From a country bursting with both natural resources and cultural heritage, Nicaraguan coffee is one of the top regionals available on the market. From massive portions of shade-grown products to the dominance of fair trade cooperatives and even a not-so-little something called elephant beans, these coffees have a lot to offer.
Notes on Nicaragua
The year 1796 saw the first coffee plant take hold in Nicaraguan soil; however, large-scale coffee production did not begin until the 1850s. Over the next century and a half, while the coffee industry remained one of the cornerstones of the Nicaraguan economy, it has certainly seen some ups and downs.
Quality suffered as government emphasis shifted towards quantity in crop yields, damaging the overall reputation of the Nicaraguan beans. Additionally, the ongoing sociopolitical tensions across the country often disrupt production. On top of internal factors, external factors, such as natural disasters and U.S. interference, have also impeded the success of the Nicaraguan coffee industry.
Despite these challenges, Nicaraguan coffee farmers have remained tenacious, and they have been able to more or less maintain the successful production of high-quality coffee products.
Best Nicaraguan Coffee
So what coffees have come out on top of Nicaragua’s coffee industry? Let’s take a look at our picks for the best Nicaraguan coffee:
Volcanica Organic Nicaragua Coffee
To start with a tried and true coffee brand, let’s talk about Volcanica’s organic coffee from Nicaragua. Their beans are from the Selva Negra Estate in the Matagalpa region and are grown at exceptionally high altitudes (between 1350-1470 feet above sea level).
As a result of their careful cultivation, the brew has a great body and clean flavor, with notes of chocolate, subtle lemon, plum, and honey. The acidity is notably mild and sweet in these medium roasted beans with just a slight briskness.
Good Morning Coffee Supply Nicaragua Light Roast
Our next choice is a relatively new face to the coffee market: Good Morning Coffee. With just over 30 years of slow-roasting experience, this Los Angeles based brand exclusively deals in high-quality single-origin coffees.
This Nicaraguan coffee is a light roast with a surprising depth of flavor. You can catch notes of dark chocolate above hints of citrus encased in an enticing floral aroma.
Tiny Footprint Coffee Nicaragua Segovia
Looking for a brand of Nicaraguan coffee that puts sustainability as its top priority? Consider this offering from Tiny Footprint Coffee. They are the first carbon-negative coffee brand, plus their coffee is both fair trade and USDA organic certified.
This coffee is a 100% shade-grown, dark roast Arabica with notes of chocolate combined with rich Nicaraguan flavors such as apricot, fig, and spice. The delightful depth of this brew is a classic example of the distinctive Nueva Segovia profile.
Cafe Bristol Coffee
If you’d prefer something a little lighter, you can check out Café Bristol’s Light Roast Nicaraguan coffee. This is another single-origin coffee and it is 100% Arabica with no additives or GMOs. Cafe’s Bristol’s products are Rainforest Alliance and UTZ certified.
In terms of flavor, you can expect a mild, clean cup with a smooth, bright flavor and balanced acidity. This is a preground coffee with a medium grind, so it’s perfect if you are brewing with your go-to drip brewer or percolator.
Climb’s Roast Nicaraguan coffee
Last but not least, we have Climb’s Roast Nicaraguan coffee. This is a great choice if you are looking for something middle-of-the-road when it comes to roast, acidity, and body.
This cup has notes of apricot and chocolate alongside hints citrusy lemon and lime. These are 100% Arabica beans that are organic, Rainforest Alliance, and Fair Trade certified.
As with any country that produces large coffee exports, you will find an immense amount of variation across the different regions of Nicaragua. However, there are a few notable throughlines in terms of flavor and feel to be aware of.
Most Nicaraguan coffee beans will have a smooth, medium-bodied brew with bright acidity. These brews tend to be crisp, with a fruity snap. On the other hand, the aroma tends to have a more caramel or chocolate tinged sweetness to it with subtle hints of citrus thrown in there.
If you are familiar with other regional coffee variances, you’ll notice that this profile is much different from other Central American coffees. Beans from Guatemala, Costa Rica, Belize, and Honduras all tend towards more rich, full-bodied brews with prominent chocolatey profiles (though there are variances in there).
