Wake up and smell the coffee

By | Travel
Women in Ethiopia sorting the coffee beans. Credit@Yara Yucek via flickr.com

Millions of people around the world wake up to coffee every morning- with more than 400 billion cups consumed each year worldwide. Be it black, milky, sugary or a combination of all; a hot cup of coffee makes the mornings easier. However, imagine waking up to coffee in a literal sense- arising from a bed in the middle of a coffee plantation, surrounded by rows of trees and coffees beans. For people in the northern region of Nicaragua in Central America, this version of “waking up to coffee” is the norm.

Coffee is popular in many countries across the globe. The USA, on average, consumes 450 million cups of coffee every day. However, Scandinavia boasts the highest per-capita coffee consumption in the world. On average, people in Finland drink more than four cups of coffee a day.

Boy picking ripe coffee beans in the fields. Credit@Yara Tucek via flickr.com

Boy picking ripe coffee beans in the fields. Credit@Yara Tucek via flickr.com

The habit of coffee growing and drinking began in the Horn of Africa, specifically Ethiopia, in the fourteenth century. Today, coffee production occurs in over 70 countries, primarily in Central America, Africa and Southeast Asia. These coffee growing regions typically offer moderate sunshine and rain, warm temperatures and rich, with underlying porous soil.

A single coffee bean sees so many different colours through its life. Most people will recognise a roasted coffee bean by its rich brown colour. However the colours before are usually unfamiliar. A coffee tree is covered with dark-green, waxy leaves growing opposite each other in pairs. Coffee cherries grow along the tree’s branches, where they will start their life bright green, eventually turning red when they’re ripe and ready to pick.

The life of a coffee bean, starting from right to left. Credit@Cariberry via flickr.com

The life of a coffee bean, starting from right to left. Credit@Cariberry via flickr.com

Matagalpa produces coffee Arabica which is descended from coffee trees discovered first in Ethiopia. Two to four years after planting, coffee Arabica produces small, white and highly fragrant flowers. These flowers open on sunny days and result in the coffee berries which are then picked. These types of trees produce a fine, aromatic coffee that represents approximately 70 percent of the world’s coffee production.

The people of Nicaragua are proud of their coffee product- which is smooth, silky, flavoursome and everything coffee should be. However they are even more proud of how they make it. In the Nicaragua’s mountainous region, Matagalpa is a town renowned for their coffee production in its ecological farm.

Nicaraguan coffee bean pickers. Credit@Ingmar Zahorsky via flickr.com

Nicaraguan coffee bean pickers. Credit@Ingmar Zahorsky via flickr.com

The bustling town of Matagalpa is the administrative centre of the northern region of the country. Its territory, which is crossed by two mountain ranges- Dariense and Isabellia- features several rivers, waterfalls and rural communities. Located 1200 metres above sea level is Finca Esperanza Verde- a place of a remarkable local empowerment initiative; where an abandoned farm has been turned into a thriving organic coffee co-operative.

Finca Esperanza Verde, built in 1998, is part organic coffee farm and part tourist lodge. Travellers get both spectacular views of the Dariense mountain range and the green valley of Matagalpa and an immersion into a unique experience where they can learn secrets of the famous Nicaraguan coffee route.

The resort was set up when a group of volunteers and locals replanted Arabica beans on an environmentally-friendly coffee-processing facility. The coffee they had made was sold back to the US and with the profits, they built a 26-bed eco-lodge with double rooms and six-bed dorms. This was designed to showcase coffee production and provide an alternative, additional income for local farmers.

Hand picked coffee beans from the farm. Credit@Rogrio via flickr.com

Hand picked coffee beans from the farm. Credit@Rogrio via flickr.com

The lodge is eco-friendly and sustainable. It is built of handmade brick and other local materials, the electricity is provided by solar panels and the water is spring-fed. Guests are encouraged to get involved in various parts of the production line- picking the beans, processing the beans and transporting the coffee where it is sun-dried, graded, cupped and exported.

Matagalpa is a stunning place which captures the basis of the coffee life. Travellers that choose to spend their time in the coffee fields of Matagalpa are impressed and captivated by the difference this remote, rural coffee farm and eco-lodge has made to the lives of the local farmers. From picking the ripe, red berries to grading and exporting the coffee, Nicaraguan coffee is still, and will remain to be, one of the favourites around the world.

What countries in the world do you think make the best coffee?

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