Monthly Archives: March 2013

Central America Sourcing Trip 2013: Nicaragua

Fincas Mierisch!

Fincas Mierisch!

Heading south from San Salvador to Nicaragua, we boarded a bus to Sébaco near Matagalpa. We arrived late and nearly frostbitten from the unnaturally strong AC of the old, sin-wifi bus.  A kind man and employee of the Mierisch’s named Jairo brought us back to the family’s homestead near their dry mill. The next morning we met some new friends from Australia who were also traveling to source coffee and caught up with Eleane and her father about this year’s harvest.  Like many farmers in C. America, they faced challenges with the fungus ‘rust,’ which is affecting quality and yield.  Because of their aggressive pruning techniques and intensive fertilization, however, they have fared better than most.

From the house we drove up to the dry mill and cupping lab, where Erwin Jr. joined us to taste four tables full of coffees.  Two lots stood out for specific purposes on our menu: a creamy, chocolately sweet lot from Finca Placeres for our espresso blend and a vibrant, jammy lot from Finca San Jose for our single origin lineup.


Jack Kelly, Ladro CEO, at the cupping lab near Matagalpa


Eleane holds court in the lab

Dana from Zoka chatting with Erwin Sr. on the balcony overlooking the beneficio

Dana from Zoka chatting with Erwin Sr. on the balcony overlooking the beneficio

From the lab we hopped in a Hilux and headed for a much needed lunch and cerveza before winding up to visit Finca San Jose.


San Jose is a plush, vibrant farm that sits on a perch over Lake Apenas; on a clear day, beyond the lake the view is an amazing outline of mountains and rolling hills as far as the eye can see.


Our new friend Armando, a Colombian living in Australia and working for Numero Uno


View from Finca San Jose overlooking Lake Apenas


Finca San Jose near Jinotega, Nicaragua


Blossoming at Finca Escondida

We’d like to extend an extra special thanks to all the folks behind Fincas Mierisch for their hospitality and hard work.  Can’t wait to feature your coffees and celebrate your craft in our cafes in the coming months!


Erwin Jr and Sr, Jack, Eleane, Jared

Also, stay tuned for their upcoming auction:

and check out their new website, full of all kinds of information:

-Jared Linzmeier

Central American Sourcing Trip 2013: El Salvador

Coming back to El Salvador this year felt like a homecoming and a visit to a dear friend; the people and places have become familiar and intimate.

Our major project here is with the Ortiz, Mendez family who own Finca Talnamica and Natamaya; we’ve been in close contact with them for the past year discussing our plan for this year’s harvest. Our approach for 2012-13 has been to separate out as many lots as possible so that we can cup through the harvest and identify plots and lots of coffee that are exceptional. We’ve teamed up with Emilio Lopez of Cuatro M to facilitate the processing, lot tracking, and dry milling. As a result, the coffees this year are scoring higher and have better depth and complexity.

Beyond securing high quality lots, our aim for working directly with producers is to do our part to help coffee communities and to give back to those who make our delicious beverage possible.  To that end, we’ll be launching a program this year in our cafes where $1 per bag of Natamaya coffee will go directly to a foundation to aid the community Canton Ojo de Agua.  The remote community has a small school and we hope to help them convert the neighboring plot from a dry, uneven dirt field to a nice soccer field for the kids.  As the project evolves, we’ll keep posting updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Here are some pictures from our travels in El Sal:

Morning coffee up at the Finca Talnamica farm house

Farm manager Miguel Angel

Farm manager Miguel Angel of Talnamica


The beautiful Finca Talnamica farmhouse where we stayed for several days.

Nursery at Talnamica

Beautiful natural shading over the nursery at Talnamica

Driving through Juayua on our way to Cuatro M and Natamaya

The ‘curtains’ used as windbreakers in El Sal

In Rene Linares’s garden near Finca Natamaya. Rene is a powerhouse for helping the community move forward and was extremely hospitable and gracious during our visit.

The man behind Cuatro M beneficio and Finca El Manzano, Emilio Lopez, looks over his farm as he talks with us about our project.

Bathrooms by the school in Canton Ojo de Agua by Natamaya.

The site we plan to help convert to a soccer field.

One of my biggest takeaway feelings from El Salvador has been how hard-working, kind and compassionate the people are.

At Talnamica, Tita overees the home and cooking, but for us she also did so much more.  I came down with a stomach bug on Sunday and she looked after my every need to make sure I recovered quickly.  She also washed our clothes and boiled water for us to bathe with.  I decided to start calling her ‘Tía Tita,’ which means ‘Aunt Tita’ in Spanish because she’s just so amazing (she’s also one hell of a cook).

