The idea was born between two friends: a Nicaraguan coffee farmer, Enrique Ferrufino, and a Spanish NGO worker with a passion for quality coffee, Manuel Arocas Sánchez. “The idea was always there to open a café,”Sánchez said, “but the idea was never just a café. It was more like a serious project.”
Meet Selección Nicaragüense, a café chain in Nicaragua with two stores in Matagalpa and one in Estelí.
Nicaragua, a producer of some of the finest coffees in the world, is also the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. “Nicaraguans don’t have access to good coffee because they have to export it all,” Sánchez said, “So the idea was to create a chain where people could come and get to drink the real coffee their country grows, not just the stuff that goes into instant.”
Nicaraguans are not ignorant of the injustices of markets and export economies—they are well aware their best coffee is sent far away, where others get to enjoy the fruits of Nicaraguan labor instead of themselves. I remember well a visit to a cooperative which roasts its own coffee in Estelí and sells it from their offices. They have two brands: “export quality,” and a “local” brand for half the price. “People will buy the lower quality coffee because it’s cheaper,” they told me, “But at the office we drink the export quality to be fair to our employees. They shouldn’t have to drink bad coffee.”
It is certainly an injustice that many people in producing countries can’t afford the very products they toil to make, but Selección Nicaragüense does not intend to create a space that feels in any way like an “us versus them” mentality. Sánchez said, “the concept is not that only nationals come, or only foreigners. We want a mix. We want everyone to have access to the best quality stuff that comes out of Nicaragua.”
The goal is to create a franchise throughout Nicaragua, while maintaining a feeling of extended family. Currently, with three shops (the first of which opened in 2011), between the baristas, administration, and cooking staff combined, they are a family of 50 and growing. Staff members at Selección don’t just sell their products dispassionately. They have to know why they are selling it, why it tastes better than what you can find in the supermarket, and why they should be proud of what they are serving. Jissel Chavarría, general manager of Selección Nicaragüense, spoke of her interest in creating more quality control, and their plan to offer more training to their staff, such as cupping classes. Looking farther into the future, Sánchez dreams of going international, to show other countries just what Nicaragua has to offer.
Selección Nicaragüense serves Flor de Caña rum and cigars made in Estelí. Everything else they make from scratch, including the bread for their sandwiches and their assorted pastry selection, not to mention the coffee. Right now, they offer coffee from six farms, three of which are Ferrufino’s farms: Finca La Aurora, Finca El Encanto, and Finca Magnolia, as well as coffees from Finca Santa Maria, Finca Las Morenitas, and Finca Rancho Alegre.. They roast all the coffee themselves in Matagalpa, and deliver it personally to each location. The cafés offer a selection of Catuai, Caturra, and Maragogype beans for drip, and their espresso comes from Finca La Aurora, a washed Catuai with a full-city roast. A floral aroma with hints of caramel, the taste is cream and chocolate.
Next time you find yourself in Nicaragua wondering where to get the best cup of coffee, the best cigar, and the best shot of rum all at one location, find the closest Selección Nicaragüense. By the time you make it there, they may have even expanded into Managua, León, or Granada.