Farm: Finca San Francisco
Varietal: 100% Caturra
Processing: Fully washed & dried on raised beds
Altitude: 1,300 metres above sea level
Owner: Martin Gadea
Town / City: Jiguïna
Overall: Plum, walnut, butterscotch+AE397
Finca San Francisco - Nicaragua
Martin Gadea has been a well-known coffee farmer in the Nicaraguan town of Jïguina for many years. He is widely recognised for his expertise in production methods and respected for his keen eye for the market, skills that have helped him to grow as a coffee farmer over the past 30 years. Besides managing all aspects of Finca San Francisco’s 9 hectares, he also works as a consultant for other farmers on production and commercialisation matters.
Martin and his family also own a small shop selling basic goods. As well, they cultivate basic grains such as rice, beans and tomatoes; however, most of this goes directly towards the family’s daily consumption. Coffee remains their main source of income.
Martin inherited San Francisco from his father, with whom he used to work the farm. Together, the two men established and cared for the farm’s plantations of Caturra and Catuaí trees. They also planted together some much loved Maragogype trees. Shade is provided by abundant guava and orange trees. In the early days Martin used to work in a cooperative, and later he even tried organic coffee farming. He finally settled with specialty coffee farming some years ago, the one and only way to achieve higher prices he says. Although it requires more stringent attention to detail, the results are better.
In 2014 Martin went to the SCAA conference in Seattle by himself, without knowing a soul there. He wanted to better understand for himself what specialty coffee was all about from the consumer perspective. During that same trip he also visited San Francisco, his favourite city. However, this is not the event that culminated in the farm’s name. Rather, the Finca was named after his grandfather Francisco. Another effort he has made to learn more about the market is learning cupping, an essential skill through which he hopes to better understand the effect of his farming practices on his cup quality.
All San Francisco’s coffee is processed at the farm’s own wet mill. Only the ripest and most perfect cherries are picked during the harvest. These are delivered immediately to the wet mill and are sorted again to remove any renegade underripe or damaged cherries. The cherries are then pulped and fermented in wooden tanks for between 12 to 24 hours depending on the climate at the time. After fermentation, the coffee is fully washed in tiled channels with clean water until all traces of mucilage are removed. Special attention is given to separating the different parts of each day's production as it is washed through the washing channel. The 'head' and 'tail' of each lot are considered to be of inferior quality and are kept separate from the other parchment.
After washing, the wet parchment is drained and then packed to be delivered daily to a collection centre in Jinotega (30 minutes drive). From there it is delivered, together with the parchment of other coffee farmers in the area, to the dry mill in Ocotal (2 hours). Here, in the dry mill’s pristine conditions, the parchment is dried on shaded African beds. The cooler temperature created by the shade allows the coffee to dry slowly, hastened along by airflow as opposed to direct heat from the sun. Direct heat can cause stress to the beans and reduce shelf life.
Some of the greatest challenges posed to Martin’s efforts (as to many farmers in the region) are harvest rains and labour shortages. Unfortunately, not much can be done to combat harvest rains. In terms of the labour shortage, farmers often offer incentives to work on their farm opposed to other farms. This includes better accommodation, food and pay. Martin has undertaken these practices, which has resulted in an increase in production costs for 2016-17. He hopes that this will pay off in future harvest years by ensuring better harvesting practices.