Happy Cinco de Junio!
I realize, of course, the fifth of June doesn’t really have the same social nor political implications that the fifth of May or the fourth of July possess, but it is a very special day for a cooperative of Nicaraguan farmers in Las Sabanas, Madriz – where today’s coffee hails from.
Welcome to my table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today, we are going to celebrate the fifth of June by sipping Counter Culture Coffee’s Cinco de Junio – a coffee from a Nicaraguan cooperative of the same name. Feel free to pull up a chair.
Not very far from the border between Honduras and Nicaragua, sits the small community of Las Sabanas – a coffee town in the Madriz region. This is the community that the Cinco de Junio cooperative calls home, though some of its members also live in surrounding areas like San José de Cusmapa, which is the highest-altitude municipality in Nicaragua.
Today is the eleventh anniversary of Cinco de Junio, having been founded in 2001. However, in all honesty, the cooperative is probably celebrating their anniversary as an institution and not necessarily as a practice – kind of like when a couple takes a break, then gets back together, and several years later doesn’t care to dwell on their “lost weekend” (as John and Yoko referred to their brief split in the 1970’s).
See, after their initial inception in 2001, a few years of poor financial planning and sub-par leadership, the cooperative almost met their demise in 2004. However, they revamped their operation in 2007 with new leadership and a refreshed commitment to transparency and sustainability in 2007, focusing their efforts to renew their relationships with their members and their buyers alike. One such buyer is Counter Culture, who began working with the coop in 2009.
This revival even led to one of their producers even taking second place in last year’s Nicaragua Cup of Excellence!
origin: Las Sabanas, Madriz, Nicaragua
farm: Cinco de Junio Cooperative
elevation: 1100-1550 meters above sea level
process: fully washed, patio – raised bed – patio dried
certifications: Organic, Shade Grown
The aroma of this coffee is like taking a tour of a restaurant’s kitchen. It has a dry aroma not unlike Mexican hot chocolate, with heavy wafts of cinnamon and cocoa; however, its wet aroma is a little bit spicier, with notes of oregano and a dash of nuttiness.
Immediately post-brew, though, all of those notes are present. As it starts to cool off, the individual flavors make themselves more… Oh, I don’t know – individual. Instead of just a sweet, somewhat spicy, enjoyable but muddled cup of coffee, Cinco de Junio lifts the veil to show you the inner parts that make the machine function.
The most pronounced flavors so far is the crisp juiciness of an apple or pear. Maybe both. This coffee had a fairly light/medium body from the start, but now it feels just a hint more full-bodied as the raw cocoa nibs are starting to taste more like a thick, creamy caramel that is coating my palate like a river bed, allowing the juiciness of the fruits (apple, pear, pomegranate, strawberry) to flow over the top; of course, just as it is in any river, there’s a small bit of sediment being kicked up and swept along with the current – in this case, instead of sand or pebbles, it’s raw almond.
As the cup cools off just a little bit more – not quite at room temperature, but getting there – all of those flavors are starting to fade away. The fun and exciting river that was the first two stages of the cup’s life is now just a lazy stream, coursing through the countryside.
At room temperature, all of the fruitiness blends together, and the cocoa and the caramel unite to form a toffee taste, and the cup, while still sweet and tasty, becomes a tame, mild cup of coffee.
Medium body; low acidity; creamy mouthfeel; clean finish.
the bottom line:
I got really excited about this coffee – initially. When I opened the package, and especially when I took my first few sips of the cup, I was astonished at how sweet and spicy the cup was. Then, as it started to cool off, I got even more excited about all of the individual flavors – the cup was so clean and crisp. It felt like this coffee was going to be one of those cups that transforms from stage to stage to stage. Instead, though, after the second stage of the cup, once it got down to room temperature, it collapsed under the weight of my expectations.
Counter Culture Coffee’s Cinco de Junio, from Nicaragua, is a good cup of coffee – don’t hear me wrong. It’s a perfectly mild and sweet, which makes it a great choice for a breakfast coffee; I just wish it would have retained all of the elements that made it so exciting at the start.
Nicaraguan coffees, traditionally, are typically mild and sweet and nutty and simple, and, having known that going into the Cinco de Junio, I probably shouldn’t have let myself judge the cup through the lens of my expectations. Counter Culture does provide, however, a very crisp and clean Nicaraguan coffee – which is a lot more than I can say for other roasters working with the same region.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.