Nicaragua, Coffee and Volcanoes

The coffee of Central America varies about as much as the individual countries. The cooler temperatures of the uplands in Guatemala and Costa Rica offer mild, deep coffees whereas the more arid climates of the lowlands in Mexico and Belize give us the sharper more bold flavors in coffee.

But, then there is Nicaragua.

Ah, Nicaragua; the beautiful country that is bordered by both the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean has everything from rainforests to mountains, sandy beaches and volcanic lakes. Nicaragua is an agricultural country, with more than 45% of the population employed in agricultural positions.

And then there is the coffee!

Nicaraguan Coffee

Nicaraguan coffee surpasses expectations, with different varieties coming from different regions, making up for 1/4 of the Gross National Product. Throughout the late 19th century, coffee production in Central America flourished due to the rich volcanic soils, the moist Pacific rains, and the vast rainforest dotting the land.

The success of coffee growth in these regions made coffee production an economic mainstay, providing and export system that had never before been seen in Post-Contact Central America. To deal properly with the growing exportation of coffee, railroads and roads were developed in order to allow for greater and more efficient movement between plantations and ports.

Coffee, along with bananas and sugarcane, became the leading exports well into the 1950s, when the establishment of the Central American Common Market in 1960 drew foreign investors eyes to countries like Nicaragua. These new investment opportunities resulted in modern highway systems that allowed for land links between Central American countries and America, one of the largest importers of Central American coffee.

Improved Infrastructure

These new highways lessened the cost of exporting coffee and the hassles of the ocean export system that waned under the drive for faster shipping. Nicaragua saw a coffee explosion following these developments, encouraging farmers to maintain coffee plantations in rural areas.

As more farmers turned to coffee, more investors urged the clear-cutting of rainforests. Mixed with growing political tensions in the country, Nicaragua, like many Central American countries, began to suffer the Cup O' Joe blues. Coffee had helped to put Nicaragua on Westerners' maps and coffee was aiding in Nicaragua's demise.

Environmental Awareness

Recently, farmers have begun to take their coffee crops to the uplands of Matagalpa and Jinotega, where the rich volcanic soil and moist high elevation provide perfect growing conditions. With a growing awareness of the environment, the need for natural fauna, and the understanding of all the rainforests have to offer, many of these farmers are practicing shade-grown growing techniques.

As Nicaragua moves into the 21st century, so has the coffee production. In a matter of a few years, Central American countries, led by the example of Nicaraguan farmers, will provide high-quality coffee grown in proud, environmentally safe methods.

Recipe: Vanilla Yogurt Tops



Combine coffee, vanilla, and sugar well. Stir in milk and then chill for 15 minutes in refrigerator. Pour 1 Cup of coffee into each serving glass and top with 1-2 tablespoons vanilla frozen yogurt. Serve immediately.

Serves 10