The history of coffee in Nicaragua began in the 1850’s and by 1870 it was the chief export crop and has been the soul of Nicaragua’s exports ever since. In 1891 the crop yielded 11,000,000 pounds of coffee spanning 76000 acres each producing 1,102 pounds of coffee. More than 40,000 families operate and rely on Nicaragua’s coffee crop, and in 1992 more land was dedicated to planting coffee; more than any other crop.
Of course, it was not always so prosperous. The history of coffee in Nicaragua begins with the history of the land itself. Having thousands of years behind it before Columbus landed in 1492, by 1524 the cities of Leon and Granada were founded on the west coast. Years and years of resistance to the Spanish Conquistadors finally gave way to a rapidly expanding mestizo population in the Pacific Region. On the other side of the country, the Atlantic was a landing place for the British and anyone escaping the slave trade and eventually became a multinational melting pot.
Among Nicaragua’s primary geographic regions are the Pacific plains, the central northern mountains and the Atlantic coastal lowlands Since most of the rainfall is in the lowlands, which begins in May and ending in December, this is where coffee prospers best. The coffee cherries are harvested from October to February. There are various forms of processing from region to region and farm to farm as almost 95% of Nicaragua’s coffee is grown on micro lots and small farms. The larger plantations will have permanent staff, sleeping quarters, processing and exporting facilities. The smaller farmers often grow other agriculture and use Co-Ops to process their coffee.
From 1999 to 2003 the coffee market crashed causing a crash for the economy as well. Fortunately the smaller farmers had other crops to sustain themselves and feed their families. For three years there were families out of work and homes that marched on the worker’s union, they were granted some land to some 3000 landless coffee farm working families. According to Equal Exchange ” This bottom-up land-reform process and historic agreement is known as El Acuerdo de las Tunas, named for the school along the Pan American Highway where the agreement was finally signed”.
The Fair Trade movement has also played a part in the history of coffee in Nicaragua as well. Beginning in 1920, the cooperatives saw several up & down years, and finally developed relationships with US Roasters and European Fair Trade. In order to gain momentum, unions decided to unite to form the La Asociación de Cooperativas de Pequeños Productores de Café de Nicaragua, CAFENICA, (or The Nicaraguan Association of Smallholder Coffee Cooperatives) which represent nearly 80% of the small coffee farmers. Today Small Fair Trade farmers participate in The Nicaraguan Cup of Excellence Competition to compete from region to region.
Reggie’s Roast Coffee currently sources our coffee from the Ucasuman Cooperative, which has been in operation since 2001. As roasters, and Coffee Farmers, Fair Trade principles are very close to us and the Farmers are set to receive $.20 per pound of coffee we source. Nicaragua Fair Trade Organic Mancotal is sourced from family-owned farms organized around Unión de Cooperativas Agropecuarias de Servicios Unidos de Mancotal (UCASUMAN), a cooperative operating in the department of Jinotega, Nicaragua.