Special Project: Nicaraguan Cupping Labs

“What’s at stake here for small farmers like myself is not only the quality of our product, but also our environment, and as a result, the quality of our lives.”
-Byron Corrales - Nicaraguan Coffee Grower & Vice President of Cafenica coffee grower’s Co-op

Growing enough beans for even a single cup of specialty coffee requires a tremendous amount of passion, expertise and hard work. Thanksgiving Coffee Co. invests an equal amount of time and creativity in supporting the dreams and ambitions of their coffee-growing partners. It is a relationship founded on trust, and strengthened by action.

In 2000, CEO Paul Katzeff proposed a visionary and innovative plan for improving the quality of coffee production. Most small coffee farmers have little idea about the quality of the beans that they grow. They don’t have access to facilities to test the quality, and have never even tasted coffee brewed from their own beans. They grow only for the wholesale market with prices often determined arbitrarily by distant buyers.

This blatant disconnect between coffee growers and consumers has not only produced many bad cups of coffee, but has marginalized these farmer-artisans. Katzeff’s solution to this dilemma was to build coffee “cupping” labs for farmer co-ops by bringing together a unique coalition of nine coffee farmer cooperatives in Nicaragua with the Interamerican Institute for Agricultural Cooperation (IICA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

USAID provided the financial backing with a grant of US$300,000. And under Thanksgiving’s leadership, each of the nine cooperatives built sophisticated facilities in which to roast and taste (or “cup”) their coffee beans. The process is intricate, with multi-faceted scientific aspects, comparable to wine tasting. These nine co-ops collectively represent:
  • 6000 coffee farmers
  • 15% of all Nicaraguan coffee farmers
  • 100% of all Nicaraguan Fair Trade Certified coffee
  • 95% of all Nicaraguan certified Organic coffee

    The timing of this project dovetailed with the devastating plummet of world coffee prices – now at a 30 year low. The quality improvements resulting from this initiative have enabled farmers involved in the Cupping Lab Project to fare much better during the economic downturn than many of their colleagues. These farmers are now able to sell an exponentially larger percentage of their coffee at higher premiums.

    Participating farmers have received top honors in international quality cupping competitions, and one cupping lab ‘cupper’ was recently rated as one the best in the world.

    See the coffeereview.com's analysis of our "Nicaraguan Maragogipe Light Roast" for an example of some of the fabulous coffee that is coming out of this project.


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