ØNSK i Nicaragua - kaffebønder

Are you curious to learn a little more about the coffee from the Corcasan cooperative, then we have collected some robbery stories from our visit to Corcasan.

Welcome to San Juan del Río Coco!

The Corcasan cooperative is located in northern Nicaragua in the Madriz region. To get there, you have to drive 2 hours along winding mountain roads, which become narrower and more uneven the further into the rainforest you get. Eventually you arrive in the town of San Juan del Río Coco which is a lying spot located in a valley surrounded by mountains. In the city there live about 20,000 people and in the middle of the city there is a warehouse building that says: Corcasan.

Corcasan is a cooperative, which means that it is a cooperative of coffee farmers who are all co-owners of the cooperative. The cooperative has an administration and a management that handles the logistics and sales of the total amount of coffee that the members produce. There are 217 coffee farms that are part of the Corcasan cooperative, and they are all located in the mountains that surround San Juan del Río Coco.

The cooperative consists of both larger and smaller farms, but in general there are many very small farms. For example, Lizandro Alvir has a farm of 0.35 hectares where he produces about 300 kilos of coffee, while Onelia Hernandez has the largest farm in the cooperative of 21 hectares, where she produces about 21 tons of coffee. The average farm is 3.7 hectares.

The coffee from Corcasan was actually the first coffee we bought when we started ØNSK back in 2017. We were given the opportunity to buy a small batch of a few hundred kilos, which we could try to sell at home. The coffee from Corcasan was a hit, and from there ØNSK and our collaboration with Corcasan grew to the point that from the autumn of 2020 we will buy 26,500 kilos of organic coffee, corresponding to almost 3 million cups of coffee.

Corcasan’s Vice President Edwin, who is our partner in the administration, is also the coach of the local senior football team that plays in the national 3rd division in Nicaragua. The team that loosely translated means “The Mechanical Oranges – San Juan del Río Coco” is sponsored by WISH, where we sponsor jerseys, training equipment and their registration in the league. They are some wildly cool boys and we are very proud that they won 4th division last year and moved up in the 3rd division.

Full-bodied organic coffees from Corcasan

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Why a cooperative?

The idea of being part of a cooperative consists of several different things:

Access to a larger market – When you have a small coffee farm that does not produce thousands of sacks, it can be really difficult to sell your coffee at a price that is fair and reflects the quality of the coffee. It is typical that neither the coffee farmer nor the buyer has any idea of how to quality test a coffee, and it is therefore, at best, sold at the current market price (which is currently very low) or often even lower than that. It will typically be the case that the coffee farmer sells the coffee down town in the local market, or if you can not transport the coffee, at the garden gate to the coffee farm with a “coffee for sale” sign. It is a tough market, full of traders and speculators who buy when the market price is low, and sell when the price is high, and the coffee farmer is always the loser in that trade.

Therefore, a cooperative makes really good sense for the small coffee farmers. As mentioned, Lazando Avir produces just 300 kilos of coffee, but through Corcasan, the 300 kilos are included in a pool of 755,000 kilos of coffee which he helps to sell. Therefore, his own 300 kilos are quality controlled, sorted and traded on a professional level for companies such as WISH, other roasteries and major importers around the world. This guarantees Lazando a price that reflects the quality he produces, which will typically be 50-100% above what he could otherwise sell his coffee for.

Ecology – It is also worth mentioning that even though the coffee is produced organically, it requires a certification to sell coffee organically. Such a certification costs almost DKK 20,000, which is completely unrealistic for a small coffee farmer to pay. However, Corcasan has purchased such a certificate as a common entity, and they can therefore sell all the coffee as organic under the same certificate. There is a great demand for organic coffee, especially in Europe, and therefore the coffee farmer gets around DKK 4 extra per kilo of coffee when it is certified organic.

Financing – Here really comes one of the biggest challenges as a coffee farmer. When you produce crops that only give a return once a year, you will have to find a way to finance your harvest so that you can afford to pay pickers and the other costs that are in maintenance during the year. Many coffee farms use the banks to take out loans, but this is virtually impossible for a small coffee producer, and if it were to succeed, it would be at an interest rate of around 50% per year. This is due to the great uncertainty that lies in whether the harvest fails and whether the banks dare to trust the individual farmer’s willingness to pay the money back.

When you instead gather in a cooperative, you spread the risk, and you have a professional management that makes the banks more willing to provide wages at lower interest rates. In this way, Corcasan ensures that the farms have the opportunity to finance their harvest.

Education – It is in the interest of both the cooperative and the individual farmer to raise the quality of the coffee, as quality = higher price. Therefore, part of the money paid to Corcasan is set aside in a development account. This money is used to build facilities and hold courses and training courses. For example, they are taught how to best trim shade trees, when it is best to fertilize, and how to ensure that only the fully ripe coffee berries are picked. In addition, the pool is also used to help individual farms in case of acute problems, such as a wet mill that has broken down, so they can quickly move on with production.

We at ØNSK think this is very cool, and it is also something that benefits us, as we only buy the coffee Corcasan produces of high quality.


The women of Corcasan

One thing that we find really inspiring about Corcasan is that they make a huge effort for the local community in the city, and especially for the women. It is important to point out that Nicaragua as a country is a completely different place than Denmark in terms of women’s rights and gender equality. It is not normal for women to own land, or hold senior jobs. They will typically be homemakers or help out on the farm caring for children and cooking.

Corcasan was started back in the 70s, as a project carried out by a Dutch NGO that wanted to promote independence among women. Therefore, they bought some land that was suitable for coffee production and gave it to a group of women who could start a coffee production. Here they were taught coffee growing and ecology. Today, the cooperative has grown to have both male and female-owned coffee farms, with women making up 84 of the 217 coffee farms in Corcasan – which is quite high considering how “abnormal” it is to meet female farm owners.

At ØNSK, we think it is a great project, and it is something we would like to work on developing together with Corcasan. Also because Corcasan can clearly see that the farms owned by women are getting a bigger yield and have had clearly more growth over the years. We can not fully prove why this is the case, but from our own experience, one explanation could be that the women of Nicaragua think more about the future and the family, which motivates them to save up and develop on the farm, rather than using each one Cordoba (the local currency) they have in their pocket here and now, which may be a trend among some male coffee farmers…


The taste

The coffee from Corcasan is a classic Nicaragua coffee, which is also the reason why it is clearly our most popular coffee on the web shop. The taste is strong and full-bodied, and it really comes through when you taste it. You can find taste notes of especially creamy dark chocolate, with a hint of pecans.

The coffee is well suited for you who want a full and powerful cup of coffee without too much acidity and fruitiness. It is also very good with milk in it, as the coffee taste permeates well, and gives a good balance in, for example, a latte.

We hope it has been exciting to learn a little more about coffee, and we hope you enjoyed tasting a cup of Corcasan coffee from the rainforest of San Juan del Rio Coco. You can find the dark roasted Corcasan coffee here, the medium roasted Corcasan coffee here and coffee capsules here.

ØNSK recommends these products from Corcasan

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