This week we visited the only organic coffee plantation on the Mombatcha Volcano in Nicaragua.
The farming methods here mean lower yields but higher quality crops with an aim to minimise wastage and imact on the environment.
For example, once removed, the first layer of the coffee cherry (called the pulp) is composted and after about six months of fermentation, used as an organic fertiliser for the coffee plants.
The next layer removed is the husk. This is also re-used as animal feed and is said to have a positive effect on milk production in cows and goats!
The water used to wash the coffee, before and after the husk is removed, becomes sweet with the natural sugars from the coffee beans, parchment and skin. In this acidic state, it would be harmful to the soil, rivers and wildlife if discarded. Instead, at Cafe Las Flores, the water is neutralised using chalk and re-used on the plantation for irrigation.
Once dried on the sun terraces, the coffee is graded. The highest quality beans are sent to the Cafe Las Flores roastery in Managua, to be sold in 100% organic single origin micro batches. The next grade are blended with other coffees to make great tasting, slightly cheaper blended coffees. Finally, the poorest quality beans, often from the final harvest of the season are sold, pulp and all to other companies to make instant coffee and will comprise only about 20% of the instant granules.
We tried the 100% organic coffee grown on at Cafe Las Flores as a filter and through milk in lattes - both tasted beautiful.
All in all, it was an inspiring insight in to sustainable and responsible coffee growing in Nicaragua.