Field Notes: Nicaragua                  11.30.17

Field Notes: Nicaragua 11.30.17

Nov 30, 2017David Blanchard

I am going back to Nicaragua this week. This will be my fourth trip in two years, and this current harvest will be the fourth that Blanchard’s Coffee has purchased from Finca San Jose. The current harvest started in the middle of November and will be completed by the end of January. We will not see the coffee in Richmond until July 2018.

As I procrastinate getting ready for my trip (sunscreen, insect repellent, cash, Netflix downloads, socks, antibiotics…list done) my mind and heart wander to my friends in Matagalpa. I am looking forward to the long days in the truck crawling up and down the mountain that provide plenty of time for conversations to feed my extrovert soul. I am eager for the unplanned detours for baked treats, and the long, late afternoon lunches. Time passes differently in Nicaragua, and I like not anxiously looking at my watch every 15 minutes; the days happen the way they happen.

My friend Terry Darcy is already in Matagalpa. I met Terry a few years ago when he was starting Confluence Coffee (now Convergent Coffee) with Mike Woitach. Recently, Terry stepped out of the cold brew coffee business and will be heading to medical school soon. He traveled to Nicaragua with me and my family and a few friends this past August. My hope for the August trip was to get more folks excited about investing their talents and resources into Nicaragua. The trip clearly made an impression on Terry and I am grateful that he is back in Nicaragua to lend his scientific expertise to our work with Finca San Jose.

The purpose of Terry’s time in Nicaragua is to gather a broader understanding of the harvest and processing methods used on the farm, identify possible areas of improvement, and run processing experiments. The experiments will focus on the fermentation processes and will include varying fermentation times, hybrid fermentations, and the introduction of specific yeasts to control fermentation that will hopefully affect final flavor and consistency.

Outside of his coffee work, Terry will also spend time at the clinic near Finca San Jose. This outpost of care on the middle of the mountain relies on donations for staffing and infrastructure. Our hope is that Terry’s regular presence over the next month will strengthen our relationship with the clinic and help identify ways we can support the clinic financially long term.

It may be obvious, but this trip and the work we are doing in Nicaragua is not possible without relationships. Bayardo Reyes and his brother Alvaro are consummate hosts. They are family to us. Two years ago I knew little about the agriculture and processing methods of coffee, in fact I knew so little that I had the audacity to ask them to make some changes! The Reyes brothers trusted us and we trusted them. They separated lots and varietals for us, and Alvaro produced the farm’s first full natural processed coffee last year, a process we hope to continue to perfect during this, and future harvests.

Taking risks in life is where the magic lies. A great relationship is full of risks and vulnerability, and a true relationship is an investment—you can count on me and I can count on you—that is it. There is a lot of work to do up in the mountains of Nicaragua. We will keep the updates coming. As for this weekend, I am off to spend time with my friends.

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