I am living in a very small world filled with a lot of luck and some strange coincidences.
Since I last updated this blog, I have rented a room in Matagalpa, from local woman called Emma Navarro, who was actually born in Canada. I met her accidentally when I stumbled into her cafe on my very first night in the town. Not only is the house almost perfect (with the exception of the locals habitually having pro-sandinista street parties outside the front door with enormous speakers on the back of trucks blasting out that awful Latino dance music, ugh) – but Emma herself is fantastic. She doesn’t try and mother me or tell me everything is ‘peligroso’ as most older local women do whenever i ask for advice. She is also very well connected and has been really helpful.
Her husband virtually never speaks unless it is absolutely necessary, but I found to my delight the other day, that when he thinks he’s alone in the house, he sings, really loudly, and really badly. And, he was singing a song I recognised, by a group called Mana, but an old one. I had bought that album in Peru, in 2001!! My favourite song of theirs, the lyrics translate as “why am I still here in this place as always, in the same town, with the same people? I have been here too long. What if you never left? What if you never existed? I could have forgotten, and I could have moved on..” That became my anthem for living in Chester-le-Street and being depressed. It could suit Darlington quite well too!!
But what of the coffee I hear you cry? Well, there is certainly a lot of it about! I’ve had more adventures at Selva Negra since my last blog, including “interviewing” Eddy Kuhl extremely briefly. I asked him if all his green initatives on the farm actually had any affect on the taste or quality of the coffee. He said it was a good question, but didn’t seem to be able to answer it!! He did invite me to a conference he’s presenting at, in Managua this Friday. Am definitely going to go. Afterwards I went for a walk in the coffee crops, – and this is 100% true and I’ve got a bruise to prove it: I slipped on a banana leaf!!!! Very slapstick!! Ended up flat on my back, and ripped a hole in my trousers. Doh. Having limped back and tried to de-mud myself in the loos, I ended up missing the last bus back and having to hitch the 12km back to town in the back of a truck – which turned out to be full of sacks of coffee! Sitting in the back of a pick up truck, driving down through the mountains at twilight was so, so beautiful. Provided you have comfy coffee sacks to sit on, it is the best way to travel!
Back in Matagalpa I seem to be spending a lot of time sitting in Cafe Picoteo, Emma’s place. Well, why break the habit of a life time? The coffee is good, and local. But more importantly, I seem to be developing an uncanny knack of meeting useful people, accidently. Emma’s brother in-law Pedro, for instance, who happens to be heavily involved with CafeNica – a local coffee co-operative. Emma also introduced me to ‘su amigo’, Daniel (another really Nicaraguan sounding name!). Daniel now lives in Boston and so speaks a little English. And guess what? He is back in Nicaragua at the moment, because he has his own coffee farm to attend to. Even more usefully and luckily, he happens to be going to Managua this Friday to help his daughter buy a house on the beach (as you do) and has offered me a lift so I can go to Eddy’s conference! Woohoo!
The other day I thought I ought to spread my money around a little rather than just funding Emma, so I went looking for a decent cappuccino. I found plenty, specifically in a place called Cafe Barista. This is one of the few places I’ve found so far in Nicaragua that serves genuine espresso based coffees – and very good ones at that – latte art and everything. I told them I worked as a barista in the UK, and the owner, a youngish bloke called Lester Balladares Castro, invited me behind the bar to try making a cappuccino.
Typically, and possibly a result of too long spent at Caffe Nero (and it’s been a year since I left now, thinking about it), I made the worst, most embarrassing cup I think I’ve ever done. I felt completely stupid. Serves me right for showing off really! Lester just laughed it off, and then I noticed the wall. Behind Lester was a giant photo of Lester shaking hands with Stephen Morrissey, World Barista Champion 2008! This guy really knows his stuff then, if he’s competing at that level. I felt a little less dumb about my crappuccino after that. We talked about the Barista championship for a while, and sure enough, he’s met James Hoffman, and even Matt Milleto from Barista Exchange. That particular side of the coffee industry has obviously been exported to Central America already, making this world even smaller than ever. I am going to show him Jonathan Morris’s stuff on Cappuccino Conquests, because as far as I’m concerned, the very existence of Cafe Barista in remote Matagalpa, makes Lester a Cappuccino Conquistador!!