Coffee Harvest #3 ; It’s still happening !

Jinotega , Nicaragua

January 27 , 2011

Ernesto Somarriba: Photography

Paul Katzeff :Text

The Harvest in Nicaragua as in most of Central America and Mexico will be over in about a month. From November to March, depending on Latitude and altitude, the harvest continues as the cherries ripen . Unlike grapes that ripen all at once, coffee cherries ripen over a 3 month period on each tree. Thus , the farmer must return many times to the same tree to complete his/her harvest.

The first two photos show two very different coffee farmers. The first is a campacino who might be just a landless picker w0rking on a plantation and getting about $3-4 dollars a day picking cherries. The second appears to be a small scale coffee farmer working his own land and obviously, he is allot better off then the first guy. Who is happier and living a more spiritual life is unknown.

Animal power is much more personal then relating to an auto engine but there is a price to pay and that price is paid in time(things move more slowly), in work(it’s harder on the back) and in the amount of land a farmer needs to set aside for pasture. But the rewards come from the fact that you are in a vehicle powered by the sun that produces waste product that feed the coffee trees. The next photo I can almost smell from here. Sweet fruit and crushed skins after the coffee has been depulped and is off to the washing troths and fermentation tanks. It is a messy job to clean up but in the tropics , which is a bacteria and yeast rich environment , cleanliness is more then essential. This is a motor driven machine capable of removing the skins and pulp from 100,000 lbs of cherries in a harvest season.

The pulp is either a problem (Pollutes the rivers) or a gift to the land (Mulch) . I hope we are looking at a farmer who is seeing that red biomass as the gift that it is, (Pulp is 80% of the weight of the cherry. It takes five pounds of cherries to produce one pound of dry green coffee beans. In this next picture, the cherry pulp and skins are all red, which means that this farmer harvested only ripe cherries. His coffee will be sweet, with good acidity and flavor (if altitude, latitude, and farm practices were good too) We will receive our Nicaraguan coffees in June. For now they are “en reposa” or at rest in the warehouses at the various farmer cooperatives we purchase from. Raw coffees need about 60 days to mellow and have the 12 % moisture even itself out throughout the sacks so that roasting will produce an even color later on when we get our chance to be artisans in the roasting room.

Paul Katzeff : Text

Ernesto Somarriba : Photography

Ernesto Speaks: On the way it Is

A new years message from Ernesto Somarriba

Jinotega , Jan.1, 2011

When the old year was  gone maybe you were happy because another year was coming. At that moment you were with the ones who you love and when the 2010 ended  you problebly gave them a tight hug and kiss and celebrated with them.
If you were a person who felt sastified because you had completed all your goals for the last year, I think that you were feeling more confortable.
It is very commun that when a new year is starting, you plan  to reach those goals that you didn’t get to achieve in the previous year,  or to plan  your new goals for this year.  I think that almost everybody does the same thing all over the world.
At the same time you wonder if this year will be a good or  a bad for you. But it is true that most of the people feel and think positive and some time it doesn’t depend on you.
Here in Nicaragua the people do the same thing,we plan what to do for the well being of our  family and ourselves. For that reason the people who don’t have work, they look for it; others who have a work; they look for another one better in order to get better incomes to support their family; others who have the possibility  to study at  the university in order to become a profesional, they go there; some others who don’t have a house, they look for it; other Nicaraguans  who came back  from United States, Spain, Costa Rica and another countries  for the Christmas Holidays and New Year’s vacation, they went back to those countries because  they don’t have any choice. They have to continue supporting their families here in Nicaragua.
It is sad that you see that some families have to be separated again because that’s their destiny.
But what can I say, that is the way it is, and I think that the same situation happens in the rest of the world as well.
This year will be very important for the Nicaraguans  because in this year we will have the Presidential election and the history is the same . The Sandinistas against  the Liberales.  Daniel Ortega will nominate himself again. He wants to continue being the Nicaraguan president ,and the liberals, they don’t have  a clear candidate yet because all of them want to become a president. There is a guy whose name is Favio Gadea Mantilla. He wants to be nominated  for President for the liberales but he won’t  get enough votes from the leaders of the liberal party. There is another guy, his name is Eduardo Montealegre. He also wants to become President. This guy lost the last election against Daniel. I think that this guy intends to hold together the liberal party but he is deviding it. I think that in this moment Daniel Ortega is taking advantage  of this situation, but anyway, that’s their problem. I only can say that the person who will be the next president of Nicaragua has to do the right things for the well being of the Nicaraguan population and for the well being of this country.
Well the old year is gone, the good food, the drinks and parties are gone, and some members of your famly are gone too.So we don’t have to continue thinking about that any more. We have to start working  now in order to complete our goals from last year or to reach those goals that  we aim for this year because only like that will we feel sastified again at the end of this year,
The only advice that I can give you is to work hard and don’t wait for someone else to help you to reach those goals.   Good Luck in 2011.
HAPPY NEW YEAR from Nicaragua !

