Two Brothers, Nicaraguan Coffee

These packages of Nicaraguan coffee seem simple to understand, but the reality is decades of work behind it all.

Nicaraguan Coffee

Nicaragua, Baseball, Byron

It all started in 1985, when I first visited Nicaragua. There is a decade between my first visit to that country in 1985 and the day I met these men. I had come to Nicaragua to play baseball with a team from San Francisco. We were a team of left-leaning political progressives who were opposed to President Reagan’s war against the Sandanista Peoples Revolution and we wanted to show solidarity with the Nicaraguan People. The tour was called Baseball for Peace, and we spent ten days playing baseball against community teams all over the country. We won one and lost eight, but we had a great time and made many friends.

My reputation as a lover of the game of baseball followed me throughout my travels in coffee country over the next decade. Oftentimes games were organized when a community knew I was coming to taste and purchase coffees from their cooperatives. I was the Ballplayer Coffee Buyer and they were ready to cater to my enjoyment to enhance my coffee buying experience.

In 1996 I happened upon the community of Aranjuez, a high-altitude locality north of Managua. I was told there was a bio-dynamic Nicaraguan coffee farmer I had to meet. His name was Byron Coralles.

We met on his farm. He was an amazing person. When you’re in the presence of amazing, you know it – and I knew my life was going to be different after I spent some time with him. I knew that the inner workings of his coffee farming community was about to become a part of the life I brought back to Thanksgiving Coffee Company. Little did I know how much benefit would come to the world as he and I became comrades and collaborators over the next two decades. (a story for another blog entry)

Pictured Below: Byron Corrales at his coffee farm in Nicaragua

Byron Corrales, Nicaraguan Coffee Farmer

But I will skip to the Brothers.

Carlos and Fausto Gonzales

Byron was president of the Solidaridad Coffee Cooperative at the time. It had 20 coffee farmers and they produced 75,000 pounds of coffee yearly. He took me to meet them and to get samples of their coffees to take back. I could not sample the coffee in their community because there was no way to roast, grind and brew there. Both equipment and electricity were lacking. It was also the case that the farmers combined all their production into lots big enough to export – as no one farmer produced enough to fill an entire shipping container themselves. My “samples” were going to be a mix of the production work of all 20 farmers. That was standard for coffee buying in the mid nineties, as well as for the previous 200 years of coffee.

Carlos and Fausto were both Board members of the Cooperative and they had heard of my interest in playing ball and both brothers were avid ball players on the Cooperatives baseball team. So for the next two decades I always brought my baseball glove with me when I knew i was going to visit Aranjuez and the Cooperative.

Pictured Below: Carlos in the Nicaragua coffee cooperative

Nicaragua Coffee

Variety in Nicaraguan Coffee

Over the years I came to see that each of the 20 co-op members’ farms were different in so many ways: altitude, crop varieties, weather, soil conditions, cultivation methods and more. But most importantly was how they processed the cherries into green coffee on the farm’s benificio.

It inspired my curiosity.

How these were coffees different from each other became an obsession that led to a decade-long project. (that is a story for another blog also)

By 2002, I had 20 different farm coffees from the same region in Nicaragua, all produced by the members of one cooperative separated by farm. I called them the Campacino Estate coffees, and Carlos and Fausto Gonzales were part of that separation. It was about pride in workmanship and each coffee farmer was proud of their work.

They could actually taste their own coffees.

The Brothers Coffees – and more

Last year I began to feature The Brothers Coffees. It is my intention in the future to feature all the different coffees from those Nicaraguan farms. I’ve already done this with Byron’s coffee (both washed and natural process) for the past decade.

I believe that each and every coffee farmer deserves to know they are being recognized for their hard work. The taste of their coffee is influenced by their knowledge that their coffee is no longer anonymous. I want to make them famous (in a small way) and I want you to know these guys better. (yet another blog to come)

It took twenty years to create these selections.

But you would never know it from just looking at the package.

 – Paul Katzeff, co-founder and CEO of Thanksgiving Coffee Company.

Paul Katzeff in Nicaragua

Picture Above: Paul Katzeff at the Aranjuez Nicaraguan coffee cooperative

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