Harvest Visit to Nicaragua
I was fortunate recently to be able to spend a week in Nicaragua, right in the middle of the coffee harvest during the middle of February. While I’ve been to most of the rest of Central America, this was my first visit to Nicaragua, which I scheduled to be able to spend time working the harvest and hanging out with my friend Erwin Mierisch and his family. Erwin, his father Dr. Mierisch, brother Steve, and sisters Maria Ligia and Eleane are owners of five stellar coffee farms in northern Nicaragua (two in the region of Matagalpa, and three in the Jinotega area) and a fantastic coffee beneficio (dry mill) on the lower-elevation coastal plain at the base of the regions’ mountains. I wanted to spend time with Erwin during harvest to learn first-hand about the operations of their coffee farm at the peak of the year, and also learn first-hand more about the drying and milling of their coffees. Nothing beats doing something for yourself, to really understand all of the variables involved, to fully appreciate all of the incredible complexities and work involved in growing and processing specialty grade coffees!
The Mierisch family has been growing coffees in Nicaragua since the early years of the 20th century, when the Bruno Mierisch (Erwin’s great-grandfather) moved to Nicaragua from Saxony, Germany to help build the first major railroad in the country. He loved the country, and for his efforts on its behalf, was awarded a huge land grant that – while reduced through the years because of its division among Bruno’s heirs, the occasional land sale, and the dishonorable confiscation of family lands during the terrible years of Nicaragua’s civil war in the 1980’s – still forms the basis of the Mierisch family’s coffee farm holdings today.
I know Erwin from my work around the world for the Cup of Excellence® program. Erwin - along with his full time job running the family coffee business in Nicaragua - is the Operations Manager for the COE program, which is sponsoring and running competitions this year in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Rwanda, Colombia, Bolivia, and Brazil. Needless to say, Erwin spends a lot of his time traveling around the world, organizing these competitions with the local coffee boards, helping select and qualifying the competition sites, working with the national juries to pre-screen the coffee entries, and even serving as the head judge at several of these events each year! Since he himself is a coffee grower and miller, he completely understands today’s “best practices” in both endeavors, which gives him complete credibility in other coffee growing lands. He is also experienced as a coffee roaster – he even builds his own roasters! Erwin is a coffee man’s coffee man, and the sort of guy to hang around with if you want to talk coffee and learn not only the what, but also the how and why of growing great coffee!