Kaffee-Alchemie in Nicaragua, Day 2

Posted by john 1 Comment

Head judge Mrs Sherri Jones and Kaffee-Alchemie's John relaxing in between cupping sessions

Matagalpa in Nicaragua lies more than 700 metres above sea level, and differs from the lowlands having a climate of ‘eternal springtime’; it is the hot and humid air from the Pacific which drizzles rain over the region as the clouds reach the higher altitudes here that makes it perfect for coffee cultivation! An average temperature ranging from 26 °C to 28 °C., and relative humidity between 75% to 85%. Average rainfall is 1200 to 1900 mm. Coffee thrives here!

The 2nd day here in Nicaragua brought the International Jury together for the first cupping sessions. Although we all are experienced cuppers, a calibration is very important, and thus, the first day in a CoE week always is about getting calibrated! A table is being set up with different coffees, and we taste our way through them, scoring as we normally would. The coffees are normally from the preselection rounds; coffees that the National Jury already  has scored. We know these calibration cups are scored into both ends of the scale; our job today was not to verify this, but to taste and define where our scores should be.

The coffees are judged using a score sheet which can give a coffee a total of 100 points if it is unique. All coffees that get 84,00 or above is considered Cup of Excellence. The coffees that reach between 80,00 and 84,00 are considered Speciality Coffees, but not exemplary; the ones 79,00 and below are lower qualities, usually with some kind of defect, unripe or overripe or tainted during processing.

If a coffee gets 90,00 or above, it gets an Presidential Award  🙂


Parts of the Jury, cupping at 'Atlantico' Coffee Mill

So, we Judges got together after breakfast, and went through three sessions of Calibration, each followed by discussions and evaluations. We now get warmed up, getting a taste of what is to come Tuesday Morning, when the first three sessions are on the table.

In the afternoon we were all picked up by a bus and taken to a coffee mill, where coffee is being processed. The harvest season is of course over a month or two ago (later in the highlands), and the coffee we see is already in bags.

Just a few words on processing: coffee is being picked when the coffee cherries are ripe (usually bright red or yellow in colour). The cherries must be de-pulped quite soon after picking; this means getting the bean out of the fruit. Next, the bean must be clean from the mucilage (the fruit flesh sticks to the bean), and a fermentation and washing in clean, cold water follows. These processed can be done at the farm if the farmer has the equipment to do so, if not, this must be done at a nearby Mill. After washing, the beans are being dried: in the sun (if it is not too hot) or in the shade, eventually on ‘african beds’ or, if the rain disturbs these methods, in mechanical driers.

By mid April, in Latin America, most coffees are now processed, and the bags are just ‘resting’ in warehouses until the green beans have reached the correct level of humidity for transportation.

We did not check out the bags in the warehouses at the Mill;  we were shown the laboratory, where Hybrids of coffee plants are being grown, followed by a lecture on new varieties. We also got a chance to cuptaste a selecton of these, which was great.

The Mill, ‘Atlantico’ had invited us to dinner, and after splendid food (no spices and little taste; strick instructions concerning the Judges’ palates) 🙂  -a dance troup of children and a selection of Miss Matagalpas -and a brass band louder than Iron Maiden- entertained us into the night.

It is Tuesday, early morning, and the cocks in Matagalpa have been up for hours, keeping not only the hens awake. Today, the first three sessions of coffees are being set up: 30 coffees, 10 in each session.

I’d better get an hour more of sleep!

Liebe Grüsse,  John


One Response to ‘Kaffee-Alchemie in Nicaragua, Day 2’

  1. Bjorn Harald says:

    Nice post John! Looking forward to more cupping tomorrow:) And perhaps some Jaguar on Aeropress?

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