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.
Over 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.
For 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.
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 email@example.com.
There is something very endearing about a true crop-to-cup story in the world of coffee, as is the story of Nicaragua Selva Negra coffee.
From a farm in Nicaragua to an importer in Georgia to a coffee roaster in North Carolina, this is a true story of partnership at coffee’s source. And this isn’t just buzz or marketing. Stockton Graham & Co. is supporting the Selva Negra farmers every step of the way: from seed to service.
Meet the Kuhl-Hayn family: Eddy Kühl and Mausi Hayn. They are the owners of the Selva Negra coffee estate in Nicaragua. Their daughter Heddy Franklin and her husband Steve Franklin live in Atlanta, GA where they run a coffee importing company called Beanealogy. Their company also serves their coffee in a shop called JavaVino.
For years, we have been buying beans from Steve. We roast them to bring out their delicious honey and caramel aromas and their smoothly sweet chocolate flavors that are part of what makes Nicaragua Selva Negra coffee so special.
On the Farm with Stockton Graham & Co.
In addition to offering roasted beans from the estate, Stockton Graham & Co. has had the pleasure of visiting and working with the Kuhl-Hayn family in Nicaragua.
Our roasting team spent some time on the Nicaragua Selva Negra coffee estate. We assisted with organic farming, sustainable milling and processing. We also helped with the vast social, medical, educational, professional and cultural services the Selva Negra community provides estate workers and their families.
I had the chance to catch up with one member of our roasting team that spent time with the Selva Negra farmers: our Director of Coffee Brad Kirby.
“We were able to spend several days at the Nicaragua Selva Negra coffee estate,” Brad said. “That gave us the chance to spend time picking cherries and seeing the cherries all the way through to the drying patio.”
“We were also invited to come be a part of payday on the farm,” Brad said. “It was interesting and eye opening to see hundreds of pickers, with their families, come and line up to be paid in cash.” The estate employees over 300 workers.
The trip was organized through Steve Franklin, co-owner of Beanealogy and JavaVino.
“We like taking people down to Nicaragua to the farm so they can see first-hand how we treat others,” said Steve. “It shows that what Mausi is doing is good and supports the way of life that most farmers wish they could have.”
Mausi is the matriarch and the visionary. She comes up with sustainable ideas of how to impact her community for good, both ecologically and socially. Her husband Eddy is an engineer who then puts systems in place to make her ideas have traction. Their daughter Heddy and son-in-law Steve began purchasing 5-10 percent of the coffee from the farm and now they purchase up to 70 percent.
Nicaragua Selva Negra Coffee
Nicaragua Selva Negra coffee 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 Catarrh bean helps create a more balanced cup when brewed.
“Nicaragua Selva Negra coffee produces a cup that balances a mild tang with a toasty sweetness,” said Stockton Graham & Co.’s Director of Coffee Brad Kirby. “Its bright acidity gives way to a softly sweet yet brisk flavor.”
Brad 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 summerfruit and sweet milk chocolate,” Brad said. “The sweet chocolate carries into a delicate finish.”
The History of Selva Negra
Selva Negra is an estate that is located between the cities of Matagalpa and Jinotega in Nicaragua. It sits on the historical highlands, where German immigrants set up the first coffee farm back in the 19th century.
The Selva Negra farm is called La Hammonia. It was acquired by Eddy Kühl and Mausi Hayn in 1975. The estate also includes a coffee mill and an eco hotel, which caters to tourists who enjoy the clean waters and lush forests around El Arenal volcano.
The eco lodge staff is mostly made out of people who live in the property also, wives and children of workers. Some of them have been there since the beginning in 1975; others have retired but have left their children in their old positions. They work as one big family.
Environmental projects are carried out each year always seeking for new, better and more efficient systems. Some of these projects include using earth tubs to decontaminate coffee wastewater, improved system for treating bathrooms and toilets’ sewage, reforestation, methane gas production and microorganism production to improve soil quality.
To order Nicaragua Selva Negra coffee, please call 800 835 5943 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
When you step off the bus onto the Nicaragua Selva Negra coffee estate, you’ve reached an amazing place.
Lush rainforest landscapes are vibrant with mums, gladioli, lilies, baby breath, daisies and roses. Cows, goats, turkey, quail and chicken roam through grassy pastures. These are the creatures that Selva Negra’s 300+ year-round workers tend, cultivating them for meat, milk, cream and eggs for the estate’s restaurant and in the workers’ kitchens. Farm-generated methane and hydro-electric power from ponds fuel lights, stoves and classrooms.
“Our goal is to be self-sufficient in everything,” Eddy Kühl, who owns and oversees the estate along with his wife Mausi, told me. “We produce green coffee for export, roasted coffee, milk, cheese, hams, vegetables, poultry and eggs. We produce methane gas for cooking and have solar heaters. Our bottleneck was the expensive, national energy power, but recently we finished building our own hydroelectric power turbine, and we are looking forward to a wind-powered energy system.”
A leader in sustainable farming since 1975, the Selva Negra Estate is recognized for producing exceptional Rainforest Alliance coffee and for its work to spread sustainable farming practices around the world through its not-for-profit Selva Negra Community Foundation. The foundation, headed by Mausi Kühl, has been working with farmers in Nicaragua to reclaim land laid to waste by toxic pesticides, deforestation and unsustainable farming practices. To date, the Selva Negra Community Foundation has made a significant impact by providing free education, resources and on-site training. Visit selvanegracommunity.org to learn more.