On the other hand, the light, balanced and bright Nicaraguan coffee brews with decidedly fruity turns tend to be more similar to Ethiopian flavor profiles. That’s pretty interesting considering the two regions are on entirely different continents. It goes to show you how every little growing factor can dramatically affect the final brew.
There are several prominent growing regions across the North, Central, and Western regions of Nicaragua. While coffee is grown in numerous areas (including Managua (Granada), Esteli, and Madriz), we’re going to focus on the regions that are known for producing some of the higher quality coffees.
The majority of Nicaraguan coffee is Jinotega coffee, so chances are if you’ve tried coffee grown in Nicaragua before it was Jinotegan. The department of Jinotega is located in the Northcentral region of the country and boasts nutrient-rich volcanic soil and a humid, tropical climate–perfect for high-quality coffee production!
In addition to these generally favorable growing conditions, many Jinotega growers also produce their coffees at high altitudes (between 1,100 and 1,700 meters). Furthermore, these Nicaraguan beans are often shade-grown under banana or mango trees (though some lack the official Shade-grown certification).
Similar to Jinotega, the Matagalpa region is abundant in volcanic soil accompanied by other advantageous growing conditions such as a tropical, shade-heavy climate and high-altitudes (between 1,000 and 1,400 meters). This department is also located in the Northcentral region, directly south of Jinotega.
You may also come across references to Matagalpa under the terms “Pearl of the North” or “Land of Eternal Spring.” The region consists of a number of estates and cooperatives. Also, while Matagalpa, Nicaragua coffee production hasn’t quite reached the scope of Jinotega, it is known for being quite high-quality.
The last major regional coffee to discuss is Nicaragua Segovia, also known as Nueva Segovia. Also located in the northern region of Nicaragua, Nueva Segovia’s coffee is typically grown between 1,000 and 1,400 meters.
This variety is known for its almond-nougat-like sweetness with fruity overtones and subtle notes of chocolate. Unfortunately, Nueva Segovia is significantly harder to come across on the global coffee marketplace than either Jinotega or Matagalpa coffee.
Now, Maragogype is not actually a region in Nicaragua. Instead, it is a specific variety of coffee in Nicaragua derived from the Typica varietal of Arabica. Commonly known as Elephant Beans due to their impressively large leave and cherry size (as well as the resultingly large green coffee beans).
Maragogype beans originated in Brazil and now thrive in the highlands of Nicaragua between 2000 and 2500 feet above sea level. These Elephant Beans are not particularly abundant; however, they are pretty highly sought after.
They boast a bright acidity with a nicely balanced body and crisp, clean taste. These are typically sold as a medium roast to bring out the best of the well-rounded cup and regional variances. Though we should note that opinions on these beans vary pretty widely, from “best coffee in the world” to “disappointingly underwhelming.”
Maragogype whole bean coffee is perfect for grinding up and preparing as a cold brew, as the Typica varietal gives them an increased boost of flavor depth and the lower acidity of the brew method allows the unique profile to shine.
How to Brew it
One of the best features of Nicaraguan coffee is its versatility. You absolutely cannot go wrong going for an Americano or Long Black brewed with Nicaraguan coffee beans. However, our favorite brewing method for these beans is actually cold brew.
Cold brewing Nicaraguan coffee dampens its acidic edge and allows you to fully enjoy their rich, wine-line notes. Just serve over ice and savor the perfect balance of flavor in the perfect summer beverage.
Additionally, you can use Nicaraguan coffee for other espresso-based beverages. Medium roast and dark roasted beans especially can pair even with milk-based drinks without having their flavor drowned by the dairy.
There you have it! Despite the numerous challenges Nicaragua has and continues to face, their coffee industry remains a strong contender even on gourmet coffee markets.
Next time you are in the mood for an impressive cold brew or Americano, consider checking out a coffee grown in Nicaragua to mix up your brewing routine. Whether its a classic Jintega or an adventurous Elephant bean blend, who knows? Nicaraguan coffee beans might just be the best coffee for your brew!