Harvest Time in Nicaragua: Focus on the “Pickers”

When you sit down in a bar, restaurant or cafe and maybe you ask for a cup of coffee and then perhaps,  wait for about five minutes and your cup of coffee appears with the waitress. You start sipping and  maybe you are speaking with someone . You finish your coffee and pay the $2.00 dollars or  maybe more, and then  you leave without knowing what was behind that cup of beautiful flavor.
Well the whole cycle of the coffee process from  the coffee tree to the cup that you have in your hands with the best quality of body, aroma,color and flavor is quite dependent on people .
Now I’m going to speak about the coffee picker.

They are a very important part of this coffee cycle  process, because a coffee picking machine invented has not yet been invented for mountainside coffee . For this reason you have to pick the coffee by hand. Most of the lands that are used for the coffee production are mountainous , not flat.
The days work starts very early (4:00AM ) every day of the harvesting season and y finishes around 5:00PM .

Some of this people have many years doing this beatiful labor, we can say that they are artisians because the way they pick the coffee is an art. They are very careful, they don’t want to damage the coffee tree or even the cherry.

I went to a farm and I spoke with some of them, I asked some questions and now I want to share with you the anwers that they gave me.

I asked, how much coffee one person can pick at day?
They said from 80 pound to 120 pound of cherry.
I asked how much money the earn at day?
they said a litte bit than $5.00 dollars per day.
I also asked what is the most difficult part of the picking?
they said that there are two. The first one is when the weather . Itis very cold in the morning. (about 8 or 9 celcius) , They said that is hard to pick the coffee because their fingers are so cold and it doen’t matter if they use gloves. And the other  is when the land where the coffee plantation is, has huges slopes which  means that they have to climb,  and if they don’t take care, they fall and roll down causing injuries, and also,  they said that some time they get snake bit.
I also asked them why do they do this kind of work?
I had many answers. One of them was because it is the only thing that they know how to do. Other anwers were, ” because our  family has been  doing this for generations”, and another anwer was because they like to do it. Tis next picture shows the terrain that a coffee picker works on. Pretty steep !
The life of the coffee pickers is very hard, hope next time you sit to drink a cup of coffee think about this and you may enjoy  your coffee more, knowing that you are supporting the people who are making sure the coffee in your cup tastes as good as it smells.

Reporting from Jinotega

Ernesto Somarriba

The Christmas Season in Nicaragua: Let’s Party!

By Ernesto Somarriba

Chinandega, Nicaragua

December 15, 2010

December 7th of each year, we have a big religious celebration  all around the country. You may say what is it about?, Well we have our national patrona, the imagine of La Inmaculada Concepcion de Maria (virgin Marry), it is like in Mexico, they have La Virgen De Guadalupe.

The imagine of Inmaculada Concepcion de Maria, the National Pratrona of Nicaragua

Pilgrims praying and adoring our national patrona in the church
Most Nicaraguan’s are Catholic and we decided to adopt Maria as our national patrona (Patron Saint). This tradition is more than two centuries old. At that time ( two centuries ago), El volcan Cerro Negro that is located in front of  Malpaisillo, (it is a municipio of el departamento de Leon, 90 kilometer from Managua going to th norht west side of Nicaragua) was having a big eruption and it was threating to destroy Malpaisillo and all Leon City.  There wasn’t anything  the people could do at that moment, except to run for  their life. But in the town of Malpalsillo there was a Catholic priest as there is in every single town or city in this country. This preast decided to climb the volcano with the imagine of Virgin Marry and others catholic pilgrims. They were climbing and singing songs about the Virgin Marry. Some time later, the eruption stopped, the land didn’t shake anymore ,and there wasn’t any smoke coming out  of the crater. The people of at that moment thought that it was a maricle from the Virgen because they had shown their faith to her.
After this maricle from The Virgin, the tradition started as giving thanks to her. Almost every Nicaraguan Catholic  home celebrates this date. How do we do it?  By singing and giving presents such as candies, cofites, nacatamales, limones dulces, well all kind of things , to those who come to our home singing with us.

