Russ Rankin has been a good friend for nearly a decade. He’s also a food and coffee aficionado of the first order. An attentive magazine or newspaper editor would have him write a periodic food critic column.
Conversations on justice led to the idea of him “reviewing” coffees for Kingdom in the Midst. For these posts Russ will only be reviewing coffees that reflect fairness toward growers and roasters. All coffees may not be “Fair Trade,” but they will be fairly traded. This is the first in an ongoing, occasional series. Follow Russ on Twitter or on Instagram (where he posts numerous photos of coffee and food).
Flor de Jinotega by Highlands Coffee (more about the organization below) is a classic high-mountain, shade-grown Central American coffee grown at elevations of 3,200-4,600 feet above sea level.
Whatʼs the big deal about shade grown? Coffee fruit growing under shade — like under jungle foliage or forestation — takes a longer time to ripen and mature. If picked and dried well and not over-roasted, shade-grown coffee will yield a very nice complex palette of flavor. This is truly the best way to grow coffee, but the practice is omitted by commercial growers because coffee shrubs kept in direct sunlight will grow their fruit faster. Itʼs more about the volume.
If your go-to morning coffee is a bold blend from the worldʼs largest coffee chain, or if you regularly pound black espressos (raising my hand here), your first inclination will be to say Flor de Jinotega coffee is weak. But donʼt dismiss it. Flor de Jinotega has a hint of sweet, nutty cacao and I found the flavor actually pleasantly grows as it lingers. It doesnʼt deliver an intense deep flavor, but has a smooth, wide, clean note. Thereʼs no bitter aftertaste; it is flavorful with an earthy, almost fruity nuttiness.
I probably would not choose Flor de Jinotega as my morning kickstart (see the pounding espressos reference above), but I would definitely love a French press of this bean after lunch. Followed by another one. Or three.
This coffee is sold by Highlands Mission Cooperative (HMC). Driven by a compassion to serve others and love as Christ, HMC and its partners are working together to improve the quality of life and to share Christʼs story of redemption and hope. By assisting and providing the “basics of living” — clean water, sanitation, health education, and nutrition, HMC helps the rural villages improve their quality of life. In sharing the love and joy found in Christ, HMC is able to nuture “community” and bring new hope and purpose to living.
HMC partners with The Society of Small Producers for Coffee Export (SOPPEXCCA) — a coffee cooperative comprised of 650 producers from the province of Jinotega in northern Nicaragua. Despite the severe challenges of natural and economic disasters, the self-sustaining co-op has become one of the highest quality coffee cooperatives in the country and produces, processes and markets its own coffee. SOPPEXCCAʼs 65 percent female membership and gender-equality blends makes this a truly exemplary cooperative. SOPPEXCCA became Fair Trade certified by Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) in 1998.
FROM MARTY: Sonya and I have been drinking Highlands Coffee for about a week and love it. We have become coffee snobs anyway, but the opportunity to support this local co-op really excites us. I recommend it compared to any medium-roast I have tried.
To order Highlands Mission Coffee (ground or whole bean), which sells for $12.00/lb + shipping, click here. To read more about Marty’s mission trip this summer with Highlands Mission Cooperative, click here.
Russ Rankin has been called a coffee snob, but really heʼs just a guy who appreciates quality and the adventure found in a good cup of coffee. He has drank coffee in the jungles of Sumatra that was pounded in mortar and pestle and roasted in front of him; heʼs enraged a man in Cyprus by accidentally complimenting him on his Turkish coffee (the two countries hate each other); and heʼs brought a French press and bag of Italian Roast along with him backpacking in the Himalayan Plateau so he wouldnʼt have to drink prepackaged powdered Nescafe. He loves the Americanos at a couple of great coffeeshops in Nashville, especially at one that he canʼt tell you about because itʼs a secret.