We've been back for about a month. I went with Nicole, manager of Think LGBT, and Shaun, one of Think's Director of Operations. Here's a brief roundup of what's going on with Nicaragua.
THE LOVO FAMILY'S SANTA ISABEL
I first met the Lovos in May 2012. I skipped my college graduation to visit Nicaragua. Shout out to Cesar Vega at Cafe Integral for leading us to this coffee, and Beneficio Las Segovias
Lovo coffee currently makes up 30% of our blend. It adds a lightly citric, tamarindesque flavor, and a very clean and thick, what I like to call chewy, body to the blend. We basically buy the entire farm every year.
Our project has up to this point been all about education, healthcare, and overall well-being of the 100 or so workers on Santa Isabel. On going to visit this time, there was one hiccup: Bayardo, the enthusiastic farm manager, and his wife Adriana, the enthusiastic farm teacher, had moved away on a whim. Aside from this personnel change, the project felt very mature and sustainable. The Lovos are happy to continue paying high wages, feeding, educating, and transporting their workers. It was, at this point, just a question of who would be managing these things.
But, the Lovos had it under control. They hired Carlos, an old friend and employee, as the farm manager. Carmen, the sister-in-law of Roger, another trusted employee, would begin teaching the following Sunday.
What's also especially exciting about the Lovo farm is that it is becoming a true family affair. Jaime's son, Jaime Jose, is a graduate of Zamorano in Honduras, and he's focusing on the harvest quality and some processing experiments with Carlos - this year, they'll sort the coffee into smaller lots and try to produce 20-30 bags of honeyed coffee.
Janaina Lovo, Jaime's daughter, is an architect, and is focusing her energy on infrastructure changes/project management on the farm. Janaina plans to develop the on-farm classroom's capacity, and basically design a small daycare center for the children of workers to spend their time on while their parents ascend the mountain to harvest coffee.
I asked Carlos to be the ear of his workers and let all of us know what they need as things come up, so that we can better form our project around actual needs, not imagined ones.
JORGE LAGOS' SANTA TERESA
Jorge has been a good friend for a few years. His coffee, a washed, mixed varietal blend, is currently on our Single Source menu. Jorge has always been good to his workers - when I first met him he was rebuilding their housing to include safe ventilation in the woodburning kitchen. Now, we are increasing our volume of purchases from Jorge, and this means that we can invest several cents per pound in more impactful projects for his workers and the families living in the surrounding mountains. The coffee this year is going to be really good too. We'll buy a variety of YELLOW CATUAI, my favorite off the tree, PACAS, my second favorite, and YELLOW BOURBON.
As I did with Carlos and the Lovos, I asked Jorge to be in close communication with his farm manager Moncho and the community leaders around the village. The next time I go back, I'll do the same (it's often better that these conversations do not begin with me; Think and Jorge are collectively considered the boss, so for honest answers about development goals, things should really begin without us being present). We have each allocated a certain number of cents per pound purchased to a farm project, but before we actually begin anything, we need to make sure that we're not projecting our own vision onto the people who we're affecting.
Anyway, as a roundup, our coffee quality from both of these farmers is becoming more and more varied and interesting. Our projects are maturing with input from all sides - workers, owners, and us - and I'm excited to continue moving forward in this with both families. As members of the landed class, it is not necessarily a requirement that Jaime or Jorge are such thoughtful and caring bosses. For them to work with Think Coffee, it is. And it is a great thing that they are willing to be responsible and genuine, both for the sake of the lives of their workers and the coffee that you drink.
Also. Recommended reading: William Easterly's The White Man's Burden.
This is the sort of thing that I am always contemplating as we begin or adapt our projects. It is important to me, to Think, and to the farmers we work with that our projects are actually addressing community needs related to our coffee producers, and that we are not simply imposing a set of predesigned developmental ideals onto these communities.