Today was going to be our first test of walking in the heat; a four hour walk on the top of Mombacho and after a few days chilling we were ready for a challenge. Unfortunately, some crossed wires and mis-communication between World Challenge, El Cafe de las Flores and us meant that we only did the short walk. A little disappointing but it was a beautiful walk nonetheless, with fantastic views of the lake which is almost like a sea. It is definitely much bigger than Taupo but I wonder how close it is in size to Lac Leman (Lake Geneva)? Having seen both I think that possibly the French one is bigger but would have to check. Our guide was very informative and told us all about the different orchids that we could see along the path. Delicate little white ones in the forest and larger bright ornage and pink out in the open areas. The pink flowers only last a day but are large and showy. I think we were too late in the day to see the sloths that apparently hang out on the trees but we were excited to see the vultures (zopilotes) that circled overhead.
To make up for our disappointment at not being able to do the longer walk, when we got back down to the cafe, we were offered the opportunity to have a coffee tour. We jumped at the chance and having learned about cacao, we now learned about coffee. Unlike the cacao bean the coffee bean is ripe when it is red and if you pinch the bean between your fingers the bean pops out easily from the skin. It is covered in white flesh that is sweet to suck. the taste reminded me of pomegranate and it was nice sucking the sweet juiciness. We were shown the whole process of harvest, cleaning, shelling but the beans from Mombacho are all sent to be roasted in Managua. Some are combinbed with beans from other plantations others are kept apart so they can sell them as Mombacho coffee.
The water used for washing the beans is brought down from the top of the mountain, it is diverted from a waterfall that falls into the crater that we looked into on our walk. The plantation on M ombacho has been organic since 2006 and the water and the coffee is all recycled and eventually goes back into the soil as fertilisation and irrigation. The discarded husks are composted and used to fertilise the soil and the water runs through irrigation beds to clean it once it has cleaned the beans and then is used to water the crops. It seems that the only pests to the coffee tree are a small beetle and the coffee rust fungus. Trees can grow as tall as 12 metres but they are kept short so that the hand picking of the beans is easier. The harvesters wear baskets around their waists so that as they pick the beans drop straight into the baskets. Apparently instant coffee is made from the inferior beans before the last two layers of husk are removed – I have always been a coffee snob and now I know why I prefer “real” coffee! Interestingly espresso coffee beans have less caffeine in them than medium and light roast.
Tomorrow – on to Ometepe to climb a volcano.