El Carmen

Premium beans from small family farms

We discovered this bean after meeting Giff Laube and Jose Enrique Herrera, the owners of Cacao Bisiesto, at their farm just outside the town of Matagalpa. The beans are named after the town in and around which they’re grown, which is located in Nicaragua’s Central Highlands about an hour’s drive northeast from Matagalpa.

Most cacao farms in Nicaragua are too small to generate enough volume to properly ferment the wet cacao (known as “baba”). For this reason, among others, many farmers simply dry their baba and sell it at local markets at a very low price, since unfermented beans don’t develop the flavor characteristics that we recognize as quality chocolate. Giff and Jose realized that the beans the local farmers were growing had the potential to be fine flavor beans, so they built a fermentation and drying facility on their farm and began reaching out to local farmers, convincing them to sell their baba to Cacao Bisiesto for a higher price than they’d get at local markets. Cacao Bisiesto is now working with many farmers in the region, gathering their beans and then fermenting and drying them to their exacting standards.

A custom drying process for Goodnow Farms

One of the farmers Cacao Bisiesto works with is Bayardo Benavidez Blandon. Bayardo owns a 10-acre farm in the town of El Carmen and grows several different crops, including cardamom, fruit trees and cacao. The El Carmen bean comes from his farm as well as about a dozen small farms owned by his family in and around the town. The baba is placed on local buses for transport to Cacao Bisiesto, where they’re fermented and custom dried for Goodnow Farms.

During our trips to meet Giff and Jose we were impressed with their extensive knowledge of cacao post harvest practices, which was gained from years of working with cacao at origin.  They’re also very committed to paying a premium for the beans they receive from local farmers, and to educating farmers on the best ways to farm and propagate their cacao.

Flavor profile: We’ve worked closely with Cacao Bisisesto to develop a custom drying technique that we feel perfectly highlights the bright flavors of this bean.

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Bayardo’s cousin, Leonel Blandon, with ripening cacao pods on his farm.
Leonel Blandon harvesting a ripe pod using a machete.
Bayardo carefully opens a pod… also using a machete.
The cacao beans inside are surrounded by a fruity white pulp, which makes a delicious snack!
The beans and pulp are removed from the pods, put in sacks, and placed on top of local buses for the short trip to Cacao Bisiesto.
Unloading the very heavy sacks of “wet” cacao.
Isai Cruz and Holman Osegueda weighing the sacks of wet cacao (baba). Farmers are paid based on the weight.
Holman Osegueda empties the baba into the fermentation bins.
Monica in the fermenting area.
Jose mugs for the camera.
Once the fermentation process is complete the beans are brought to Cacao Bisiesto's covered drying area. Here Giff turns the beans while Tom watches helpfully.
Giff & Jose check on the progress of the drying beans.
Jose using a hygrometer to make sure the dried beans have reached the correct moisture content.
Tom & Monica on the farm.
Heading back to Matagalpa!