The land where Agropecuaria Bariloche resides had two previous owners who planted coffee within a ring of hidden landmines laid during the Nicaraguan conflicts of the 1980’s. In 2006 Claude Bernard Ulvert bought the farm and set about transforming the blood-stained, mine-ridden soil of this conflict zone into the fertile, arable land that it is today with the help of Luis Blandino.
Luis has been a coffee producer for most of his adult life and recognizing his talent, Don Claude scouted him as soon as he bought the farm. Louis was conscripted into the Sandinista army in 1986 and fought against the Contras in the Jinotega region for over two years, so it’s fair to say he knows the area well.
Upon acquisition, the farm had about 30 hectares of coffee, but today nearly 100 of the 126-hectare farm are strewn with healthy coffee plantations. In order to achieve this dramatic growth, they have had to renovate much of the land that was rendered infertile by soldiers marching over it throughout the 10-year civil war. But they have done an incredible job; today the farm is producing 3,800 bags (60kgs) every harvest.
Tropical Fruit, Orange, Round
The amazing flavors and quality of this cup are no coincidence and largely based on Don Claude and Luis Blandino’s improvements. Back in 2006, the farm was producing mediocre coffee from a few lots of Caturra. Now the presiding varietals on the farm are Marsellesa and two hybrids referred to as H1 and H3, the last of which reached 26 Brix (sugar content) this harvest. Alongside Exportadora Atlantic (ECOM Nicaragua), they have developed a fine microlot business using these new prolific varieties, producing large quantities of both natural and honey processed coffee. Last year, they participated in the annual competition Los Cafés Más Finos de Nicaragua (The Finest Coffees of Nicaragua) and were highly rewarded by the national jury. There is even a nursery in the center of the farm, where 80,000 young Marsellesa plants are currently being carefully manicured to be planted later this year.
This coffee was processed in the honey method. Perfectly ripe cherries were picked, hand sorted and floated prior to being pulped using minimal water. It should be noted that pulping coffee with limited water not only conserves water, but also preserves more fruit/sugars on the outside of the seeds during the drying process. After the cherries are pulped, the seeds are carefully dried on patios and raised drying beds and carefully rotated in order to preserve the natural fruit sugars and ensure even drying.
35km out from the capital of Nicaragua’s coffee region, Jinotega, lies the Sandinistas’ old stomping ground during the brutal conflict that tore Nicaragua apart throughout the 1980’s. San Antonio de Las Cuchillas was one of their biggest military bases in the northern region, but today it is a stunning coffee farm producing some of the best coffee in the country. This transformation was no mean feat; it took PADCA-OEA (a mine-removal program) two years to clear the landmines that the Sandinistas had laid around the camp. The projected ended up unearthing 11,000 individual mines through the project.
New in 2019
New Wet Mill for 2019/20 Crop
As with many things on this farm, areas that were once places of conflict are being transformed into productive hope for the future. At the wet mill, they take the pulp and deposit it on concrete slabs that are dotted around the farm called “planchones” which used to be the soldiers’ camps throughout the 80’s. They have since knocked all of these buildings down, but left the base layer of concrete to use as depositories for the coffee pulp. It is here where they mix the pulp with calcium and biomax to make a natural fertilizer that is used to help rejuvenate the battered land.
There are already a few rooms for the permanent workers on Agropecuaria Bariloche however, there are plans in place to convert two of the “planchones” back into the camps they used to be; this time for coffee pickers rather than Sandinista soldiers. At the moment, they send a tractor down to the local community at 5am, but as of next year, workers will be able to stay on the farm during the harvest months. They also want to create a more social side to the farm by building a club for the workers where they can relax, watch television and play sports.
With reminders of Nicaragua’s rich but troublesome history everywhere you look, the progressive and ambitious production goals at Bariloche are generating impressive results and beginning to influence coffee production throughout the Jinotega region.