Organic Coffee

Organic Coffee

Nicaraguan Coffee

Coffee History

Arabica vs Robusta

Frequently Asked Questions

Organic Coffee

We grow organic sustainable shade grown coffee. Sustainable coffee is produced on a farm with high biological diversity and low chemical inputs. It conserves resources, protects the environment, produces efficiently, competes commercially and enhances the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole. We are dedicated to a system that enfranchises all involved. Our first concern is for the people for they are the true treasure of Nicaragua. We employ a polyculture shade system. This means that we have large shade trees of many varieties at the highest canopy level and banana trees at a lower level. This not only maintains the biodiversity of the forest but also the habitat of the birds and animals.

Coffee (Coffea sp.) is a small understory tree or shrub, and has traditionally been grown amongst forest trees, in the shade.  Coffee grown in the shade, takes long to ripen, and is often thought to taste better because the long ripening times contribute to complex flavors.  In order to produce faster, higher yields and prevent the spread of coffee leaf rust (Hemileia vastatrix), many coffee plantations have begun to grow coffee under sunnier conditions. The fewer shade trees that are in coffee plantations, the less biodiversity there is in those plantations.

This loss of biodiversity, especially in birds, has led conscientious consumers to look for “shade grown” coffee.  However, coffee is grown under a continuum of conditions, from rustic or traditional, to full sun, and these “shades of shade” are not all equal when it comes to the health of ecosystems. Unfortunately, there is no official definition of “shade grown,” so coffee so labeled may be grown under what are technically shady conditions, but which are little better than full sun.

It is important to understand the various levels of growing coffee under shade.  This lists the five most typical categories, from the most desirable, traditional growing method, to the least diverse, most modern and technified method.

Rustic. Often used on small family farms. Coffee is grown  in the existing forest with little alteration of native vegetation.  Shade cover = 70-100%.

Traditional polyculture. Farmers plant particular tree and plant species, including fruit and vegetables both for the farmer and for market, fuel wood, medicinal plants, etc. Common tree species under which coffee is frequently grown include Inga, Grevillea, Acacia, Erythrina, and Gliricidia. Shade cover = 40-70%.

Commercial polyculture. More trees removed in order to increase the number of coffee plants.  Sometimes involves use of fertilizers and pesticides due to the lack of vegetative cover which helps prevent loss of soil nutrients, etc.

Shaded monoculture. Dense plantings of coffee under an overstory of only one or two tree species, which are heavily pruned.  Shade cover = 10-30%. As you can see, coffee grown in a shaded monoculture could technically be labeled “shade grown,” but it would probably not be what the consumer, concerned about biodiversity, is looking for.

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Nicaraguan Coffee

Nicaraguan coffees from the Segovia, Jinotega and Matagalpa regions are underrated. They often possess interesting cup character along with body and balance, outperforming many other balanced Central American and South American high-grown coffees in the cup. Nicaragua coffees have a wide range of flavor attributes: Some cup like Mexican coffees from Oaxaca, others like Guatemala. Some are citrusy and bright, such as the coffees of Dipilto in Nueva Segovia department. For me, Jinotega and Matagalpa coffees can demonstrate their remarkable versatility in a wide range of roasts, from light City roast through Full City and into the Vienna range. The botanical cultivars utilized are traditional: Typica, some Bourbon and Maragogype dominate, along with Caturra and Paca.

Good Nicaraguan coffees are considered a “classic” cup: great body, clean flavor, and balance. They are unique among Centrals in the fact that the highest grown (SHG grade: Strictly High Grown) do not develop the pronounced and sharp acidity of other Centrals. In season, we offer some new “exotic” cultivar coffees too, a Pacamara Peaberry, a longberry “Java” cultivar, and the large bean Maragogype. Pulp Natural process is also a variation that gives the cup great body and a slightly rustic fruited layer.

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For protecting habitat

Pesticide Information

Overall Information

Coffee History


c 850: First known discovery of coffee berries. Legend of goat herder Kaldi of Ethiopia who notices goats are friskier after eating red berries of a local shrub. Experiments with the berries himself and begins to feel happier.

c 1100: The coffee first trees are cultivated on the Arabian peninsula.  Coffee is first roasted and boiled by Arabs making “qahwa” — a beverage made from plants.

1475: The worlds first coffee shop opens in Constantinople. It is followed by the establishment of two coffee houses in 1554.

c 1600: Coffee enters Europe through the port of Venice. The first coffeehouse opens in Italy in 1654.

