Visiting a coffee farm in Nicaragua

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One thing both my friend and I definitely wanted to do in Nicaragua, was to visit a coffee farm. When ordering a coffee in my local coffee shop I would always look at the different varieties of coffee; ‘Peruvian’, ‘Colombian’, ‘Nicaraguan’ and I could not wait to see where the journey of my latte really begins. Β So when we arrived to the incredibly beautiful Isla de Ometepe in the middle of Lake Nicaragua we took some time to recover from our rather rough boat trip and then started to plan our coffee farm visit.

farm

We found out that there is a small organic coffee co-op of 24 families who grow coffee on the side of volcano Maderas. This sounded like just the perfect place to get to know coffee! Getting to the farm was a bit of a challenge with a tiny Fiat as there is only one paved road on the whole island and it was certainly not the one that lead to the farm. Eventually we had to abandon the car and walk the rest of they way up to the farm but we felt like winners after it (little did we know that it was just the beginning of our uphill hiking). I have to admit that we did take a moment or two to catch our breath and cool down in the shade with some cold drinks before all the coffee business. Finca Magdalena is not only a coffee farm but also offers hostel accommodation, has a restaurant and arranges walking tours to the top of Maderas so one could easily spend a full day or longer there.

Coffee at Finca Magdalena

We didn’t have a reservation and just showed up there asking if someone could take us on a tour and tell us more about coffee farming. After a quick chat and around $4 we had a tour and a guide arranged. Our guide, Jose, looked at our outfits of the day (converse and shorts) and then his own (long pants and rubber boots), shrugged and said “vamos” and off we went. Had I known that there are snakes (some of which are poisonous) or that we would be walking in a thick forest I would have chosen to wear something else!

Coffee trail

I thought that after reaching the farm that was it for walking uphill for the day. I had this image of neat rows of coffee plants on a flat field, much like a vineyard or an olive tree farm. I was utterly and completely wrong, that is not how you farm coffee. Apparently the higher the altitude, the better the coffee. Like I mentioned, we were at the base of a volcano so there was only one way to go- Up. There was a small path that we followed to find the coffee plants and after about half an hour of walking we finally got to see some. Jose explained the difference between the plants, what happens to the cherries and how they are picked. He even made us taste some raw coffee beans from inside the fruit, which were actually pretty good!

coffee plants

Coffee beans close up

Along the way Jose explained all about coffee and the farm itself and often repeated what he said to make sure we understood his Spanish. He also pointed out a 4km long pipeline that came down from the crater lake on top of the volcano (the reason why hiking up the volcano is popular) and went all the way down to the nearby village where it serves as the water source for local families.

It was clear that this coffee farm was run by and for the community. Jose made a few comments about some coffee farms in Costa Rica that are huge, use chemicals and really just produce the coffee for multinational companies without giving much benefit to the local community. As Finca Magdalena is a completely organic farm, the women who do the quality checking are not allowed to wear nail polish or make-up to make sure no chemicals of any kind get to the coffee. The whole process from growing the plants to collecting the beans is done very carefully and all by hand.

Coffee beans

organic coffee beans

After the coffee plantation tour, which took about 1.5 hours and could have been longer, it is possible to tour the 350 hectare farm some more. We went to look for some ancient hieroglyphs but got scared away by angry monkeys and a snake so we returned to the farm to sit down and relax for a bit. I would definitely recommend visiting Finca Magdalena for an informative coffee tour, it’s well worth it. A couple of tips for anyone heading for a coffee tour though; dress like you were going hiking (because you are) and bring enough water! Good shoes are essential (definitely no sandals) and while you can go explore on your own I highly recommend going with a guide because it’s very easy to get lost and it’s nice to have someone who knows how to look out for snakes!

SUNDAY

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51 Comments

  • This would be such a cool experience! I’ve visited wineries and vineyards, but never a coffee farm. In all fairness, I’ve never been to a place that had that option available! It would be really interested to learn about coffee from that perspective though.

    • It was really quite an adventure, a little more sportive than what I had prepared for..:D But definitely recommend a visit if you go to an area where they have coffee farms. I have never done a proper visit to a vineyard so that’s still on my list πŸ™‚

  • It’s great that the community benefits drom the coffee farm, initiatives like this should be encouraged more. Too bad the snakes and monkeys picked on you haha πŸ™‚

  • I LOVE this post. I stayed at Finca Magdalena while in Ometepe, and really enjoyed my time there. I arrived there on 24 December, so spent Christmas there. It was very relaxed and friendly. Imagine having to go up that tiny steep street carrying a huge backpack. It was lovely sleeping there. I would wake up in the morning and just sitting on those hammocks I would get to see the monkeys playing in the trees. Sure, the accommodation was a bit “rustic” (only cold water, and toilets were really terrible), but the people working there were very friendly (I remember doing laundry with one of the staff). When I left, I had to walk down the street at 4 am to catch the first bus. It was still dark and it turned out as a total adventure. I would love to go back!!

    • Thank you Claudia! Isla de Ometepe is a magical place, isn’t it? I would looove to spend Christmas there! I am looking for a place to go for Christmas this year and I have to say the island would be quite perfect if the flights weren’t so expensive πŸ˜› Uhh, going up that dirt road with a backpack, kudos to you..! It was hard enough with just my camera and water lol But the hammocks were very inviting I must say. I think Finca Madgadela is a cute place but definitely not a luxury accommodation. It has character though! And that bus, hah! I was waiting for it once (thank fully not at 4am!!) and it never came..

