Week one is in the books and it already feels like we’ve been here a month. This past week we had training with Olga and Julio, two of TechnoServe’s coffee
specialists. As if learning about the production of coffee and supply value chain in two days isn’t difficult enough, we’re learning it all in rapid speed
Our first external meeting was with Edwin Ruiz, executive director of Specialty Coffee Association of Nicaragua. It was an important meeting as our current
project is analyzing the current market demand and opportunity for specialty coffee in Nicaragua. The United States, Europe, and Asia (Japan/Taiwan) are
the leading drivers of demand for specialty coffee, and Nicaragua’s primary competitors are Ethiopia, Rwanda, Guatemala, Colombia and Costa Rica. There are
multiple attributes (aroma/acidity/altitude) required for specialty coffee, but through the process of cupping, the coffee is scored and anything above 80
is considered specialty. The altitude the coffee is grown in has to be above 800 meters and ideally between 800-1200 meters, a requirement which is met in
most regions in Nicaragua. The problem lies in a lack of technology, incentive for farmers, access to different varieties of coffee, roya (a leaf
rust that has significantly lowered production), and climate change. Ultimately, we need to find out what the premium for specialty coffee is, and how to
ensure that that premium ends up in the hands of these farmers. This week we have meetings with exporters and cooperatives in the regions of Matagalpa and
Jinotega which account for over 60% of the production of Nicaraguan coffee.
There isn’t much to do or see in Managua, so Marzena and I decided to get out of the city for the weekend before our workload picked up too much. We went
to San Juan del Sur, a surf town about 2.5 hours south of Managua. Despite attracting surfers and travelers from all over the world (we met travelers from
Brazil, Quebec, New Zealand, France, and more) the town has managed to keep its charm and authenticity. And the sunsets aren’t too shabby either.