It’s taken more time than usual for the Nicaraguan coffee industry to gain a foothold in the highly-competitive Central American market--150 years to be specific, say officials at the non-profit Enlace Project.
These days, 43,000+ families are responsible for the crop’s success, so keep them in mind as you shop for the best Nicaraguan coffee brands.
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Best Nicaraguan Coffee Beans Buying Guide
Coffee production in Nicaragua
Why has it taken 150 years to build a viable coffee production industry in this nation?
While the climate and soil are ideal, there were no roads or trains capable of reaching remote areas, workers couldn’t get to these remote places even if they had bikes and pervasive poverty undermined these daunting reasons (1).
Further, there was no money to get the equipment and supplies necessary to clear the land and plant crops.
Fortunately, investors in Germany and the U.K. recognized this nation’s development potential in the late 1800s and began to provide the capital necessary for necessary improvements.
The grand experiment took root in both Managua and Masaya, located in central Nicaragua, and as plantations and distribution channels matured, agricultural inroads spread north where lots of rain and the best coffee-growing temperatures are still found.
But just because the land proved fertile and financial backing flowed in, the government hit roadblocks when it tried taking possession of communal lands farmed for generations by families.
The government nationalized the land and while some farmers had to leave, others took advantage of the system’s “pactos de retroventa” (“resale agreements”) by buying the land back at auction and promising to grow coffee.
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Coffee farms in Nicaragua
Call it a plantation or a farm, today’s Nicaraguan coffee growing market is thriving.
As coffers filled, the government instituted tax reforms that gave the industry a boost and it even gave land away to people who promised to plant 25,000 trees during their first year.
Laws were altered to encourage hiring seasonal workers and with all of this progress came roads, trains and other infrastructure improvements.
Sadly, the coffee industry fell victim to political strife and decades of civil war when the Marxist-influenced National Sandinista Liberation Front (Sandinistas) launched their 1979 offensive.
The land was decimated, say researchers (2). The new regime “knew little about coffee,” farms were abandoned, and rebels sabotaged coffee mills and transportation.
Damage done to the industry was massive and compounded by a direct hit by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
The 21st century has been kinder to Nicaragua’s coffee industry.
Despite a comparatively small population, Nicaragua’s improved social welfare programs and aggressive rural development plans have done wonders for operations after years of strife.
Want to see how far Nicaraguans have come? Meet Juan Ramon Blandino, a rebel turned coffee farmer, to see and hear his story:
Nicaragua coffee beans characteristics
Growing is concentrated in the highlands of Matagalpa, Jintotega and Nueva Segovia where cooperatives and grower’s associations flourish.
Nicaragua coffee farms are fast becoming known for producing both specialty- and commodity-grade coffees to satisfy the planet’s growing appetite.
In this mountainous region, air is hot but refreshing, rains can be counted on to feed plantings properly and as a result, coffee has become a $425 billion-dollar industry that makes up 13-percent of the nation’s exports.
What separates Nicaragua’s coffee beans from those of neighboring countries and produces the best Nicaraguan coffee?
For starters, says the website Sparkplug.com, you’ll notice a difference in the taste. “A typical Nicaraguan coffee is citrusy, bright and delicate.” It tastes like coffee brewed using Ethiopian beans.
Nicaraguan farmers focus on growing dense, flavorful beans, but this industry isn’t known for exporting full-bodied, rich and chocolatey varieties grown throughout Central America.
That stated, most farms produce Arabica varieties because it grows best in this country.
Expanding into “organic” coffee
To satisfy growing demand for organic coffees, Nicaragua has begun producing organic coffees, the ideal crop for small farms (7.5 acres or less) that offer the shade necessary for growers can keep close control over farming practices.
While not every participating Nicaraguan coffee farmer produces certified organic beans, it’s not because they haven’t the desire to do so.
At this point, the only thing that stands between more farmers producing organic coffees is the underwriting required to purchase fertilizers and pesticides approved for organic farming.
That could change. At a recent international auction, Nicaraguan coffee beans went for US$24 per pound, an impressive amount when compared to other specialty beans selling for US$6.92 and commercial-grade beans for US$1.75 per pound!
The Best Nicaraguan Coffee Reviews - Our 5 Top Picks of 2019
1. AmazonFresh Direct Trade Nicaragua Whole Bean Coffee
If you think Amazon is everywhere under the sun, try the brand’s Direct Trade Nicaragua whole bean product.
Consumers seem to like this brand; it sells consistently and is highly rated.
Relatively affordable compared to other brands, there’s value in this purchase since you receive three bags of whole beans with each order.
Despite the nation’s coffee-growing industry claims of “no chocolatey beans grown here in Nicaragua,” you can’t miss those notes the minute you start grinding and the fragrance is unmistakable by the time you pour.
If you seek single-origin coffee that’s neither Colombian nor Brazilian, this coffee deserves your attention.
2. Don Tomas Nicaraguan Coffee (Our Top Recommended)
Two pounds of this premium Rainforest Alliance Certified Farm coffee costs a little high than other competitors, but since this Nicaraguan coffee has an impressive pedigree, the cost may not bother you.
Don Tomas ships only “the top 10-percent” of every harvest. In return, you enjoy a smooth medium roast, butterscotch aroma, and all-around satisfying product.
Proceeds from sales support Nicaragua’s K-12th Flor de María School, so if charitable causes appeal as much as a good brew, give the Don a chance.
3. Coffee Bean Direct Nicaraguan Coffee
This brand of whole bean coffee is the priciest of all, but the cost could be justified since beans are cultivated at a small farm known for shade-grown, organic bean production.
Since all five pounds are packed into a single bag, you could run into freshness issues if you consume coffee slowly.
Coffee Bean Direct products are regularly bought by folks looking to impress people on their gift lists with this pricey product.
4. Cubico Nicaraguan Whole Bean Coffee
Get 16-ounces of single-origin coffee heaven with Cubico Coffee Beans, grown in the epicenter of mountain coffee production, Segovia.
Every batch of beans is roasted slowly to enhance flavor and Cubico dates each bag for freshness.
Distinguished from other brands by the gold bag, these beans are relatively inexpensive, too.
5. Primos Coffee Company Single Origin, Unroasted Coffee Beans
Want to roast your own coffee beans so freshness isn’t a problem?
These unroasted green beans are “specialty grade,” cultivated on a Nicaraguan estate that caters to coffee purists who insist on doing their own roasting.
Get 3 pounds of direct-trade product grown on a farm run by the same family for four generations.
Primos only ship green coffee beans found to have 5 or fewer defects per 300 grams.
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We were delighted to include pre-roasted beans to pay homage to the growing legion of home roasters.
Our top pick is Don Tomas Nicaraguan Coffee.
After reading about this nation’s struggle to establish a coffee growing industry, that extra touch adds value, too.
My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Ag Ferrari, a Coffee buff. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.