Today was a day I will not soon forget! We spent nearly the entire day touring the Beneficio (Processing plant) and farm of Luis Alberto Balladeros, one of the winners of last year´s Cup of Excellence here in Nicaragua. In fact, his beneficio processed half of the 25 plus winning coffees of that prestigious competition this year. Even cooler than that, he is now the third Christian coffee farmer that God has connected me with... truly an answer to prayer. It´s not like there is a Christian coffee growers yellow pages or something.
I´ll give the back story later. For now, here are some pictures of our amazing day. We drove an hour and fifteen minutes on dirt roads, seeing no one along the way, to the top of a series of mountains close to the Honduran boarder where Luis and his brother have their two farms. incidentally, his brother´s farm is "La Esperanza," and he won 3rd place in this year´s Cup of Excellence. We forded rivers, dodged boulders, weaved through crevices in the road as we bumped, thumped and shook our way to the top. Uh, did I add that we did this as we stood in the back of a pickup truck with two armed military guards? Yeah, let´s not leave that part out!
The farm was amazing beyond words. Waterfalls, mist, green everywhere. We were up in the clouds at about 1600 meters hiking through coffee as we climbed further up some seriously steep trails. And, I should add that no one had told us we would be doing any hikinh. So, my wife is doing all of this while wearing a skirt and sandals. She´s so awesome! All was great until we began stepping in colonies of fire ants. That´s when the sandals and open toed shoes really turned against us. "Fire on my feet, ouch, hey what´s happening..."
After our trip to the farm we returned to the beneficio and cupped about 15 different coffees from the same farm. These guys rolled out the red carpet for us. I must admit, the pictures make us look a lot more official than we really are! It was so cool to go from coffee to coffee, slurping, swishing, spitting and attempting to describe what in the world we tasted - which was mostly coffee, if you ask me! There was one dry-processed coffee that was off the charts distinct. The others were each different to varying dgrees. Some brighter and more bracing, others more delicate and mellow. Some lingered in the finish while others hit you and then died away. It was so cool to be able to see how different coffees coming from the same farm can taste, given the difference in varietal, altitude, soil, etc. It really proved to reinforce just how complex coffee really is.
So, we ended up with 120lbs of #20, a maduro varietal that stood out in the end. It´s not a lot but we can only bring so much back with us on the plane! They vacuum packed it in 20lb bricks for us so we can easily fit it in suitcases. So get ready for some Nicaraguan coffee!!!
Coolest thing of the day... 90% of the workers at the farm and the beneficio are Christian, and the owner is taking a sizeable chunk of his profits and using it to meet needs here in the church community and among area pastors. When I shared the vision of Carabello Coffee to the general manager, his response was, "This is very, very interesting because it is the same vision Luis Alberto has for this business here."
Friends, I believe this is only the beginning. We will do more with Luis and with others like him! God is doing something wonderful.