A while back my partner Barquito and I showed up at a big metal door at the end of a little dirt road in the middle of the night and banged on it.
Behind the door lay Beneficio Las Segovias managed by Luis Alberto Balladarez. He's a farmer, dry-miller, and exporter.
Barquito returned months later and discovered the coffee of Jaime Lovo, a delicious and thick honey-tinged Nicaraguan coffee from Dipilto, on the Honduran border, outside of Ocotal. We loved that coffee. We were able to buy thirty bags (152lb each) and the thirty bags enriched our blend wonderfully. We put it on our Single-Source menu. It was popular and super good. Now we're out.
We learned our lesson, so we went back to buy a lot more. They're picking it now.
Jaime's farm is high, clean, and shady. Arriving at his small wet mill at the base of the farm at 2900 meters was a relief, I badly wanted to get out and look at the landscape and the coffee while we drove up the mountain. The mill wasn't operational yet, the fruit needed another month to mature. Jaime gently touched the plants and ﬂattened his palm in a "wait" motion.
We talked about the land and the harvest. One year is good the next better, the next good the next better. The coffee we loved so much was from last year, a good year. We're very excited about this harvest, a better year.
The Nicaraguan political system combines socialism and capitalism very comfortably. That combination is very rele- vant to the people working temporarily on Santa Isabel. They have complete access to education and health care for free, when it's nearby. But during harvest they, and about a million other seasonal workers, go into the mountains to the farms and start picking coffee. If they are sick or injured they have to stop work if they need a doctor and the lost income is a huge part of their annual earnings.
So, we have a project. Jaime Lovo has agreed to provide fresh fruit, vegetables and meat every day. He will designate and stock a library, hire a teacher, and retain a nurse who will be available 24 hours a day. Anyone who is in school, but out temporarily for the harvest will have the opportunity to increase their educational opportunities, not decrease, by working for Jaime.
Mr. and Mrs. Lovo are quiet and gracious. They are warm and welcoming. They are business people. We had to negotiate. Think Coffee, our importer, the exporter, and the Lovos are all working together to make this project a reality and provide an example for the neighboring farms - not too difficult, they're owned by Jaime's brother.
This sweet, tamarind and honey and banana nuanced syrupy amazing coffee will be available again at Think Coffee in March or April.
I like Nicaragua.
When I can go and really get to know a family and watch a community benefit because we are there, I am able to go to work for several weeks and be reasonably content with my job.