Finca Las Neives Visit
Date of Visit: 17 May 2019

 

As an extension of the Mexican trip, we joined a few other roasters to a trip to Finca Las Nieves. The coffee farm is located in a cloud forest in the middle of nowhere in the Sierra Madre Oriental. Nieves means snow in Spanish.

A minibus was rented by Caravela and two other roasters and Frida Caravela’s Mexican Q-grader (as a translator) were taken to the farm. We have actually bought coffee from this farm and had sold it in 2015. It was a small lot that won CoE. So we were interested in visiting.

The farm was just over 2 hours outside Puerto Escondido where the Aromas auction had been.

Once we got there, it became clear that language was a big issue. Luckily once we returned to Puerto Escondido, I bumped into Gustav, who is one of three owners, and he corrected some of the facts.

The Farm

The farm had been abandoned when Gustav and his three partners bought the farm. Very few of the original trees are still productive, and so a long term plan was put in place. The basics of it were to use the biodiversity of the existing farm, which is essentially mainly indigenous forest.

Stats:

  • Farm size: 200 ha – of which 60 is coffee.
  • Latitude: 16°10′ N
  • Year 2018 production was 300 bags, this year they are estimating 350 bags (60kg per bag)
  • All processing is done on the farm, and milling is performed at Puerto Escondido, where they have a coffee shop of the same name.
  • All coffee is under a canopy of the natural and diverse forest they want to plant in low density with a number of cultivars.

Almost all the coffee produced on the farm is used by the coffee shop in town, with only a few separated unique lots being offered to auctions and competitions to promote the name of the farm. Last year the farm came first in Aromas.

Felix is the farm manager, he already had another tour booked so could not take us. Instead, his assistant did with his trusty panga, which acted more as a walking stick than anything else.

Coffee on the farm

Since the farm is a natural forest, they keep all things natural. They use copper to spray the plants to prevent Royo (coffee rust) and Borca (bora) – you can read more about these on our post on rust, borca and fumagina…

First, we visited their nursery. Here all the seedling are grown, and when strong enough (between 9 and 14 months old typically) they are then planted in designated areas in the forest. Once we visited the nursery, we took a gentle 3 km hike through the farm, starting at the processing area. We climbed around 150m hiking through what appears to be a totally natural and sparsely planted forest, past the waterfall called Las Nieves and then returning to the drying patio. During the hike, we saw several cultivars including Maragogype, Pacamara, SL28, Typica and Geisha.

Video of what we saw

Harvest, Processes and Worms

All the none Geisha cultivars they harvest between Nov and Feb. The Geisha starts around March. They use around 60 local pickers, and the cherries are transported back to the processing area via donkey.
The drying patio is now used to lay out the raised drying beds. They started using these about seven years ago, allowing for better quality and consistency in the drying. They have experimented with a number of processes on the farm from washed to the different honeys and natural.
We then visited their large worm farms. They collect none citrus fruit and veg from the town market, use the excess items from the farm and feed the worms with these. The worm farms are on a concrete bed that is angled, so the worm juice collects into a channel, where it is stored in a tank for them to use as required. There were about a dozen of these large worm farms that feed the juice “river”. The resultant compost and juice are used in nursery and the farm.

Commentary

The visit to this farm reminded me of Ethiopia. The natural forest is the dominant feature of the farm. Coffee trees are more or less left to grow naturally in a sparsely designed layout. They seem to have adopted a methodology of only interfering when required. Like spraying with copper 30 days before the blossoming is expected and using their own compost and worm juice. While the trees looked healthy, their produciton seemed quite low, especially in comparison to what we saw at Caravela’s Belgravia textbook farm.

You can read more about the farm and actually stay there read more on glamping.com.

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