PRODUCER SPOTLIGHT: Mr. Luis Balladares, La Bendición, Nicaragua
Mr. Luis Balladares of “La Bendición” won 1st place in the year’s Nicaragua COE. Luis is a family man that speaks calmly and comes from a long line of coffee farmers. His children are already involved helping him out day by day running Beneficio Las Segovias, where he is the general manager. Apart from that he is also a pastor in his local church and has a strong sense of aiding the community.
“La Bendición” and Luis are part of a family business that has been producing coffee for four generations. His daughter, who helps with the business is ushering in the fifth generation. Luis and his family began participating in COE in 2007. Although they have had previous coffees that have placed in COE, 2018 is the first time they took the 1st place with a score of 91.80.
Luis believes there are many aspects to growing a quality coffee. He says, “There are factors, as we all know, that are beyond our control like the weather. In our farm, we log very carefully the many components that influence the coffee. From lunar phases to attributes and different fermentation processes. We also carefully log the drying time.” Through trial and error, their processes have evolved from traditional practices to a complex engineering operation. Luis continues, “it is hard to say ‘this is the perfect process or step’. You can only estimate and experiment. Our goal is to compete with ourselves making our quality better day by day.”
Luis believes that one of the main challenges Nicaraguan farmers face are finances. Obtaining funds is difficult and most farmers are affected financially. He says, “Many farmers do not have access to the specialty coffee market, therefore they receive low prices.” Luis sees great potential for Nicaragua in the specialty market. “Different varieties and processes can push Nicaragua to become a world provider of specialty coffee. After the rust, many new varieties were planted, yielding the results we saw in COE.”
Luis final words – “I remember when COE started many years ago in Nicaragua. It opened our eyes. It showed us the quality we were producing. COE incentivized quality. WITH COE, we discovered there are many people out there who are willing to pay for quality.” And finally, “This has been the hardest year we have ever faced in coffee. I thank God for all his blessing and all we have learned.”