roger esau herrara ortez - buena vista

cup of excellence Nicaragua winner 2017 #5

field report

Finca Buena Vista, located at the intriguingly named ‘Cerro de LaExplosión’ (Explosion Hill) is owned by Roger Esau Herrera Ortez. When the farm was founded in 1997, Roger was considered something of a maverick, as he was the first coffee farmer the be planting coffee trees in such a difficult place to produce coffee. The forest was dense (the area had seen a great deal of military activity during the Sandanista and Contra years) and the land steep. The task seemed nigh on impossible. However, Roger remained undaunted, cutting his way through the forest until he reached his parcel of land. The farm had previously been a mine camp for rebel forces, so his first task was to clean up. Once it was leveled and all dangerous equipment removed, Don Roger Esau started to plant coffee trees one by one, manzana by manzana. He found that producing coffee at such a high elevation and at such coo T emperatures is not easy: it requires a lot of effort and patience and growth of the trees is slow, taking up to 4 years to reach full production. Yields are low - with only 7-12 quintales per manzana (.70 hectares) whereas in other areas of Nicaragua production averages at about 40 quintales per manzana.

The Herrara family now owns and operates four farms and an ecological wet mill in the region. Three farms are managed by the oldest three brothers, the fourth, Buena Vista, by father Roger Esau.  His sons got involved in farm management as they grew older and at this point the different farms are processed and commercialized separately. 

The region feels isolated, there are just a handful of farms here, accessed by a lonely dirt road. It is exactly that isolation that made me feel fond of this farm, it corresponds with devotion. Farms over 1500 meters above sea level are uncommon in Nicaragua, to cultivate at these heights farmers really need to go the extra mile. The quality flourishes at these elevations, together with the meticulous processing facility it makes for consistently great coffees. 

Although the farms are separate, all resources are pooled for efficiency.  A shared view is the preservation of nature, over one third of the owned landed is uncultivated. Consequently. the abundant streams and waterfalls boasts a lively population of birds, including the legendary Quetzal. Unfortunately not everybody thinks like this, from the farm a large piece of deforested land can be seen. 'To maximize profits' I'm told, fortunately those people were fined $500.000, but that won't bring the forest back.  

At the end of the 2015 - 2016 harvest a big investment was made in a brand new ecological wet mill. The shiny new wet mill reuses all water the entire day which reduces waste significantly. Moreover, the new system sorts coffee before it even reaches the fermentation tank. Instead of one big tank, the coffee is now separated over four different tanks, each containing coffee of a different weight, hence quality. This has lead to an even more precise separation of lots and the ability to find outstanding nano-lots. All the challenges cultivating coffee in coffee in this area have proved to be more than worth it this year, with Roger Esau Herrera Ortez winning the fifth place in Cup of Excellence.  With the latest investment Don Roger continues to be a pioneer in the area, not only taking steps toward quality but also towards environmental sustainability. The next step is sediment tanks for the wastewater which will be built this year.

farm facts

Location

La Explosión, San Fernando, Nueva Segovia

Altitude

1400 - 1650 meters above sea level

cultivars

Red catuaí, yellow catuaí, caturra & maragogype

age

30 years+

Size

Total size: 40 hectares cultivated, 23 conserved. Buena Vista: 24 hectares.