This week we’re working with Selva Negra, our coffee from Nicaragua. This beloved coffee has been away from us for almost a year, but it’s back and better than ever. We slipped some away from Friday’s roast to do a little sampling.
So what makes our Selva Negra so special? Here’s the lowdown:
1. Selva Negra tastes great
Coffee from Selva Negra is mostly the Arabica Bourbon varietal, mixed with some Caturra. The Bourbon varietal, named after the island of Bourbon where it was first cultivated, is fragile and doesn’t produce as many cherries as other varietals; but the coffee it does produce is sweet, lush and complex.
Caturra is a mutation of Bourbon discovered in Brazil. It is distinguished by its bright acidity and low-to-medium body. With less sweetness than its parent, Bourbon, the addition of the Caturra bean helps create a more balanced cup when brewed.
“Selva Negra produces a cup that balances a mild tanginess with a toasty sweetness,” said Brandon Riggs, head roastmaster for Stockton Graham & Co. in Raleigh, NC. “Its bright acidity gives way to a softly sweet yet brisk flavor.”
Riggs points to the coffee’s medium body and smooth mouth feel, a combination that is familiar to the American palate. “Our Selva Negra is a very accessible coffee with flavors of bright summer fruit and sweet milk chocolate. The sweet chocolate carries into a delicate finish.”
To bring out these flavors, we recommend brewing Selva Negra using a Bee House Ceramic Coffee Dripper. Use it with the Melitta #4 filter.
- Water temperature between 195-205F
- 16:1 (grams) water to coffee ratio
- Drip Grind (Medium Grind)
- 30 second bloom
- 3 minute brew time
Tasting Notes: Creamy milk chocolate with a nutty pairing met with a bright acidity. For those who like a stronger body, this versatile coffee also does well with a Chemex or V60 and a finer grind.
2. Selva Negra is truly sustainable
When I first started researching the Selva Negra coffee, which is shade grown, I was immediately immersed in its history.
Selva Negra is grown on La Hammonia, a 1500-acre farm located in the Isabelia Sierra region of Matagalpa Nicaragua. The estate is run by Mausi Hayn Kühl and Eddy Kühl, who are decedents of the Bösche family from Germany who settled the land in the late 1800s.
The Kühl-Hayn family is so committed to ecological agriculture that it has preserved over 300 acres of the estate that features a vast virgin rain forest. The land also includes a mountain resort, howler monkeys, organic gardens, cattle and hiking trails. It is in this idyllic environment that Selva Negra coffee is grown, harvested, processed and dried.
Matriarch of the Selva Negra family, Mausi Kühl has devoted her life to innovative and sustainable practices, employee empowerment, and improving the quality of life for the people who work the coffee farms and process the coffee.
As a result, the La Hammonia farm on the Selva Negra estate is truly sustainable. Multiple reuse and conservation efforts make it a model coffee farm where nothing is wasted and every waste product is used to a benefit.
“Selva Negra is pioneering new ways to minimize the use of industrial pesticides and herbicides,” Mausi proudly reports. “For example, we mulch the rows between the coffee trees with coffee husks and algae from the estate ponds to prevent weeds from taking root.
To repel pests we spray our plants, trees and veggies with tea-like solutions fortified by natural repellents which we grow ourselves, such as the seeds and leaves of the neem tree, madero, chili and garlic.”
Refuse from the community is composed and used as fertilizer for not only the coffee farm but for vast plots of corn, beans, tomatoes, onions and avocados that grow on the estate to feed the workers and their families. “We have so many California earthworms that we actually beg for trash because we don’t have enough to feed them with,” said daughter Heddy Kühl, who imports Selva Negra to the United States through her Atlanta-based store JavaVino.
“My mom is the dreamer behind Selva Negra,” Heddy says. “She’s the one that comes up with all the ideas. My father is an engineer, and together they host scientists, interns, and students. They’re the ones that implement and execute the designs my dad creates based off my mom’s ideas.”
This partnership helps support the local ecosystem, as well as provides means for the 200 employees who work there year round. During harvest season, that number can raise anywhere from 600 to 700 workers. Selva Negra not only feeds and houses the workers, but also provides medical care and schooling for the community.
“We offer school up until middle school, and after that, kids will either move on to a trade, or technical, school on campus,” Heddy Kühl said. “Otherwise, if they want to continue with school and have the grades to cut it, Selva Negra will sponsor them to go to the private high school in Matagalpa. They’ll even sponsor you through college.”
Take a visual tour of the coffee estate by clicking below.
3. Selva Negra is part of the Stockton Graham family
Stockton Graham & Co. has developed a strong personal relationship with the Kühls over the years. Our roasters and staff members have spent time at Selva Negra, and we are one of only two roasters in North Carolina with access to beans from the La Hammonia farm.
“When Heddy and her husband Steve opened their coffee shop, JavaVino, they toured the southeast region to talk to small roasters about buying Selva Negra,” said Stockton Graham roastmaster Brandon Riggs said. “We tasted the coffee and took a deep dive into their farming, processing and drying practices before we agreed to supply the coffee. Needless to say, we were very impressed.”
In addition to visiting the estate, Stockton Graham & Co. has provided textbooks and computers to Selva Negra schools. “As responsible roasters, we are actively involved in maintaining the quality of the coffee that we purchase, which includes making positive contributions to coffee-producing communities.”
If this is something you’re looking to be a part of, better buy the coffee soon because, as Heddy told me, what’s special about this crop is that there isn’t much of it. The Roya Fungus, a coffee rust, continues to hurt coffee production in South and Central America.
“The Roya is a coffee plague that’s hit Central America really hard so we’ve lost a large part of our crop,” she said. “Unfortunately, you have to pull up and dig out the trees that are infected.”
It’s this transparency, and these stories, that has really set apart the Selva Negra coffee and made our partnership with them meaningful. There’s still more to know and we encourage you, if you can, to take a trip out there or support them in any way.
To order Selva Negra coffee, call a Customer Care Associate at 800 835 5943 today.
Note: All photography courtesy of Selva Negra.