At Cuatro M Emilio and his staff let us into their space and assured us time and time again that it was our house to use as we needed.  I roasted 27 batches on his roaster, his staff Jasmin and Diego set up cuppings for us, Emilio gave us his precious time to tour the facility and chat with us about our goals and ideas.  I’m so grateful for their hospitality; our trip wouldn’t have been the same without it.

Mayita, daughter of Herman and Nena Ortiz who own Finca Natamaya, spent all 5 of our El Sal days with us visiting farms, helping us navigate, and sharing her homes with us.  We wrapped up our stay in El Sal with a beautiful day at the beach at her aunt’s house that replenished our energy and further cemented our friendship and professional bond.

Great quality, sustainable coffee is all about collaboration and cooperation.  So many things have to line up for the harvest to work well, for people to remain happy, and for everyone to see the common goal.  I’m so grateful for our producer partners here and can’t wait to share their hard work with our customers and staff.

-Jared Linzmeier

Director of Coffee

Central America Sourcing Trip 2013: Costa Rica

We’re in Costa Rica now at Exclusive Coffees and I’m taking a break to share an update with you all.  In the background some of our fellow travelers and new friends from Japan are cupping through a table of samples.  Loud slurping noises zip away as they aspirate coffee across their palates and acquaint themselves with the samples.  Legendary producer and pioneer of micro milling Antonio Barrantes is sitting across from me.  Downstairs a row of women are taking a break from hand sorting coffee in the dry mill and are sitting outside chatting over a cup of coffee.  This week we’ve cupped over 100 samples and visited roughly 20 micro mills and farms as well, shaking hands with our producer partners and understanding their hard work.  It’s rewarding and inspiring to meet their children, visit their homes, and share meals with them.


In order of amounts of mucilage left on prior to drying, from less to more:
fully washed, yellow honey, gold honey, red honey, black honey.
Here we also see an example of a natural with the cherry intact and an example of lower vs. higher density seeds

We arrived Monday morning and got straight down to business on the cupping table.  By noon we had already tasted roughly thirty coffees from almost as many farms and we took a break to talk about the ‘micro mill revolution’ happing in Costa, coffee ‘rust’ plaguing many countries now, and some of the nuances of ‘honey’ processing (particularly Costa’s variations).

The micro mill revolution is a movement of more producers toward controlling and understanding all aspects of their coffee from plant to cherry to dry seed.  They can decide for themselves how to wash, clean, and dry the coffee to create a taste and profile of their choosing.

The mill represents a significant investment of time and money, so not all producers are able to take this giant step.  The results, however, can be stunning, and the network of producers here processing their own coffee has led to a strong community of artisans and an amazing range of taste.

As you can see in the picture above, honey processed coffee–or coffee with some mucilage left on prior to drying–can take on a variety of colors according to the percentage of mucilage.  Coffees with more mucilage appear darker because of the higher sugar content drying on the parchment.  In the cup, black honey coffees will typically have bigger body and sweetness and less intense acidity than washed or gold honey processed coffees.  These terms and practices have only very recently come into use as a result of closer roaster/producer relationships.  We’ve seen lots of other developments at the farm level with drying, varietal planting, and so on also as a result of collaboration between roasters, producers, and some of the other critical roles in the supply chain like the folks at Exclusive.


Cupping at Francisco Mena and Juan Ramone’s Exclusive Coffees lab


Juan Ramone of Exclusive talks with Jack Kelly (Ladro CEO) and the core group of a producer association we’re hoping to work with in Costa Rica’s Central Valley.


Coffee kid! At Sin Limites micro mill in the West Valley.


Beautiful African style raised, covered beds in West Valley at the famous Helsar de Zarcero.



Soccer field at the edge of the world. Tarrazu, Costa Rica

In 2012 I was able to to attend the Costa Rica Cup of Excellence, where I tasted some of the country’s most beautiful coffees and was able to meet some of the outstanding people involved in the coffee community there.  The CoE really did a standup job of keeping us extremely busy, ensuring we would have our minds blown and stay out of trouble.  This year Jack and I are back to Costa as part of our 2013 Central America coffee sourcing trip.  We’re extremely excited about the relationships we’ve been able to forge this week and believe they have the potential to last long term.  We believe in the importance of sharing their hard work with our customers and staff, so stay tuned in the coming months as we feature some of these producers’ coffees for you all in our cafes and online.

Salud from Costa Rica!

-Jared Linzmeier

Director of Coffee

PS: This is our first leg then we’re on to El Salvador, Nicaragua, and finally Honduras.  Please follow along here on our blog as well.  Also tweet questions to Jared @ladroroasting