Nicaragua-La hammonia, Selva Negra
La Hammonia - Selva Negra
Caturra and Catuai
The Kühl Family
Peach, toffee, floral with a buttery mouthfeel.
In the late 1800s, German families immigrated to the New World in search of better lives and livelihoods. On their way north to try their luck in California’s gold rush, they paused in Nicaragua and fell in love. So they stayed. And some of them planted coffee.
In 1974, Eddy and Mausi Kühl, both descendants of German immigrants, brought one of those coffee farms. They refurbished the La Hammonia farm and made it totally diversified and sustainable in less than a decade. They have preserved a third of the property as virgin forest, another third as shade coffee forest, and the last third as intensive rotational pastures for cattle and organic farming.
Selva Negra encompasses not only the farm but the lodge, restaurant and facilities. The coffee in La Hammonia has 12 separate lots, each lot is separated by varietal that is uniquely divided into elevations ranging from 1200- 1400 masl. The lots are shade grown and the trees are fertilized with organic fertilizer made on the farm, La Hammonia is certified organic.
The cherries are picked and then taken to the wet mill on the farm, where the coffee is processed using water from the mountain. Fermentation is 12 hours in the mucilage. A second wash is applied before being moved to the covered drying beds. The lots are harvested individually, cupped and then blended so there is traceability of lot volumes and cup profile from season to season. Once the coffee is dry it is moved to the dry mill on the farm where it is processed and packed. There's a nursery on the farm which is used for new tree planting, they are currently replanting 50 hectares at a time as some of the trees are over 65 years old. They are also growing and experimenting with a new variety called Marsellaza – an improved Catimor variety.
Along with growing coffee, Selva Negra has developed into a completely self-sustaining eco village. There is a vegetable garden which provides vegetables for the restaurant, a farm of pigs, cows and chickens for meat and eggs. There is also a bakery and a cheese making factory. The power is generated by solar panels around the farm and on the roofs. Methane gas is produced for cooking by using the wastewater from coffee processing. The farm itself produces everything needed an everything has 2-3 uses. For the workers, there is a village on the farm with housing, a school for the children, a medical clinic and a baseball diamond (baseball is the number one sport in Nicaragua), and they have their own team competing in the national competition. The workers have power, running water and satellite tv. They are charged $1 per year for rent so that they have legal tenancy leases. The restaurant and lodge on the farm provide a pathway for pickers to learn new skills and undertake new employment in the off season, the manager of the restaurant herself started out as a coffee picker on the farm.
There is a huge amount of history around Selva Negra, there are walks in the forest where you may encounter ancient relics and buildings and also wildlife. There is a family spirit driving this enterprise, that makes it a very special place. It’s an incredible farm to visit for the experience of seeing what can be achieved with an open mind and a true goal of sustainability.
If you want to know more about the La Hammonia farm, visit the website below:
*Photos courtesy of Tony Strickett (First Crop) and selva negra website