Fratello just returned from another origin trip to continue our expansion and work with developing our Direct Trade coffee program. As we have mentioned before, our goal is to source our coffee this way when ever possible. It is a work in progress which will also include increased selections of Rainforest Alliance, Organic and Fair-trade Organic coffees. Direct Trade allows Fratello to source the best and most unique coffee lots before they are sold and blended with other lots at Cooperative which most farmers use. Through this practice Fratello pays our farmers 25%-35% more than what Fair-trade premiums would have paid them.
This time it was Russ, Jason and Angela Prefontaine who traveled to Nicaragua to visit Erwin Mierisch and his family. What an amazing journey this was. It was not only educational visiting 5 different farms in Matagalpa and Jinotega, but it was terrific getting to know Erwin better. We had the pleasure of touring around with Erwin, his cousin Ricardo Oliu and Erwin's father, Erwin Mierisch Senior who was a gracious host and a pleasure to be around. We also had the pleasure of meeting Erwin's sister Maria and Erwin and Ricardo's wives. The Mierisch family has been cultivating these farms for 3 generations (Since mid 30's).
We started our tour leaving Managua early Saturday morning and drove for 1.5 hours straight to Matagalpa to visit the Don Esteban dry mill which is certified to mill Organic Fair-trade coffees. This is also the only mill which touches the Mierisch family farms which include: Finca El Limoncillo, Los Placeres, Mama Mina, San Jose and Los Milagros. This is a new mill which has been operating for only a few years now and is home to one of the few dry mills which use a coffee lab to ensure qualities.
Erwin is heavily involved with the Cup of Excellence organization so he appreciates and is completely passionate about quality. After cupping and approving many lots of coffee, we traveled the Finca El Limoncillo coffee farm to see the great Pacamara and Java varietals grown there (This is the source of Fratello's Nicaraguan Limoncillo Pacamara Peaberry which is now available to all clients. More information can be found at:
All 5 farms have dedicated wet mills. The San Jose and Los Milagros farms require the washed coffee to be dried at the farm as they are located in Jinotega. After drying, the cherries are transported to Matagalpa to be milled at Don Esteban. Finca El Limoncillo, Los Placeres and Mama Mina farms are close enough to the Don Esteban to have all drying done there.
The Mierisch family farms have many noteworthy practices which made it easy for us to want to work with them. Some examples of what make these practices such a joy to support are:
1) The employers pays their staff 30% more than what is typical minimum wage as well as:
• Provide free housing for 60 families on their farms
• Provide free electricity and running water for their homes
• Provide free food for all workers
• Have free day care facilities for families to use
• Provide free health care facilities on the farms
•Employee on site teachers who educate their staff and teach other skills such as pottery and weaving. The goal is to help staff diversify their skills. The teachers are also paid twice the wages they would receive in the cities.
2) Reuse all parchment, cherries and cattle manure as Organic mulch for their crops.
3) No mechanical picking. Only the ripest cherries are picked which is ensured by doing 5 pickings per harvest season.
4) 100% Sun drying of all coffee.
5) Recycle all water to limit the usage, and then remove the Honey Water before disposing back into local water systems which removes all harmful waste.
6) All 5 farms have tons of natural tree canopy cover and reminded us of dense rainforests and jungles. Los Milagros is even situated in the El Diablo natural nature reserve.
Fratello is thrilled to be working with all 5 farms, and have many varieties to choose from which will always ensure something new and exciting. These farms grow Caturra, Catuai, Bourbon, Java, Pacamara and Maragogype varietals. They also produce fully washed, naturals and honey prep drying methods.
Their Finca El Limoncillo Pacamara Peaberry is only the first coffee we are bringing in for you to try. Watch for other Micro Lot Estate coffees coming from their other farms soon.