A Visit to Nicaragua and Sustainable Coffee Growing at Selva Negra

Located in the highlands of Nicaragua, between the cities of Matagalpa and Jinotega, Selva Negra leads the way when it comes to sustainable coffee production.

The beginnings of Selva Negra stretch back to 1891, when German immigrants settled in the area. They recognized the potential of the land so planted coffee on what they named La Hammonia farm. More than three quarters of a century later, the farm was sold in 1974 to the current owners, Eddy and Mausi Kühl. Both descendants of German farmers, the Kühls 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–renamed Selva Negra Ecolodge–as virgin forest, another third as shade sustainable coffee forest, and the last third as intensive rotational pastures for cattle and organic farming. The Kühls also built a hotel and complex of cabins for eco-tourists.

Sustainable Coffee in NicaraguaOver the last 30 years, alternative sources of production have been developed, whether for in-house consumption or income generation. These include organic meat and milk products (including cheese, sausages, eggs, etc.) as well as vegetables and fruit crops. Environmental projects are carried out each year always seeking for new, better, and more efficient systems. Some of these projects include having earth tubs decontaminate coffee wastewater, improved systems for treating sewage, reforestation, methane gas production, microorganism production to improve soil quality, etc.

Sustainable Coffee in NicaraguaFor all of their hard work and dedication, Selva Negra won the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Sustainability Award in both 2007 and 2008, the Sempervirens Award from the Environmental Protection Information Center, and has received many other sustainability accolades.

Stockton Graham coffee roster Chris Bennett was able to visit Selva Negra in January on a tour with a small group of other coffee industry professionals. He shared a few thoughts about his experiences:

“My first impression was that it was beautiful. The ecolodge part that helped sustain the whole business in general was beautiful but they do an amazing job of making everything look nice. They have a lake, beautiful orchids everywhere, banana trees and orange trees. There are some coffee trees grown close to the lodge but the main lots are a walk away. Coffee isn’t the only crop; they had a lot of sheltered growing areas for all the food they produced on the farm for the hotel as well as the workers.

Sustainable Coffee in Nicaragua

Chris Bennett tries his hand at coffee picking.

It’s a big property so they drove us around to different areas where people were picking the coffee. They let us pick coffee cherries for about an hour but we were all really bad at it. Then they had someone come show us how to do it properly and he was much faster. It’s definitely hard work.

“The sustainable coffee operation was amazing. I want to say they estimate four million coffee plants on the property, grown in the shade of larger trees. They also had a couple of greenhouses where they showed us the seedlings and small plants that they were getting ready to plant for the next season. Selva Negra wasn’t the only coffee plantation in that part of Nicaragua; when we were driving down the main road, towards Managua, we would see these massive farms and mills with coffee laid out on tarps to dry.

“I’d never been to an origin country before so it was an overall awesome experience. I’d love to go back.”

If you’re not familiar with the coffee of Selva Negra, call 800-835-5943 to find out more or email orders@stocktongraham.com.

Sustainable coffee form Nicaragua

Discover the Long History and Unique Flavors of Sumatra Coffee

Sumatra Coffee map

The source of our Organic Sumatra coffee.

Most of us are familiar with Sumatra coffee today but it wasn’t until the late 17th century that the plant appeared in Indonesia. The Dutch East India Company, seeking to break a monopoly on the coffee trade held at that time by Arab merchants, first brought coffee plants to the islands in a search for suitable habitats for commercial crops. The Dutch Colonial Government, which ruled much of the region, began to experiment with plantings near Batavia (now Jakarta) and several other locations. Some of the plants took hold and in 1711 the first green coffee exports were sent home to Europe. Successes came rapidly and within ten years, exports of coffee had risen to 60 tons per year. Indonesia became the largest producer of coffee after Ethiopia and Arabia and trade in the commodity there was controlled by the Dutch East India Company until the 1790s.

By the mid 1870’s, large coffee plantations had been created around the Indonesian islands of Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi. As the demand for coffee grew, roads and railroads were created to transport the coffee beans from rural mountainous growing areas to ports for export. During World War Two, however, the growth of Sumatra coffee came to a standstill as many coffee plantations were taken over by the occupying Japanese. Even after Indonesian independence in the late 1940s, several plantations throughout the country were abandoned or taken over by the new government when original colonial plantation owners left the country.

Near the end of the 19th century, a leaf rust disease epidemic hit coffee plants in Indonesia.  Many plantations were wiped out, leaving farmers to turn to other crops such as rubber trees and tea. The Dutch Government responded by importing and planting Liberica coffee, however this strain of coffee plants was also soon affected by leaf rust. They next turned to Robusta coffee, hoping it would be more resistant to the disease. It proved successful and today Robusta makes up over 75% of Indonesia’s coffee exports, much of it from the southern end of Sumatra.

Sumatra coffee

The source of our Karo Highlands Sumatra Coffee

Coffees from Sumatra, the western-most island in Indonesia, have a distinctive bluish color at the green bean stage which is attributed to lack of iron in the soil. Their taste can often be considered smooth, with a sweet body that is balanced and intense. Depending on the region, or blend of regions, the flavors of the land and processing can also be very pronounced. Part of this is due to the unique wet hulling technique used during processing. Another factor in the diverse and intriguing nature of Sumatra coffee is the large number of small producers; even today close to 92% of production is in the hands of small farmers or cooperatives. In 2016, Indonesia ranked fourth in the world with an estimated export total of 400,000 tons of coffee. Less than 14% of that is Arabica from northern Sumatra, which makes it a very desirable and often hard-to-find coffee.

We have tried numerous samples of Sumatra coffee and are excited to offer the ones we feel best represent the island. Try our Karo Highlands, Tunas Indah Organic or even our Sumatra Decaf and discover their unique flavors.

Bucknell University now Serving Pour-over and Organic Coffees

organic coffees at bucknell universityAs part of a upgrade in dining hall options for the spring semester, Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania has begin offering high-quality specialty organic coffees from Stockton Graham & Co. The 3600 students at the prestigious liberal arts college will now be able to enjoy freshly roasted Stockton Graham coffee as well fine Two Leaves and Bud Matcha green tea.

At the school’s 7th Street Café, Stockton Graham & Co., based in Raleigh, North Carolina, will be supplying Colombia Supremo Pitalito, Organic Sumatra Tunas Indah and Organic Mexico Chiapas. These high end organic coffees represent some of the finest from around the world. In addition, the café will also be offering the option of pour-overs featuring organic Ethiopia Limmu coffee.

“We have found this to be a growing trend,” say Lane Mitchell, Stockton Graham & Co. Marketing Director. “It is exciting that millennials are more interested in the artistry and science behind brewing and extraction to make a good cup of coffee instead of just relying on the traditional drip machine. The Limmu is a perfect coffee for this. It is always one of our favorites and the pour-over method really allows its unique characteristics to stand out.”

The company’s organic coffees are also highly desirable because to the growers’ commitments to sustainability and the environment. Says Mitchell, “The company is passionate about sourcing organic coffee that bear the USDA seal of approval. Those coffees that carry it–less than 10% of all those produced–follow strict regulations regarding how the coffee is grown and processed.”

Bucknell's 7th Street CaféLocated near the corner of 7th St. and Moore Ave in Lewisburg not far from the Samek Art Museum, the café is open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. In addition to the freshly-roasted Stockton Graham coffees, the 7th Street Café offers a wide range of sandwiches, wraps and other breakfast and snack items to hungry students at the central Pennsylvania university.

You can read the article from Bucknell here.

Call 800 835 5943 to talk to a Customer Care Associate to learn more about our organic coffees.