1607: Coffee is introduced to the New World by Captain John Smith, founder of Virginia at Jamestown… Some Canadian historians claim it arrived in previously settled Canada.

1652: The first coffeehouse opens in England. Coffeehouses are called “penny universities” (a penny is charged for admission and a cup of coffee). Edward Lloyd’s coffeehouse opens in 1688. It eventually becomes Lloyd’s of London, the world’s best known insurance company.  The word “TIPS” is coined in an English coffee house:  A sign reading “To Insure Prompt Service” (TIPS) was place by a cup.  Those desiring prompt service and better seating threw a coin into a tin.

1672: The opening of the first Parisian cafe dedicated to serving coffee. In 1713, King Louis XIV is presented with a coffee tree. It is believed that sugar was first used as an additive in his court.

1683: The first coffeehouse opens in Vienna. The Turks, defeated in battle, leave sacks of coffee behind.

1690: The Dutch become the first to transport and cultivate coffee commercially. Coffee is smuggled out of the Arab port of Mocha and transported to Ceylon and East Indies for cultivation.

1721: The first coffeehouse opens in Berlin.

1723: Coffee Plants are introduced in the Americas for cultivation. Gabriel de Clieu, a French naval officer, transports a seedling to Martinique. By 1777, 1920 million coffee plants are cultivated on the island.

1727: The Brazilian coffee industry gets its start from seedlings smuggled out of Paris.

1750: One of Europe’s first coffeehouses, Cafe Greco, opens in Rome. By 1763, Venice has over 2,000 coffee shops.

1822: The prototype of the first espresso machine is created in France.

1885: A process of using natural gas and hot air becomes the most popular method of roasting coffee.

c 1900: Kaffeeklatsch, afternoon coffee, becomes popular in Germany.

1905: The first commercial espresso machine is manufactured in Italy.

1908: The invention of the worlds first drip coffeemaker. Melitta Bentz makes a filter using blotting paper.

1933: Dr. Ernest Illy develops the first automatic espresso machine.

1938: Nescafé instant coffee is invented by the Nestlé company as it assists the Brazilian government in solving its coffee surplus problem.

1945: Achilles Gaggia perfects the espresso machine with a piston that creates a high pressure extraction to produce a thick layer of crema.

1991: Caffè Carissimi Canada, a network of espresso service providers is formed in Canada, modeled after a visit to Franco Carissimi (roaster and equipment manufacturer) in Bergamo Italy.  It becomes the fastest growing network of private and independent super automatic machines providers in Canada.

1995: Coffee is the worlds most popular beverage. More than 400 billion cups are consumed each year. It is a world commodity that is second only to oil.

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Arabica vs. Robusta Coffee Plant

The coffee plant is a woody perennial evergreen dicotyledon that belongs to the Rubiaceae family.  Because it grows to a relatively large height, it is more accurately described as a coffee tree. It has a main vertical trunk (orthotropic) and primary, secondary, and tertiary horizontal branches (plagiotropic).

The Difference Between Arabica and Robusta Coffee Beans

While there are several different coffee species, two main species are cultivated today.  Coffea arabica, known as Arabica coffee, accounts for 75-80 percent of the world’s production.  Coffea canephora, known as Robusta coffee, accounts for about 20 percent and differs from the Arabica coffees in terms of taste. While Robusta coffee beans are more robust than the Arabica plants, but produces an inferior tasting beverage with a higher caffeine content.  Both the Robusta and Arabica coffee plant can grow to heights of 10 meters if not pruned, but producing countries will maintain the coffee plant at a height reasonable for easy harvesting.

Coffee Plant Growth and Development

Three to four years after the coffee is planted, sweetly smelling flowers grow in clusters in the axils of the coffee leaves.  Fruit is produced only in the new tissue.  The Coffea Arabica coffee plant is self-pollinating, whereas the Robusta coffee plant depends on cross pollination.  About 6-8 weeks after each coffee flower is fertilized, cell division occurs and the coffee fruit remains as a pin head for a period that is dependent upon the climate.  The ovaries will then develop into drupes in a rapid growth period that takes about 15 weeks after flowering.  During this time the integument takes on the shape of the final coffee bean.  After the rapid growth period the integument and parchment are fully grown and will not increase in size.  The endosperm remains small until about 12 weeks after flowering.  At this time it will suppress, consume, and replace the integument.  The remnants of the integument are what make up the silverskin.  The endosperm will have completely filled the cavity made by the integument nineteen weeks after flowing.  The endosperm is now white and moist, but will gain dry matter during the next several months.  During this time the endosperm attracts more than seventy percent of the total photsynthesates produced by the tree.  The mesocarps will expand to form the sweet pulp that surrounds the coffee bean.  The coffee cherry will change color from green to red about thirty to thirty-five weeks after flowing.

