Nicaraguan coffee: History, buying, roasting, and brewing
Nicaragua is one of the largest coffee producers in Central America. Coffee from this region is of high quality and complex flavor. Rich volcanic soil, favoring climate, and mountainous regions make growing coffee in Nicaragua a success.
The history of coffee in Nicaragua
Coffee was first introduced in Nicaragua in 1796; however, coffee trade officially started a half-century later. That is when the Gold Rush contributed to investment in trade and travel to the region. Since then, the country has been through a lot, but coffee has continued to remain one of the main crops of the country’s economy.
In the 20th century, the government greatly supported coffee farming with a greater focus on quantity rather than quality. At the same time, the coffee industry was harshly affected by events such as U.S. participation and bans on imports during the cold war and civil wars in the country.
Luckily, Nicaragua’s farmers braced the hostility, and by the late 20th century, the industry had grown to tens of thousands of coffee farms that supported about 300, 000 workers.
The coffees of Nicaragua are graded based upon the altitude at which they are grown. Green coffee importers who partner with brokers and distributors in Central America help import Nicaraguan into the United States and Canada.
Altitude and plant type
Nicaragua coffee is high grown, 95% of it is shade-grown, and meets the Strictly High Grown Coffee specifications. It is grown at altitudes of between 3600 and 5250 feet above the sea level. Coffee from this region is mainly of Arabica varieties. The varietal coffee plants found here include Caturra, Catimor, Bourbon, Maracaturra, Maragogype, yellow and red Cutuai, Pacamara, and Typica.
Harvesting and washing
Nicaragua coffee is harvested between October and February/ March. This means you can find it in the market between January and June after shipping. Most of it is wet washed with a small percentage processed through other methods.
Processing methods include:
- Wet processed: This is the most common method. Cherry pulp is washed off the beans.
- Dry or naturally processed: Coffee beans are left to dry in the sun.
- Honey processed: This method tends to be halfway option between dry and wet processes.
Nicaraguan coffee flavor profile
The coffees of Nicaragua is similar to many other Central American coffees, though typically milder in acidity in their overall disposition.
Generally, Nicaragua coffee beans deliver a medium to smooth body and a moderate to bright acidity that is accompanied by a fruity, crisp, and clearly defined snap. The aroma has caramel, sweet chocolate, and citrus elements. The coffee itself can have a very pleasant, balanced, and bittersweet flavor.
Specific flavors vary from citrus, floral, and mild fruitiness, to hints of butty finish with vanilla overtones or chocolate with a toasty.
Major growing regions and their beans
Nicaragua is a known prolific producer of coffee with different growing regions. These regions include:
The northern region of Nueva Segovia is best known to produce unique and highly sought-after coffee. Coffee from this region has unique flavors, including floral and acidic characteristics. Nuevo Segovia beans are hard-to-find coffees from Nicaragua.
Matagalpa, a Northern region of the country, is best known to grow high-altitude beans. The tropical forest climate and volcanic soil make growing coffee here ideal.
This is yet another coffee-growing region that produces high grown coffee, specifically of the Bourbon and Caturra varietals. Its humid, tropical climate and volcanic soils contribute to incredible coffee-growing success.
Maragogype or Maragogipe, also known as elephant beans, are some of the common coffee beans you find in Nicaragua. Maragogype beans are the largest beans on the planet and come from a varietal of coffee plants that grow giant cherries and leaves.
Elephants beans take up more space and are lower in production; that is why they are not grown in abundance.
Elephants beans came from Brazil and do well between 2000 and 2500 feet above the sea level. Basically, Maragogipe beans are delicious with a refined, clean, and balanced flavor profile, and bright acidity.
The current state of the Nicaraguan coffee industry
Nicaragua, like most coffee growing regions, has had a rocky history but has managed to be among the top coffee-growing countries in the world. Most of its beans, which are organically grown, are processed, packed and exported to different parts of the world.
Poor infrastructure and weather events such as hurricanes over the years have remained a common threat with the potential to cripple the industry temporarily. Despite all these threats, Nicaragua farmers have continued to grow coffee. In fact, now Nicaragua has started to be viewed as the producer of gourmet coffees.
With efforts of movements like Common Find for Commodities (CFC) supporting the industry, coffee farmers have been able to increase their income as well as the quality of their products. Additionally, these movements have prevented water pollution and resulted in the building of modern coffee washing stations.
Where to buy the best Nicaragua coffee beans
There are plenty of Nicaragua brands out there for purchasing. You can find these brands in many local stores. You can as well shop online. Here are some of the online options you may want to consider:
Volcanic coffee is from the Matagalpa region. It is medium roasted, has lemon, honey, plum and chocolate undertones, and rainforest and shade-grown certified.
Tiny Footprint Coffee – Fair Trade Organic Nicaragua Segovia Dark Roast
Tiny Footprints Coffee is a truly respectable roaster. In an effort to reduce their carbon footprint, they are constantly planting trees! The dark roast accentuates the notes of apricot, spice and nut. The acidity is low in this one, and a subtle, yet tasty nougat oriented sweetness exists in the background. If your preferences tend toward a darker roast, give this organic Nicarguan coffee a try!
This affordable coffee is from Segovia. Grown 5000 feet above sea level, Rave Coffee is both honey and natural processed. It is also Rainforest Alliance Certified.
This green Nicaraguan coffee never disappoints. Sweet Maria’s is dry processed and perfect for a medium roast.
Roasting and brewing Nicaraguan beans
It is effortless to roast Nicaraguan coffee at home as farms from the region deliver stable, middle beans that are not specialized and can tolerate a lot. We recommend a medium to dark roast, depending on your likings. Longer roasting creates a rich but subtle and high-minded coffee. Basically, Nicaraguan beans will not disappoint if you love a dark, Vienna, or Full City roast and like to make espresso at home.
Nicaraguan coffee is a good option for Americano as well as various milk-based espresso drinks. They are also excellent for cold brews as the brewing helps reduce the more acidic notes while still delivering more quality in the overall flavor. Basically, there are various ways of brewing Nicaragua coffee.
Despite a few threats, weather issues, and poor infrastructure, the Nicaraguan coffee industry is still growing and poised to remain a dominant player in the coffee world. This means that if you love Nicaraguan coffee, you will never go thirsty any time soon.