In Nicaragua with Eleane Mierisch of Fincas Mierisch
WRITTEN BY Hannah Hofmann
10 April 2019

The Mierisch family has been farming coffee for five generations. The family own ten farms in Nicaragua, the names of which you may be familiar with from the coffees we have featured on our menu like La Huella, El Limoncillo, Las Delicias and El Suspiro. They also have one farm, Cerro Azul, in Honduras.

Coffee Supreme has been purchasing coffee from Fincas Mierisch for several years. Hannah Hofmann visits them each year and, last month, sat down with Eleane Mierisch to find out a little bit more about the family, her journey in coffee and their famous crops.

What is your role at Fincas Mierisch?
I have been full time in the family’s coffee business for 15 years. Although I spent my early childhood in Nicaragua, we moved to the states when I was young. I grew up in Texas and studied nursing there. I followed my father’s footsteps and became a Nurse Practitioner in Gynecology and women’s health. My family returned to Nicaragua before I did. I had been living and practicing in Austin, but returned home to Nicaragua to be with my mother during her last years. After some time, and after my mother’s passing, my brother inspired me to join the family venture of farming. I left medicine and dove deep into the family coffee business. I spent time learning the supply chain, from cultivation, harvest, processing and preparation and cupping. Most of my focus remains now on quality control, preparation, and client relations.

What changes have you seen both within Nicaragua and in the consuming industry in the last 15 years?
The industry continues to trend towards quality and traceability. More continual dialogue and quality feedback from buyers has really helped us tailor and fine tune our production. We have also seen a higher demand for experimental processes. This past harvest season, as a direct response to this trend, and in an effort to produce replicable, clean, and consistent profiles, we implemented cold fermentation for both natural and pulped natural preparations. We continue to prioritise cupping and robust quality control initiatives in our lab, which will always be of the utmost importance.

What single change has been the most effective on your farms?
This year we are taking a much more detail orientated, critical approach to analysing farm level applications. If measured, planned for, and applied with precision and intention, we can optimise efficiency, save resources, and become more attuned to our environmental impact and relationship with the land.

What advice would you give other farmers?
Prioritise strong relationships with your farm and mill workers. Value them. Hire more women.

Are there extra things we at Coffee Supreme and other buyers can do to ensure our sourcing is responsibly and sustainably carried out?
Open, clear, direct, and deliberate communication is key, especially when the two parties working together are in two separate countries, halfway across the world. Also, buyers are like liaisons between the producers and the roasters and consumers. Buyers hold the keys to the narrative, the sense of place, and the story that follows the coffee to the final cup. Consumer (including cafe customers, roasters, baristas, etc…) engagement, is really important. If we can get people excited about the product, and provide some context to the industry, people will understand the value (and the monetary value) attached to specialty coffee.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I love what I do. No doubt about it. During harvest season, even when things are crazy and I’m exhausted, the satisfaction I get when we cup delicious coffee is unparalleled and always exciting, it never gets old. I also do this work for my family. By family, I mean the entire Fincas Mierisch team. We are a family operation, and Fincas Mierisch is a family legacy.

Where and who do you look to for inspiration?
My mother. She was kind, regal, and gracious. Professionally, I am inspired by my dear friend Susie Spindler, one of the founding members of Alliance for Coffee Excellence and Cup of Excellence. Susie’s work has always been equally guided by a strong moral compass and a focus on laying the groundwork for a resilient, equitable, and quality driven supply chain.

You are a woman working in an industry that is often thought of as male-dominated. Has being a woman affected the way you carry out your role?
Clearly, there are extra obstacles women and other marginalised people face in any industry. I feel that when I challenge the things that present me with opposition, I am not only doing so for myself, but for all of those who face similar obstacles. Doing so with excellence adds another layer of satisfaction, and hopefully sends a message to everyone that if I can do this, so can you.

How is climate change affecting coffee now and in the years to come?
I am not a climatologist, so I can’t speak to future projections, but we have experienced erratic, and unexpected weather patterns in the past number of years, and I don’t have reason to believe that will suddenly stabilise. I do, however, encourage everyone to read the latest climate reports and stay current with the work of experts.

What’s your morning routine; what’s your favourite toast topping?
I wake up to coffee and beans on toast! We all eat together as a family, in our dining room. It’s a household affair and we often have guests.

Light or dark roast?
Light.

Filter or espresso?
Filter.

Smooth or crunchy?
Smooth.

What question are you dying to answer that we haven’t asked?
I’m going to flip this one on you! I’d love to know more about the trends you see in the cafes where you are, and where you think consumers preferences and habits are going… What’s the answer, Hannah?

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