Maragogype may not be as familiar to the average coffee drinker as some more common varieties like Typica, Bourbon, or Caturra - probably because it is somewhat of an anomaly of the coffee world. A direct descendent of Typica from Yemen, Maragogype is sort of a lonely off-shoot that shares few common varieties, but has been bred to a great deal of success with other varieties to create some very popular cultivars such as Pacamara, which is a blend of Pacas and Maragogype, and Maracaturra, which blends Caturra and Maragogype. These cultivars are very popular in Central and South America as they tend to be somewhat more disease resistant.
Pure Maragogype is distinctive as a plant for its impressive size - often growing to upwards of 12ft or more. The fruit and coffee seeds it produces are also quite large - usually double the size of other coffee seeds.
Bayardo & Alvaro Reyes
Finca Las Flores
The challenge with pure Maragogype is that large seeds are far less dense than other coffees which means they lose moisture content faster than other coffees. This means that even in green coffee form, the shelf life of this coffee is very short. When Maragogype is fresh and of high quality, it is bright and effervescently acidic. As it ages, this acidity dulls, and because this happens so quickly, it is rare to find high quality Maragogype in the US market because the standard transportation time from origin through customs to the US is too long. For this reason, we had the Las Flores air-freighted to us after harvest with expedited customs so you would have a chance to taste a coffee we've fallen in love with in our past few trips to Nicaragua.
The Secret FarmAfter more than seven years of partnership with the Reyes brothers, one lesson that continues to be true is that there is always a little bit more to the story. This was especially true when we visited in January 2018 to cup mid-harvest samples. Bayardo and Alvaro are always curious, and constantly tinkering, in part to learn and improve, and in part because it is just their nature, so we weren’t surprised to see a number of different processing experiments on the cupping table when we arrived.
We were excited to find that regular harvest samples were cupping as well as we had hoped, and that year’s natural process was of high quality, but one coffee on the table stood out. It was intensely bright with an almost effervescent citric acidity. Though we typically don’t speak during cupping to avoid creating bias, there were a lot of surprised looks to be interpreted around the table. Needless to say, we were excited, and the Reyes brothers couldn’t wait to tell us what we were drinking — Maragogype.
The Reyes brothers love Maragogype. They talk about it all the time. They claim that everyone in Nicaragua loves Maragogype — who knows if thats true or just enthusiastic hyperbole. We’ve tasted some Nicaraguan Maragogype before but it never grabbed our attention, but this — this coffee was fantastic, but where did it come from? We know Finca San Jose well, and there is no Maragogype planted there. Thats when we learned about the “secret farm” — because there is always a little bit more to the story.
As it turns out, growing coffee at Finca San Jose wasn’t Bayardo’s first stab at agriculture in Nicaragua. Instead, it was a small flower farm near the Matagalpa / Jinotega border. Nicaragua is a fairly large exporter of commercially grown cut flowers, and Bayardo, a lover of flowers himself, wanted to try to get into that business, but as it turns out, it is an incredibly difficult business in which to thrive, so he gave up and planted half of the small farm in his favorite coffee variety: Maragogype.
Maragogype is a variety of coffee tree that grows quite tall and produces an exceptionally large coffee cherry and seed. A Maragogype coffee seed is often up to double the size of a standard coffee seed. The resulting cup, at its best, is bright and vibrant in acidity with zippy fruit flavors and a clean, crisp finish. The Maragogype from the “secret farm”, known as Las Flores, was exceptional, and we knew we wanted to share it with our customers so we asked the Reyes brothers to include it with our contracted coffee for the year.
Several months later when the Maragogype arrived, we were excited to roast and cup it before sharing it with our customers, but that excitement was quickly tamped down by the fact that the coffee was nearly undrinkable. The beautiful, bright, citrusy coffee we had fallen in love with in Nicaragua was now earthy, drying and dull - an unexpected and unpleasant surprise to say the least.
Over the next few months we learned that Maragogype, even when properly stored in Grainpro sealed bags, loses moisture very quickly, causing the flavor to diminish faster than normal green coffees, so by the time the coffee made it from Nicaragua to our doorstep it was already well past its prime.
We owned our mistake that year and planned for the next year’s harvest. When we found the Las Flores on the cupping table in Nicaragua this year, it was even better than the previous year, so once the harvest was completed, we had the coffee bagged and air-freighted from Nicaragua to the US to ensure we received the coffee as soon after harvest as possible. Despite some delays in customs, we received the Las Flores Maragoype and immediately roasted and cupped it to assess the quality - it was fantastic.
We’re excited to bring this unique, and delicate coffee to you for a limited time while it is at its peak quality. You’ll notice immediately that the roasted beans are considerably larger than normal coffee beans and have a somewhat walnut shell look to them. The bean density will be much lower, despite the bean size, so make sure you use a scale to achieve the proper 1:16 ratio of coffee to water. The coffee will be bright yet still savory with notes of delicate, effervescent lemon, white flowers, and a light honey sweetness.