted, which highlighted the profiles and the potential of the coffees at this early stage. The group cupped several tables of coffees including those of Siares, Los Altos, El Quetzal and El Paraíso from our friend Roberto Bendaña. We found the general profile of the coffees to have a very clean cup with intense, crisp acidity and balanced sweetness. In some of the coffees we enjoyed notes of citrus fruit; orange, mandarin and grapefruit and also flavours of cane, walnuts and roasted almonds. The whole group agreed that, once rested and developed, this crop will provide some very unique coffees.
We would especially like to thank these people:
Claudia Castellón, Dora Rivera and Maximo Odon from AECID for countless hours of fun (despite the lack of sleep) and total professionalism. Roberto Bendaña at Finca El Quetzal, Cooperative La Unión, Cooperative Coopsaec, MAGFOR, FONDEAGRO, Cooperative Rubén Darío, Cooperative Erasmo Pineda, Soppexca, Funjides, German Castillo, Cooperative El Polo, Cooperative El Gorrión and Dry Mill Atlantic for all of their time, attention and generosity.