  • What a great post! I loved Nicaragua – one of my favorite countries in Central America. We didn’t make it to a coffee farm, but just another excuse to go back there some day πŸ™‚ Jose looks and sounds like a cool guide. I love the pic of his hand with the beans

    • Thank you Penny! I fell in love with Nicaragua as well, it’s such a great place. Jose was the perfect coffee guide indeed, he had worked on the farm for a long long time and knew just about everything about coffee πŸ™‚

  • What a cool experience!! I loved that he still took you guys even though you weren’t dressed appropriately. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I really want to see the cacao farms in Central/South America to learn where my chocolate comes from!! I haven’t been to Nicaragua yet, but I’m really looking forward to making my way to that part of the world!

    • I would also love to visit a cacao farm! They are actually planning on starting that on this farm too! Our guide Jose said us goodbye and told us to come back with our boyfriends to see to cacao πŸ˜€ I highly recommend Nicaragua, it’s wonderful πŸ™‚

  • What a great interaction with local culture. This is really off the beaten path and an excellent way to experience coffee at its origin. I don’t blame you for avoiding the monkeys – they can be very mean and love to grab anything they think might taste good!

  • Oh yes, I remember the non-existing roads on Ometepe! I had the excellent idea of hiring a bike πŸ™‚ It was definitely exhausting but very rewarding. I like the way Nicaragua leaves its coffee farms into the hands of small communities. I visited one in the north of the country, staying at a finca, whose profits all went back to the local technical school.

    • No way, my plan was to rent bikes too! My trip to the coffee farm took so long though, that I didn’t have time to explore the island by bike. Next time, after some serious training πŸ˜‰ It’s really nice to see small businesses flourish there I think πŸ™‚

  • Hey, on behalf of Christa, Host of The Sunday Traveler, I was stopping by to check out your article. Well at $4 (aside from poisonous snakes) one really can’t go wrong. Lol! looks and sounds like you really got in there. What’s your opinion of the finished product? Do you prefer Nicaraguan coffee over all the others? I’m curious about that because my hubby and I went to Roatan off Honduras and we LOVED the coffee. Cafe’ Oro, and it was less than $3 a bag US so we brought home like 6 bags or so. I’m so surprised we didn’t get a thorough search at the airport upon our return. Try and buy it online though and one is likely to pay at least $15 a bag US.

    • You know, I honestly can’t say if I prefer Nicaraguan coffee or not! Just last week I tasted some really nice and smooth Ugandan coffee and it was delicious. I do feel that I now have a connection with Nicaraguan coffee though, so if I had to choose I’d say Nicaraguan πŸ˜‰ It must be so nice to be drinking the coffee at home from the farm you visited! I don’t drink coffee at home (more of a latte person) so I didn’t buy any to take with me. I’m sure it would have been very inexpensive though!

  • We visited a great little coffee farm in Colombia, so I could easily relate to you when reading this! It sounds like it was a great experience.

    • Oh Colombia would certainly be an interesting place to see some coffee farms too! Maybe I should go and visit coffee farms all over Latin America and become a coffee connoisseur.. πŸ˜€

  • Did you hear them talk about fair-trade coffee? From what we know, local farmers don’t actually come in contact with the actual brokers who set the final, retail price. Did they have any opinion on that, or where they not aware of the coffee wars that are happening in the West, practically on a daily basis?

    • I think this farm was so small that they only sell locally. We were there off season and they did not have any coffee to sell in bags, just the liquid kind. I believe he mentioned they produce only around 150kg a year so it’s not very much to interest international coffee businesses.

      Coincidentally I visited a local coffee shop roastery here in Ottawa last week and they are a fair-trade and organic business and they actually do go to the farms to interact with the farmers and buy directly from small farms. So as bad as the coffee wars may be, I’m sure there is hope for more fair-trade πŸ™‚

  • Yikes! Snakes do not sound fun at all. Glad you didn’t get bitten by anything! It sounds like a great way to find out more about coffee though. You never really think about where it comes from, just that you have some in the morning.

    • Yeah, snakes are definitely not my favourite..Although in the end I was more scared of the monkeys! Other than the animal encounters, it was a really great tour!

  • I would love to visit a coffee farm. There is a curiosity in me that i want to feed actually. I want to smell it when it’s fresh in the farm.

    • Thank you Jon! You know, I didn’t drink coffee for the longest time either. Then I started carefully with cappucinos (I blame Italy) and now I drink coffee maybe once or twice a week. But only quality lattes, none of that filter coffee stuff πŸ˜‰

  • That is so cool! I have never been to a coffee farm either and I’m a major coffee nerd! Although yes I have walked among many grapevines. I would really love to do this and surround myself with little caffeinated beans

    • Oh I would love to visit a tea farm/garden! I am actually more of a tea drinker than a coffee fan so I am very curious to know how tea finds its way to my cup πŸ™‚

  • I was actually really near here, staying in Granada, just last week – but unfortunately didn’t have the time to go on the coffee tour. Or the money? I can’t actually remember how much it said it cost…

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One thing both my friend and I definitely wanted to do in Nicaragua, was to visit a coffee farm. When ordering a coffee in...
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