Producer Deep Dive: Don Byron Corrales
Coffee farming has been in Don Byron's family for generations. His grandfather, Fausto Corrales Benitez, owned a coffee and pine tree farm in Nicaragua named La Montañita (Little Mountain) near the border of Honduras. But, in the 1980s, due to conflict in the region, the family was forced to move to Matagalpa, where Don Byron and his parents, Arnulfo Corrales and Benita Martínez, purchased a farm.
The farm was empty, and the area had no reliable water supply preventing their ability to cultivate anything on the land.
"Don Byron and his father took action by planting a forest of pine and other trees to create a water reservoir. Once they had secured their water source, they decided to follow the tradition of Don Fausto and plant coffee," Ryan Sull, the Founder of La Finca Distribution Corp, a Nicaraguan specialty coffee importer, shared with us.
They planted Maracaturra, a hybrid between Maragogype and Caturra; this varietal is beloved for producing coffees with bright acidity and tropical fruit notes. Despite having little experience with the varietal, it produced a healthy plant.
Though they could produce beautiful coffee, it was a challenge to export coffee from Nicaragua. As a member of the Agronomy Association of Nicaragua, Don Byron went to the United States hoping to find investors.
There, Don Byron met Paul Katzeff, the owner of Thanksgiving Coffee. Katzeff visited the farm in Nicaragua and agreed to purchase the coffee.
"Knowing their shipment would get rejected going straight to the US from Nicaragua, they shipped their container to Canada and tried to truck it over the border. Unfortunately, The US government found out and shut down Thanksgiving Coffee. That didn't stop Paul. He came back to visit Don Byron two years later, though this time, he also had a roastery. Paul later returned as a founder of the SCAA and helped build the first cupping lab in Nicaragua. It was very progressive for Nicaragua because there was a lot of training in the lab and education about specialty coffee," Sull explained.
Don Byron now owns four farms with his family in the El Arenal natural reserve in Aranjuez.". The farms share a wet mill on their original farm, Finca Los Pinos (The Pines), which is named after of his grandfather's pine tree farm.
The family runs an energy-efficient farm and runs the mill off electricity generated from a hydroelectric plant in the reservoir.
“Don Byron cares for his farm, and everything is held to a high standard. For example, the coffees are dried to a specific moisture content, rested for 30 days after drying, then milled, and rested for 15 days before being shipped out. The short turnover allows for quick exportation," Dustin Ryan Yu, the Director of Coffee at This Coffee Co., explained.
"Coffee picking is finished at 2 pm every day, and the washed process begins around 2:30 to 4:00 pm; some days they work until 2 am. Don Byron wants his end consumers to understand all of the energy that is required to produce coffee. The energy from the sun, water, nature and the many hands over the course of 365 days that are required to produce one cup," Sull shared.