In dog years, we've been visiting and tasting in Nicaragua for about forty years. You'd think that in all that time our Spanish would be better than it is...but at least we're still trying, and that makes a difference.
We've also learned a lot about tasting fresh coffees on-site. Part of the trick is understanding what flavors are the result of pre-shipping freshness, and what flavors aren't. Another trick is understanding which of the tastes result from one particular cupping lab, and which are inherent to the coffee itself.
So those are a couple of obvious tricks. And they're things that anyone could learn. But there are also things that can only be achieved by time--the amassing of a good reputation, and the assembling of a good collection of friends. Thanks to those, we leaned on the goodwill of one old friend in particular to introduce us to Sergio Jose Paguaga.
Sergio and his family work every aspect of this 42-acre farm. His folks bought it about 30 years ago, but La Ventaja has truly excelled since Sergio took over. That was 15 years ago in human years--about 80 in dog years--so you can imagine how good it is now. It's better than our Spanish, for sure.