We travelled to Nicaragua, Central America this winter to visit the Estate which produces our 'Direct-trade La Bastilla'. We have a long standing relationship with the owner of the estate and this gave us the opportunity to not only see where our coffee comes from and meet the workers who produce these wonderful beans but also to meet the three students we sponsor through the ‘teach a man to fish’ education charity.
Once picked, the beans must be graded and processed. First, the beans have to be pulped to remove the fruit and mucilage from them (all of the excess goes straight in their compost and is used on the next crop of beans)
Next they are washed through to a holding tank where they're soaked
Once cleaned and all of the pulp has been removed, the beans are dried. Some coffee growers will dry their beans out in the sun, turning every forty five minutes for five days: others will send them to be dried in a huge central hub At La Bastilla the beans are dried in huge warm vats (see below) that are periodically rotated for even drying.
Below you can see La Bastilla's new grading room where machinery is now being used to remove parchment and grade beans, saving them the long and arduous job of doing it all by hand
A tasting session of La Bastilla's most recent crop (and yes, the view out of the window is real!)
A very humbling part of the visit was meeting the students whose education we sponsor from the age of 13 to 18, when they are awarded their baccalaureate.
Each of the students must apply for and attend an interview, pass an entrance exam and show the correct attitude towards their education before being accepted by the school
The funding we provide helps to pay for teaching staff, accomodation and food for both the students and staff as well as resources for the school.
The majority of people in Nicaragua live in very basic accomodation with no electricity or water and most are unable to attend school. La Bastilla is the first coffee farm to introduce this type of education system. It aims to provide the children with the tools to go into farming, hospitality or further their education at university
A house in one of the neighbouring villages
Dormitories on the estate
Lots of children are desperate to attend school at the estate, some come because it is one less mouth to feed for their family. Others have parents who work picking coffee and one of the student's mother is the cook at the ecolodge. The standard of living accommodation at La Bastilla is luxurious in comparison to the average Nicaraguan home.
We were shown their vegetable patch which provides them with fresh produce for the ecolodge's restaurant and for themselves. We also saw the tomato tents, the chickens that they rear from eggs and the eggs that they pack and sell to the locals. Also, the cows whose milk they use to make a cheese similar to feta (which they also sell).
We saw their classrooms which were kitted out with microscopes, chemical testing kits and foods charts in order to learn about healthy living.
It really was very humbling to meet these incredibly happy and grateful students. You can view their progress reports on our La Bastilla students page