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Episode 624

Nicaragua Finca Limoncillo Pulped Natural Ethiosar

The story of Hasbean and Finca Limoncillo is a long and exciting one - we've been working together for 13 years now! A bakers' dozen of coffee harvests shared between Matagalpa and Stafford make us very happy customers. I've been telling the story of this relationship for many years now and I don't intend to stop any time soon because it's such a big, big, big relationship for me 🌟 So much of where we are today has come from this relationship. I'm really proud of everything that's happened in the past, and super excited for where we can go in the future.

Limoncillo (and a handful of other fantastic farms) are owned by Dr. Erwin Mierich. Having previously lived and worked in the USA, he returned to Nicaragua in the mid-1990s. He explained, "While I was living in the United States, I worked as a gynaecologist, but then I had to come back to Nicaragua and lead this farm. Coffee has been my passion since I was a little boy".

In the years we have worked together Erwin has visited Stafford many times, and it's always a pleasure to have him around. Last time he was visiting we ended up at a Weird Beard tap takeover in Manchester, talking to two Weird Beards about crazy brewing/coffee farming ideas! A coffee from Finca Limoncillo (the 'Funky Red Pacamara') is used in two of Weird Beard's beers: Black Perle and Double Perle, both of which are mighty delicious beers! A fitting collaboration to evolve from our continued business dealings when you consider how much time the family have dedicated to showing me how Latin American people like to party! On my very first visit to Nicaragua, the two people who showed me around were Erwin Jr and Steve Mierisch, the sons of the farmer. It was really cool, lifelong friends were made, and they taught me a lot about coffee production in the region.

Our relationship with Finca Limoncillo began in 2007, and back then we were buying their delicious coffee as part of a buying group. I cupped the coffee and instantly loved it - I knew I had to have it. It was a wonderful surprise to discover after the auction closed that it was owned by a family in Nicaragua who were already good friends of mine, and indeed probably the only people I knew from the whole country! The following year I visited the farm with our Nicaraguan importers and through my phenomenal Steve Pester Powers I got them to agree to bring the coffee into the UK for us (probably just to stop the flow of emails and phone calls from that annoying ginger bloke!)

A few years ago we were notified by the importers that they would not be buying the coffee again (for reasons other than the cup quality) which led to some frantic phone calls on my part, and a dig down the back of the sofa for enough loose change to fund buying 12 months' worth of coffee all in one go. There were many, many obstacles in the way of doing this deal, but we were lucky in that we were able to pull everything together in a very short amount of time. The upside of all of this is that we now work directly with Finca Limoncillo instead of going via anyone else. This coffee has gone from a one-off Cup of Excellence buy to a fantastic long-term relationship that I'm so very proud to have.

Finca Limoncillo is located in the Matagalpa region of Nicaragua and it's a whopping 171 hectares in size, which is heckin chonky! 109 hectares of this is used for coffee cultivation, with the remainder used to raise cattle and horses, and left to natural woodland. The family have heaps of policies and initiatives to make everything as sustainable as possible on this vast farming area: their use of chemicals is minimal, and the impact on the environment is always minimised by careful and considerate land management.

It's owned and run by the Mierisch family who are, by now, very close friends, and well-respected producers in Nicaragua. They're known for their experimental processing, varietal work, and exceptional coffee. The family employ over 3000 staff during the harvest, and at Limoncillo over 60 families live on the farm full time.

They are seriously loved by the guys who work for them, more than any other producer we buy from there is genuine love and respect between the family and their workers. The fact that the family are our friends helps us drill down into the details of what they do for the people who work for them. This information continues to prove to me that good people grow good coffee. My last visit was February this year (right before the world went into lockdown!) and it was truly memorable - myself and Joanna (of Drop Coffee fame) sat up with Eleane until 2 am chatting and drinking rum together... the farm visit the next morning was a very quiet one! Luckily Limoncillo is a beautiful location, it boasts nine waterfalls within the farm, which is exactly the sort of place you want to be when you've had too much fun with friends the night before. 

On the farm, the family: 

  • The employers pay their staff 30% more than what is typical minimum wage, as well as:
  • Provide free housing for 60 families on their farms
  • Provide free electricity and running water for their homes
  • Provide free food for all workers
  • Have free daycare facilities for families to use
  • Provide free health care facilities on the farms
  • Employee on-site teachers who educate their staff and teach other skills such as pottery and weaving. The goal is to help staff diversify their skills. The teachers are also paid twice the wages they would receive in the cities.

This year we have purchased 9 phenomenal lots from Limoncillo (that meanie Roland wouldn’t let me buy as many as I wanted to!), which makes up a total of 21 from the Mierisch family's farms combined - 19 Nicaraguan and 2 Honduran.

Right then folks - it's time to learn all about Ethiosar! This coffee varietal is a stable hybrid plant, which is the result of lots of clever (and slightly convoluted, so bear with me) mixing of other coffee varieties. To make up a batch of Ethiosar we're going to need a pinch of Sudan Rume, a sprinkle of Timor, and a couple dashes of Villa Sarchi. Fun ingredients, right? A cross of Villa Sarchi (an improved Caturra from Costa Rica) and Timor (a mix of Robusta and Arabica varieties) makes a Sarchimor. That Sarchimor is then crossed with Sudan Rume (a very old Ethiopian variety), and the offspring of these plants is then crossed back once again with Villa Sarchi... all of that hard work and genetic back-and-forth results in the awesome Ethiosar! 

Now some people will turn their noses up at the mention of Timor due to it's Robusta heritage, but Catimors (the name for the group of varieties made by crossing Timor with Caturra-based varities) are very useful. Through skilled breeding we can harness the practical aspects of Robusta (high yield, resistance to pests and disease, growth at lower altitudes) while still retaining the positive cup characteristics of Arabica varieties. Ethiosar has a very small percentage of Catimor in it, thus making it very resistant to leaf rust in most parts of the world. Both Sudan Rume and Villa Sarchi are known for their great cup characteristics.

What Ethiosar does is increase production by up to 40% whilst only needing 2,800 plants per manzana, whereas with Caturra you would need 4,000 plants. This may not seem important until you begin to think that each plant needs fertiliser. So not only are you getting more yield but it's cheaper to grow because you need less fertiliser and less plants (plants have to be grown or bought), and it's also quicker to pick. On top of all of this, it's super tasty.

This coffee immediately shouts chocolate bar to me - and in particular a Twix. There's loads of milk chocolate up front, but as it cools a little, you'll find plenty of caramel in there too, whilst the finish is where the biscuit comes in. There's a delicate green apple edge which works in perfect balance with the chocolate and caramel.

  • Country: Nicaragua
  • Municipality: Yasica Norte
  • 
Region: Matagalpa

  • Farm name: Limoncillo
  • Producer: The Mierich family
  • Farm size: 171 hectares
  • Coffee growing area: 109 hectares
  • Altitude: 1,200 m.a.s.l.

  • Varietal: Ethiosar (Ricardo)

  • Processing system: Pulped Natural

CUPPING NOTES

Milk chocolate, caramel, green apple.

Clean cup: (1–8): 6
Sweetness: (1–8): 7
Acidity: (1–8): 6
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 6
Flavour: (1–8): 7
Aftertaste: (1–8): 6
Balance: (1–8): 6.5
Overall: (1–8): 6.5
Correction: (+36): +36

Total: (max. 100): 87

Roasting Information
Medium-dark - just through to the first pops of second on the drop, no more. This one's tricky to judge as it's got a very loud crack and may need slightly more heat than you normally need to get to that point.

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