Farm: La Estacion' /Finca Santa Maura
Varietal: 100% Pacamara
Processing: Fully washed & sun dried
Altitude: 1,000 to 1,350 metres above sea level
Owner: Universidad Centro Americana
Town / City: Venecia, Palo de Sombrero
Overall: Floral, Lemon Peel, Green Grapes
Cup of Excellence Lot #11B La Estacion (UCA) - Nicaragua
Approximately 17 years ago, the Chaves-Gutiérrez brothers donated a small parcel of land of 5 manzanas (3.5 hectares) located in the middle of their prize-winning farm of Santa Maura Estate, to the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA). The brothers, who are 3rd generation coffee farmers and whose family have owned Santa Maura since 1908, have long been dedicated to sustainability and alternative energy research. Their donation of a prime plot of coffee-growing land to the University was an extension of a wider commitment to science and education, and today La Estación is committed to research and teaching and provides an ideal location for universities and schools seeking to complement their classroom curriculums.
In addition to growing coffee, La Estación studies the flora and fauna of the Central American biological corridor and conducts research into alternative energy, especially linked to the needs of underserved rural areas in Nicaragua. One of the main areas of concern for the research station is the impact of ecological and climate change that the region has already experienced – of huge concern to all those communities living within the biodiverse National Reserve Cerro El Diablo Datanlí, where Santa Maura and La Estación are located. La Estación’s research seeks to discover the best methods to mitigate the impact of climate change for small rural communities and to inform economic and social adaptations for the future.
Santa Maura, the ‘mother farm’ of La Estación, began life as a somewhat ill-managed farm with minimal coffee production. Located in the northern-central part of Nicaragua, in the mountainous area where the Dariense and Isabelia mountain ranges meet, the farm is ideally located for coffee production. The Chaves family had a vision, despite the poor state of the farm, and set about making the most of the land’s promising situation. Today, the family produces in only one day what used to be the farm’s total annual production – a feat that has been accomplished through technological investments, commitment to training and the welfare of the labour force and wise investment of crop financing.
In the words of Jorge Armando Chaves, “I have lived my life enjoying my work [and have been committed to] a culture of research and investigation and the improvement of coffee and its quality. To assure [our] coexistence in a changing world and the challenges that we must overcome in the future to find our niche in a new ecological system, we have to improve and not just wait to see what happens.”
Today, Santa Maura employs between 250 and 1,100 people (depending on the season) and even donate labour to help La Estación maintain their coffee plantations and bring in the harvest, to which the fantastic quality of the coffee, which in 2015 won Nicaragua’s Cup of Excellence, can be attributed. The farm also takes the welfare of their workers’ families seriously and provides them with medical care and schooling. Electricity, water, food and lodging are also provided – rare for rural Nicaragua and in excess of minimum legal requirements. Many of these benefits, including the Santa Maura school, serve not only farm workers but also the wider communities.
As is, perhaps, apparent, the Chaves brothers are very concerned about the environment and an area equal to the entire coffee producing land is also preserved as virgin forest. In addition, the farm also produces its own energy from an environmentally-friendly hydraulic turbine, thus avoiding the pollution caused by the use of fossil fuels. Much of the fertiliser used to nourish the coffee plants is produced by a worm farm where discarded coffee pulp is broken down over a period of several weeks before being returned to the land. The parchment from the dry milling of the coffee is also recycled and is used to provide fuel for the ovens in the main kitchen.
Despite the brothers’ wider commitments, for Jorge, coffee continues to be his greatest passion, “I focus all my work on coffee and spend all my time, starting with the production of the seed to its final destination, according to the variety, quality cup and in particular consumer market. Coffee is my life and my greatest challenge.” Jorge was a founder of ACEN (the Specialty Coffee Association of Nicaragua) and intends to be at the forefront of specialty coffee in the country for many years to come.