Stockton Graham & Co. began working with the Selva Negra community several years ago. In 2013, our roasting team spent some time on the estate, where they explored organic farming, the estate’s milling process and the vast social, medical, educational, professional and cultural services Selva Negra provides estate workers and their families. During that visit, we provided estate management with insight on the US coffee market and consumer preferences, as well as donated computers, school books and more.
As we set our sights on Earth Day 2016, which is on Friday April 22, we’re appreciating truly sustainable coffees like our Nicaragua Selva Negra. “This is truly the most sustainable coffee farm I have ever visited,” said Brandon Riggs, roastmaster for Stockton Graham Coffees and Dilworth Coffee. “The Kühl’s commitment to the land, their coffee, and their people is inspiring and serves as an excellent example of what coffee culture can be – both at origin and for the end consumer.”
Truly sustainable coffee
It is grown using time-tested pesticide-free native Nicaraguan growing methods and boasts a Rainforest Alliance certification. Because the coffee is shade grown in the Matagalpa highlands, it is also bird friendly although it does not carry the official certification. However, it has been recognized by the Specialty Coffee Association for its sustainability practices, has received a Q Auction rating and the Rainforest Alliance Cupping for Quality Award.
Stockton Graham & Co. directly imports the coffee through Atlanta-based JavaVino. This small, independent business is run by Eddy and Mausi’s daughter, Heddy, her husband Steve and two sons. As the name suggests, JavaVino specializes in coffee and wine; but it also runs a café that serves breakfast, sandwiches and desserts, as well as event space for meetings, weddings and parties.
The care that everyone puts into growing, processing and importing Nicaragua Selva Negra Estate Coffee shines in the taste. Right from the start, brewed coffee emits the mouth-watering aroma of honey and caramel. Drinking the coffee is just as pleasurable. The cup’s creamy body is the perfect foundation for its milk chocolate flavors. As the coffee cools in the cup, you’ll begin to taste the depth of flavors from toasted caramel to sweet berry undertones.
This fine example of Nicaraguan coffee is also featured in our Grounds for Health Blend, which raises money for vital healthcare for women who work on coffee farms in Nicaragua, Peru and Ethiopia. Created in partnership with Grounds For Health, money raised from sale of the blend will provide cervical cancer screening and treatment to 15,000 women worldwide.
The best part of working at a coffee roastery is the morning. As you walk in, the aroma alone warms you. There’s no monotony in the ritual either, as there’s always something new in the roaster.
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.
We’ve grown a strong personal relationship with the Kuhl’s, the family that runs the Selva Negra farm in Nicaragua from which we source our beans. Over the past 15 years, we’ve visited the farm several times, donated books and clothing, and spent many fun times together at regional coffee events. On February 17th, one of the Kuhl family homes was destroyed by the fire, and a family member, Cody Anderson, did not survive. We would like to support the family in this very difficult time, and would encourage you to help them out, as well.
The family has setup the Cody Anderson Scholarship Fund to help honor Cody’s life, and to help create many wonderful opportunities out of this tragic accident. In addition to a corporate gift we will make to the fund, we will donate $5 for every 16 oz. retail unit of Selva Negra single origin coffee we sell on any of our online stores in March:
Selva Negra runs a private elementary school with 90 students, which Cody attended when he was a child. The goal of the scholarship is to assist in covering the educational costs at the farm associated with improving the school and sending their students on to high school and college. Supporting the children of Selva Negra, supports the circle of friends Cody had as a child, as well as their children.
Nicaragua Selva Negra is a unique variation on traditional Central American coffee. While many farms in Nicaragua utilize clear cutting techniques that allow for shorter growing cycles and more profit, the Selva Negra farm found near the Sierra Quirragua Nature Preserve approaches business with a more environmental attitude. The respect that the farm shows to the environment in Nicaragua, as well as the community, is second-to-none in the coffee industry.
Nicaragua is located north of Costa Rica and benefits greatly from a tropical climate. Rainforests naturally blanket the country, so coffee is not surprisingly the nation’s primary export. Nicaragua covers more land than any other Central American nation, but most of the country remains forested due to a low population. The highest peak, Volcán Momotombo, rises above Lake Managua on the western edge of the country. This active stratovolcano fuels a geothermal power plant, which provides most of the electricity for the capital city of Managua.
The Selva Negra farm is located north east of Volcán Momotombo and has been there for well over one hundred years. The farm itself is part of a larger mountain resort that is entirely self-sustaining. Local Nicaraguans who work on the farm are provided with housing, doctors, schools for their children and scholarship opportunities. The level of respect provided for the locals contributes to the prosperity of the Selva Negra plantation, and improves the quality of our world. Selva Negra farmers also follow strict standards of shade growing, which leave rainforest and animal habitat intact. This varietal is wet processed like most Central American coffee, highlighting a caramel and honey flavor which is balanced by moderate acidity and a full creamy body.
Limited quantity available! This coffee can be a special holiday offering for any shop. Available in 5 pound bulk or 12 oz. retail cases. Order today!
AROMA: Honey, Caramel BODY: Medium, Creamy FLAVOR: Mild Sweetness, Balanced ACIDITY: Lingering AFTERTASTE: Very Pleasant – Sweet