JINOTEGA – Nicaragua’s best cup of coffee this year comes from a small producer named Mauricio Esteban Vilchez in the Nueva Segovia province in the northern highlands bordering Honduras.
The “Cup of Excellence” coffee tasting competition, held last weekend in the northern mountain town of Jinotega, is the coffee sector’s attempt to generate value-added quality for small producers in the country’s biggest export industry.
“Without a superior quality product, the possibilities of finding a market are slimmer,” said Sabrina Vigilante, the worldwide marketing director for the U.S. non-governmental organization Rainforest Alliance, which helps sponsor the event. “This is the absolute cream of the specialty coffee crop.”
International cuppers narrowed down the 59 finalists to name the top three. The second and third places went to Ethel McEwan, of Matagalpa, and Francisco Esteban Bendana, of Nueva Segovia, respectively. The coffee of all 59 finalists will receive discounts with the help of Nicaragua’s Specialty Coffee Association (ACEN) to be marketed abroad as fine Nicaraguan brand coffee.
The event is sponsored by the Specialty Coffee Association of Nicaragua (ACEN) and Sopexca, a cooperative of coffee producers in Jinotega.
ACEN President Jose Barcenas said the association is currently designing a school, to be named Café La Segovia, for baristas in Nicaragua, with the aim of training Nicaraguans in cupping techniques and developing an internal coffee market here.
“That coffee has to be consumed in our own country,” he said.
Rainforest Alliance’s Vigilante, who visited Nicaragua last week to meet with local producers and attend the competition, said developing Nicaragua’s domestic market for coffee is just a matter of time.
“Ultimately it’s not about selling lots of coffee, but raising the image of a country,” she told The Nica Times.