The people are getting their present

It it is big parade bacause you can see a lot of people in the street singing in front of  every single house that has the imagine of La Inmaculada Conception de Maria outside.

performing songs about Marry

Also you can see some musicians going  around performing songs about Marry. When the people arrive to your house, they shout, ¿QUIEN CAUSA TANTA  ALEGRIA? and you have to answer LA CONCEPCION DE MARIA and the people start singing and after they finish singing you have to give them a present.
One day before the celebration (Dicember 6th)  people from all around Nicaragua come to visit La Vasilaca del Viejo in order to pray and to ask for personal favors from the  Virgin Marry. La Vasilica de El Viejo is the house of  the imagie of La Inmaculada Concepcion de Maria, also the Vasilica has the same name.

This is la vasilica  Inmaculada Concepsion De Maria en El Viejo  Chinandega.
The tradition continues when after the all singing and praying, the people sit around their table and eat Gallina Rellena, At what time this happen? it is almost middle night!

Gallina Rellena
Here in Nicaragua we have a lot of faith to virgin Marry because  of the favors that she has done for us. That’s what the  people say if you ask them.


Ernesto Somarriba

Graduation in a Land with few Opportunities, but Hope Survives

December 7, 2010

Chinandega, Nicaragua

By Ernesto Somarriba

These are part of the students who graduated from High School this year. Some of them are going to continue studying at the university, other will find a work and continue studying during the weekends,some others will only work, and in the worst of the cases, they will leave the country because they won’t find any oportunity here in Nicaragua.

Here in Nicaragua most of the people don’t have enough opportunity, but we still don’t give up the fight. In this picture you will see some teenager that just graduated from  high school. They have a lot of dreams, some of them will reach that dream, but most of them, they won’t.


Here is the best student of The San Luis Beltran School. He graduated from high school few days ago. He wanted to share with us some of his thoughts.
“Hello everyone, I’m a teenager that had born 17 years ago and I want to share with you some of my dreams
how will be my future in my life.My future in my life will be the whole goals that I want to reach, I know that I have to fight for them and it won’t be easy, because here we  have a lot of competition with very few opportunities, I know very well about that, but still I want to try.

In this moment my main goal is to pass the test to get into the university because I want to be some day a professional, I want to work some day and after that I want to support my mother because she deserve that, in this moment my mother doesn’t live with me, she had to leave the country because she wasn’t able to find a job here,she didn’t have money to feed myself and to pay my school, for this reason she left to Spain 5 years ago.
In this moment I live with my grandmother and my two brothers.
I want to study medicine at the UNIVERSIDAD NACIONAL AUTOMONA DE NICARAGUA, that means that I have to study very hard.In this moment a feel happy because I had done my high school, but at the same time I feel sad because I have been in this school for five years I made a lot of friends and I realy had good time with them, now I know that all of them will take different way and maybe some of them I won’t see again, but at the same time I have to understand that this is life.

I had left part of my life in this school, but what can I say I’m growing and I have to start another part of my life.
I hope that I have left my name carved in some hearts and specially in my friends.
Now I have to remember the advices of my teachers, I now that it will help me  a lot for my next goal.
I want my dreams to come true, for this reason I feel ready.

Abdul Lainez





Editors note:

I asked Ernesto to do a report on hometown food.  Here is what it looks like to a Nicaraguan behind the camera. This is Part one in a four part series on the daily way food is bought , sold and consumed in this mountain city.

Slice of Life #1:

Meat is a very important complement for the nicaraguan diet. We say that if you don’t have a piece of meat in your lunch, it is like you don’t eat. In the Nicaraguan diet it is very important also, to have at the table, rice, beans and  tortillas. These are the principal foods on our table every day. You may say that it is boreing to eat the same thing every day, but we are accustom to it and also, the meat preparation is different for every day. One day you can have rice, beans meat with patotoes, another day the meat is combined with carrots, etc. but there is one problem that we have right now. There are  alot of people that  don’t have access to eat a piece of meat. Also in these days, the beans are very expensives, because the rainy season was very  strong and it damaged more thatn the 60% of the beans production., For thius reason to eat beans now a day it is becoming a luxury.


Slice of life #2

Here you can see some of the most important products  in the Nicaraguan diet as beans and rice.This is the way as the vendor shows their products to the buyer, if the buyers like, they buy it.

Slice of Life #3      STREET VENDORS

****************** End Part I*******************

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