Dec. 24/25: Christmas at Selva Negra

On Christmas Eve (day 54), Danielle and I met at 9:00 with an English-speaking tour guide we'd briefly met the day before for our coffee tour. Throughout the tour we learnt about the entire plant-to-cup process of coffee manufacturing and about how the farm at Selva Negra operates on a daily basis as well as the history of the establishment. I will try to remember the various steps of the process and detail them in the photo captions below, but the overall thing I learnt from the tour is that producing coffee takes an incredible amount of work. Coffee should be worth far more money than we pay for it in the Western world and honestly the reason coffee isn't astronomically expensive is mostly due to the fact that it's produced in developing countries where most companies pay their coffee-producing workers very poor wages. By no means am I trying to guilt anyone for drinking coffee, I was just very surprised at how much work and time goes into a cup of java.

Following our coffee tour, Danielle and I chilled out back at the hotel for a little bit until heading over to the restaurant where we had Christmas dinner reservations. When I had made the reservations for accommodations at Selva Negra back in Mexico, the person I'd been in correspondence with had invited Danielle and I to reserve for a special Christmas dinner they were to be having on Christmas Eve. How it worked was we pick the main course (either Chicken, Beef, or Pork), and they supply all the sides. I chose the chicken, and Danielle chose the beef. Dinner was served in courses and was delicious and absolutely huge. I received literally half a baked chicken. After dinner, Danielle and I had never been so full in our lives.

Christmas Day was spent exchanging a small amount of gifts we'd picked out for each other while in Antigua with a CAD$20 limit at one of the grocery stores. We also made French Toast in our room for breakfast and then went on a hike up and then down the mountain in the thick fog. On the way down, the trail was so muddy we both slipped a couple times leading to some good laughs. After our hike it began to rain buckets and so we spent the rest of the day hanging out, calling family back at home, and watching Christmas films. For dinner, we had burgers at the restaurant.

On boxing day (day 56), Danielle and I left Selva Negra, and drove to Granada, where we'd booked a couple nights at a hostel.

NOTE: Take the below info on the coffee process with a grain of salt, I'm simply working from memory so I may mix up/get certain aspects of the process wrong.

The beans in their completely un-dried form, straight out of their berry shell. They come out of the first shell covered in a translucent, slimy layer which is sweet to the taste.

This is a washing/sorting tank where the truck full of picked berries dumps it's load.

From the sorting tank pictured above, the berries flow down a tube into this expensive and shiny de-shelling machine.

From the de-shelling machine, the beans, partially de-shelled, are collected and put into this trench, which is to be filled with water. Many shells make it through the de-shelling machine, so adding water helps further separate the shells from the beans. The beans are the lighter-colored, heavier entities, and the darker-colored, and heavier entities the shells.

Here, workers add more partially de-shelled beans to the trench.

The trench now filled with water. At the end are wooden slats stopping the flow.

A worker releasing the barricade.

A trap to attract and destroy a coffee pest, which I believe is the coffee borer beetle.

Flowers of the coffee plant.

Buildings which house the drying beans; the green buildings on the left are where the certified organic beans are dried, whereas the plastic building on the right are where the other beans are dried.

The drying non-organic beans.

Every 20 minutes or so, the beans must be turned to ensure an even dry. Workers (mostly women), rake the beans in order to achieve this. Our guide encouraged Danielle to give it a try.

At the end of the tour Danielle and I were given three different coffee to 'cup' and then we were asked to see where on the flavour wheel we would place each cup. It was surprisingly easy to place where each flavour fell.

The first coffee we 'cupped' were these Indian beans, which had a very strong and unpleasant burnt taste. Is it a coincidence that the bad tasting coffee they chose was the only non-Nicaraguan one? Hmm...

The Selva Negra coffee, with strong citrus notes due to the fact the coffee plants are grown amongst orange and lemon trees.

Another Nicaraguan plantation's beans, which had notes of chocolate due to, you guessed it, being grown amongst cocao plants.

Various brandings of Selva Negra coffee.

My main course for Christmas [Eve] Dinner.

My main course for Christmas [Eve] Dinner.

...and Danielle's.

Dessert.

Close enough.

Our stockings.

Hom-er, Hotel made French Toast for Christmas breakfast.

From our foggy, muddy, steep Christmas day hike.