Coffee Plant Root System

The roots of the coffee tree can extend 20-25 km in total length (Malavolta, 195) and the absorbing surface of a tree ranges from 400 to 500 m2 (Nutman).  There are main vertical roots, tap roots, and lateral roots which grow parallel to the ground.  The tap roots extend no further than 30-45 cm below the soil surface.  Four to eight axial roots may be encountered which often originate horizontally but point downward.  The lateral roots can extend 2 m from the trunk.  About 80-90% of the feeder root is in the first 20 cm of soil and is 60-90 cm away from the trunk of the coffee tree (Mavolta, 195-196).  However, Nutman states that the greatest root concentration is in the 30 to 60 cm depth.  The roots systems are heavily affected by the type of soil and the mineral content of the soil.  To be thick and strong, the coffee roots need an extensive supply of nitrogen, calcium and magnesium. During planting the main vertical roots are often clipped to promote growth of the the horizontal roots, which then have better access to water and added nutrients in the top soil.

Coffee Leaves

The elliptical leaves of the coffee tree are shiny, dark green, and waxy.  The coffee bean leaf area index is between 7 and 8 for a high-yielding coffee (Malavolta, 195).  The coffee plant has become a major source of oxygen in much of the world.  Each hectare of coffee produces 86 lbs of oxygen per day, which is about half the production of the same area in a rain forest (source: Anacafe).

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why are certain coffees roasted to certain roast styles?
Specialty coffees from different regions have special features like aroma, acidity, body, earthiness, etc. Different roast styles bring out or diminish these special characters. If, for instance, a region is famous for acidity and you don’t want to reduce the acidity in the final cup, it should be roasted lighter, and so on.

2. What is the best method to brew coffee?
This is subjective. However, whichever method you choose – drip, French press, espresso etc – make sure to follow the procedure recommended so that you do not over extract or under extract. Time, temperature, ground particle size and the quality of the water are all very important.

3. What is Espresso?
Espresso is made by passing water at a temperature of 195-203F under pressure of 8-10 bars (130 psi) through very finely ground coffee for 30 seconds. About 8 grams of coffee per 1 oz of water is used. The most important part of espresso is the layer of froth in the cup. This froth traps the flavor compounds in small bubbles and releases them to the olfactory sensors when we drink the coffee. Espresso is consumed hot and fresh from the espresso machine.

4. Why use organic coffee?
It is well known that many of the chemicals used on coffee farms are highly carcinogenic and banned by industrialized nations. The World Bank and USAID promoted high tech sun-grown coffee. Farmers were taught to increase the yield and ripen their cherries faster by cutting down the shade trees. Many farmers had no choice because often that was the condition to get bank credit. Cutting down the shade trees reduced the habitat for the birds that controlled pests. So farmers had to use synthetic pesticides. This required the increased use of synthetic fertilizers to give the extra energy taken up by the pesticides. Also, without the shade, the weeds increased and became difficult to control, so the farmers had to use synthetic weed killers. Coffee is one of the most chemical intensive crops. The farmers do not know how to use the chemicals safely and many suffer from health problems caused by chemicals like DDT. Groundwater is contaminated causing further environmental problems. The pulp of the cherries, which constitutes about 60% by weight, is removed to get the coffee beans. This pulp is then thrown into the rivers, which reduces the pH of the water and kills the marine life. Organically grown coffee goes back to the age-old method where coffee is grown under shade trees and pests and weeds are controlled by natural means. One of the greatest ways to use the pulp is to transform it into fertilizer using redworms. This is successfully done at many organic farms. We take the pulp and place it in bins where the worms eat it and turn it to worm castings. We then soak it in water, which is then sprayed as a foliar fertilizer over the plants. Sadly, many businesses use organic labels on products that are not organic. The new certification laws will hopefully reduce this problem. It is believed that coffee roasted at very high temperatures loses all the toxic chemicals, so the use of those chemicals may not be directly harmful to the consumer. Coffee farmers have suffered. We can help them live healthier lives and support our environment by using certified organic products.

