Bienvenidos a Finca La Aurora in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.
Familia Ferrufino and Finca La Aurora
This month I’m off to Central America to seek out coffees for the coming year. First stop: Nicaragua where I spend a few days with the Ferrufino family visiting their Finca La Aurora in Matagalpa.
Red Bourbon coffee cherries ripe and ready for harvest at La Aurora.
I first visited La Aurora last March during a trip to Matagalpa and found a farm teeming with activity and a renewed sense of excitement. Doctor Enrique Ferrufino has owned La Aurora since 2005 and has been upgrading the farm’s equipment and production over the past few years, building new wet mills, dry mills and warehousing for his coffees.
Harvested coffee cherries are stripped of their hull and placed in tanks with water to remove the mucilage through fermentation.
Starting this season his son, Enrique Jr., decided to join the family business where he’s been focusing on improving production and identifying quality lots of coffee. Prior to this year, La Aurora’s production has focused on larger markets, while this year the plan is to push their quailty forward with improved milling, better drying methods and proper separation and identification of lots.
Farm hands at Finca La Aurora move sacks of coffee dried in the guardiolas to the storage warehouse.
We also ventured out further towards the Matagalpa/Jinotega border to visit their newest farm, La Anatolia. Just coming online with coffee production this season, the plateau-like location of La Anatolia has proved to be a bit challenging with strong winds damaging coffee trees despite an aggressive planting of wind breaking trees.
A view of the manzanas at Finca La Anatolia where you can see lines of banana trees used for wind protection.
For La Aurora the harvest is just getting off the ground so we were only able to taste just a few lots. Most of them were promising and showed good character. I’m looking forward to sampling more of the production and bringing La Aurora to Spro.
Cupping coffee samples at Beneficio Don Esteban.
I had been invited by the coffee buyers of Zoka Coffee and Ladro Coffee (both in Seattle) to join them on their coffee tour of Central America. Once saying farewell to the Ferrufino family, I met up with the team at Fincas Mierisch. In a similar fashion to the Ferrufinos, the Mierisch coffee business was started by Doctor Erwin Mierisch and was soon followed by his son Ewrin Jr and then the rest of Erwin’s brother and sister, Steven and Eleana. Together they oversee ten farms - eight in the Matagalpa-Jinotega region and two in Comayagua, Honduras.
Descending into Finca Mama Mina in Matagalpa.
During our stay we visited four of their farms: Limoncillo, Los Altos, Mama Mina and new, as yet unnamed farm currently dubbed “Mama Mina 2.” In the case of the latter three, wet mill processing is done onsite at Mama Mina, while Limoncillo has their own wet mill to process coffees.
Sun drying coffee on black mesh tarps at Beneficio Don Esteban.
At their Beneficio Don Esteban outside of Matagalpa, Fincas Mierisch processes all the coffees from their farms. Once wet milled, they are brought down the mountain by truck where they are dried on the patios at Don Esteban. Beginning this season, Erwin and Eleana decided to not use their guardiolas (mechanical dryers) in favor of a new style of sun drying. Instead of using concrete drying patios, flat lands are cleared of brush and stones, used parchment from dry milling is laid down under black mesh tarps and the coffees are laid out on top. This allows for greater utilzation of open space without the considerable expense of building concrete patios.
Don Erwin Mierisch discusses the planting and history of Finca Mama Mia with Celeste Clark, head roaster for Zoka Coffee, and David Schindel, green coffee buyer for Fratello Coffee.
As with just about any trip to origin during the harvest season, you’re bound to run into coffee friends from other places in the world and this time was no different. Out visiting the Mierischs was old friend Stephen Leighton from Has Bean in the United Kingdom. Fearing that Stephen would take all the best coffees, we secretly rushed off to a tasting of available lots. Erwin and family have a great reputation for high-quality production and this years sampling was no different. Lots of wonderful coffees to choose from that run the gamut from coffees that would be ideal in blends to stellar single-origin coffees and one quite interesting coffee that I’m going to dub “Black Cappuccino.”
Loading coffee back into the warehouse after drying on the black tarps at Beneficio Don Esteban.
After two days with Erwin and family, we are off to our next stop on the Origen Centro America 2015 Tour. You can follow our adventures on Instagram by searching the hashtag #OrigenCA2015.