Both international coffee merchants and café-turistas can travel a circuit of coffee cooperatives scattered through the mountains of Jinotega, Matagalpa, and the Segovias. As a participant in this Ruta de Café, you can sample coffee in special cupping labs and visit coffee-growing families and their farms, which are often enchanting cloud forests shrouded in cool mists. Stay for a couple of hours or a couple of days, living and eating meals with the families, picking coffee, and learning about all stages of the process. You’ll even learn what organic, bird-friendly, and fair trade-certified coffees are (visit www.fairtradeusa.org and www.globalexchange.org for details).

Coffee ready for roasting at a cooperative. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Coffee ready for roasting at a cooperative. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

As a participant in this Ruta de Café you can sample coffee in special cupping labs and visit coffee-growing families and their farms, which are often enchanting cloud forests shrouded in cool mists.To experience the most activity, arrange your visit during the peak of the harvest, usually mid-December-February, when you’ll see rows and rows of freshly harvested coffee drying in the sun along the highway to Matagalpa. Make your arrangements in advance with the ecotourism project of the UCA-San Ramón (in front of the central park in San Ramón, tel. 505/2772-4478, turismo@ucasanramon.com). They can arrange anything from an afternoon coffee cupping at CECOCAFEN’s Sol Café beneficio (coffee-processing mill; $7 pp) to a day trip, visiting some of their farmers, to a multi-night excursion, staying in campesino homes and touring farms (or even putting some work in during the harvest). Trips include transportation and food, and hikes (with pick-ups) can be arranged between towns. Prices fully depend on the trip. Or consider a stay at Finca Esperanza Verde (outside San Ramón), an acclaimed accommodation and working organic coffee farm.

In Jinotega, SOPPEXCA (Society of Small Coffee Producers, Exporters, and Buyers, 1 block west of the Ferretería Blandón, tel. 505/2782-2617, soppexcc@tmx.com.ni) is eager to serve as your tour guide of the region, arranging any number of hikes, trips, and homestays among its growers in the surrounding hills. Their office and cupping lab is located in Jinotega. (This co-op of 15 families sells to brands Peet’s Coffee and Sustainable Harvest in the United States.)

There are several welcoming coffee cooperatives in the hills north of Estelí with similar tours available.


Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Nicaragua.