5. Why use Fair Trade Coffee?
Refer to the section on the plight of coffee farmers. The industry has long taken advantage of poor farmers and farm laborers. It is time to step up and be fair to people who produce the product we love so much. Fair Trade is an international organization that certifies farmers and their cooperatives without any cost to them. The sellers of their products get to use the Fair Trade seal by paying a certain amount per pound. This money is then diverted to marketing of Fair Trade certified farm products and policing honest use of the seal. By using the Fair Trade seal the seller assures that the farmer is paid at least a minimum base price established by the Fair Trade Organization. This will assure that the farmers can live a dignified life. Fair Trade also makes sure that such farmers and their coops carry out community projects such as schools and health care, and that the farm labor is treated properly. The cost associated with coffee is only $.15/lb, which is less than half a penny per cup of coffee. The time has come to do a little something to help the farmers live a dignified life. Fair Trade Seal.

6. What is Shade-Grown coffee?
Traditionally, coffee was always grown in the shade under the forest canopy. It was in the 1950s that the World Bank and USAID promoted high tech coffee, the farmers were asked to produce sun-grown coffee in order to increase production. The shade trees were therefore cut down. When the trees were cut down the birds lost their habitat. Without the birds, the worms were not kept under control, farmers had to rely on pesticides. The coffee plants were stressed from growing in the sun and from the pesticides, to counteract this, chemical fertilizers had to be used. The sun also caused increased weed growth, necessitating use of chemical weed killers. The coffee cherries ripen faster in full sun, the quality of the coffee also became questionable. It is now generally believed that it was a mistake to cut down the trees, and we are now asking the farmers to go back to their age-old shade-grown coffee. The Smithsonian Institute certifies farms as Bird Friendly. The cost of certification is paid by roasters on charge per pound of Bird Friendly certified coffee sold. There are many farmers now growing shade grown coffee but they may not yet be certified.

7. What is the shelf life of coffee
It is generally considered that the shelf life of green beans in a cool dry warehouse is at least a couple of years. However, once roasted, the shelf life goes down tremendously. Roasted beans are good for no more than a couple of weeks, unless stored freshly after roasting, in one-way valve bags which are flushed with nitrogen. Oxygen is the worst enemy of roasted coffee. Coffee thus packed in impervious bags and stored in a cool dry place is said to last for six months, but that is questionable. In any event, coffee should always be ground just before brewing as the flavor compounds dissipate very fast.

8. Why is coffee ground to different particle size for different brewing methods?
Each brewing method such as drip, perk, French press, espresso etc. involves different times of contact between water and ground coffee. Espresso takes only 30 seconds; the grounds are very fine to give maximum surface contact with the water for full extraction. In a French press, the granules stay in contact with water and are well immersed for about 4-5 minutes. The coffee is ground coarse for French press, both to prevent over- extraction by reducing the surface area of contact between coffee and water and to make it easier to filter through the metal filter.

9. Are there differences in coffees from different parts of producing countries?
The quality of coffee and its characteristic taste and aroma differ not only from one region to another but also from year to year depending on rainfall and other weather conditions. Coffee from countries like Guatemala with different altitudes, rainfall and many microclimates can vary vastly from one region to the next, and also within a region.

10. Arabica vs. Robusta:
The two commonly grown coffee trees are Arabica and Robusta. Most specialty coffees are Arabica, whereas cheaper coffees on the store shelves are Robusta blended with some Arabica to improve taste and flavor. Robusta trees are hardier and resistant to frost and diseases. Most high quality Arabicas are produced in central and South America and Hawaii. Eastern countries and Brazil are the major producers of Robusta. Robusta has twice the caffeine content of Arabica. Robusta flowers are cross-pollinated whereas Arabica can be self-pollinated. Robusta trees are taller and produce more coffee beans per tree. Robusta coffees are considerably cheaper than Arabicas. Good Robusta coffees have good body and pungency and are used for blends of excellent espressos.

11. Why roast at home?
It is easy with modern electric home roasting equipment. You can be adventurous and try out different origin coffees with different roast styles. You get the freshest coffee. It is less expensive than buying roasted coffee.

12. What is wet and dry milling?
The wet coffee mill is the place where the ripe coffee cherries are classified by density, and the pulp layer removed by a wet milling machine. The resulting beans in the parchment are then placed in fermenting tanks for a period that can go from 14 to 40 hours, depending on the relative temperature and climate conditions.

The dry mill or “Beneficio,” as it is called in Spanish, is the plant where the coffee is sun-dried, spread out in concrete or well paved patios for some 10 to 12 days. Then the coffee is placed to rest in well ventilated warehouses for a period of 45 to 60 days until the beans’ relative humidity is homogenized on the entire lot. This rest period, prior to de-hulling allows for the bean pores to close, which will give it great consistency and hardness that will enable its quality to last longer prior to and after its roasting.

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