Imbibe, November/December 2012
Running a coffee company can be tough – particularly when it’s a one-woman operation. On the upside, there’s always access to a shot of espresso when you need a boost.
Good Housekeeping, September 2012
“The hardest thing was convincing coffee farmers to trust me – I was female, foreign and single. But gradually I won their trust, and after a lot of hard work, plus selling my home and moving into a friend’s attic, my coffee won a Great Taste Award, and is now sold in the UK, France, Taiwan and Dubai.”
“…volunteering abroad gave me the self-belief to start my own business. Now I’ve found a new partner I adore, and what feels like a second family in Nicaragua. I never imagined I could be so happy”
Glamour Italia, November 2011
i: 10 Best Ground Coffees, 20 April 2012
Hada Del Café
“This one-woman coffee company has won awards for its high-quality beans. Her rich, earthy roast is the perfect after-dinner drink. A real corker in taste, plus the proceeds from sales go to a development charity in Nicaragua.”
Cup of Kindness
“I’m loathe to fetishise coffee, on the whole. But the stuff from Hada Del Café is pretty great. It’s not just that part of the profits from its sale goes to helping build schools in Nicaragua. Its local bean grind – which comes in medium, dark and espresso roast – is deliciously velvety, almost chocolatey.”
Cowdray Farm Shop & Cafe Producer Spotlight
“We stock many local products from vegetables, oils though to chocolate. One of the more surprising to be found in the farm shop is most definitely Hada Del Café, formerly known as “The Coffee Fairy”. Founded by Martina Gruppo of Midhurst, it is a unique company with social enterprise at its very heart. The coffee itself is superb and available as a well balanced medium roast, deeply rich dark roast or rich and intense espresso. The beans are grown in plantations spread across a cloud forest in the northern Nicaraguan mountains and are protected by a canopy of trees which allows them to develop a full flavour in an ideal tropical climate providing just the right amount of rain, shade and sun.
“Martina doesn’t just buy the coffee beans from this remote Nicaraguan community, she supports them in other ways too. Having discovered how good the local coffee was, after spending time teaching in the local villages, she decided to raise funds to provide better educational facilities for the local children including the families of the coffee farmers. So next time you are in store, take a look at her coffee packaging and see for yourself what good a cup of coffee can do.”
The Independent, 5 December 2008
“After working for a life-changing year as a teacher in Nicaragua, Midhurst-based Martina Gruppo decided she wanted to help the communities she’d taught. She buys beans direct from the farmers at fair-trade prices and roasts and packages them in the UK. She donates part of her profits to an education fund for the communities.”
It’s bean a busy time for the coffee fairy
A caffeine fuelled business idea which supports coffee farmers is being backed by a Hemel Hempstead roasting company. Every month The Coffee Fairy delivers freshly roasted coffee, imported from a Nicaraguan village in Central America, to the doors of its customers. Billed as the perfect present for coffee lovers, customers simply choose beans or ground and then how many months they would like it to be delivered for.
Inspired by a spell working as a teacher in Miraflor, in the northern Nicaraguan mountains, founder Martina Gruppo launched the business last year to help send the area’s children to school. She said:
“In Nicaraguan communities water is drawn from a well and electricity is almost non existent.”
“I decided that by importing and selling their coffee, I could actually do something to help.”
Cash from every bag of coffee Martina sells goes toward the project and next year she hopes to send 20 Nicaraguan children to secondary school for three years.
Smith’s Coffee Company now receives green beans from the Nicaraguan farmers at its Apsley factory, where they are stored, freshly roasted and ground.
Factory manager Phil Smith said: “Martina’s coffee is a fantastic example of Nicaraguan coffee. Sometimes coffee from that part of the world can be bland, but this stands out.”
Trade as well as aid
Children in Dunhurst – Bedales Junior School – have spent a week focusing on life in Nicaragua.
The difference between this initiative and the usual school fund-raising project was the emphasis on challenging the conventional ‘charity giving’ formula and promoting the more sustainable idea of ‘Trade not just Aid’.
Alongside fund-raising, pupils were busy learning about coffee farmers and the importance of trade to their communities’ long term welfare.
Countries across the world share the biggest global challenges like economic recession, global warming and international terrorism.
All classes at the prep school in Steep near Petersfield were involved. Pupils learnt about Nicaraguan history and religion, created music inspired by the festivals, discovered the importance of its customs and traditions, produced theatre, art and dance displays and translated letters from Spanish into English.
The children also discussed the impact of the coffee trade on local communities and the exploitation of people through the cocaine industry.
The week culminated in an assembly for the pupils and parents, where pupils shared their work and experiences. Funds raised will be used to improve facilities for children at a school in Sontule, Nicaragua.
The link with Nicaragua was initiated by Martina Gruppo, who spent a year working as a voluntary English teacher in Miraflor in the northern Nicaraguan mountains.
She returned to the UK and set up her own business, the Coffee Fairy Ltd, which aims to show ‘what’s on the other side of the coffee cup’.
Plans are in place to establish an educational bursary so children can attend secondary school and have the opportunity to go to university.
Martina visited Dunhurst and showed the pupils slides of the basic living conditions in Miraflor – mud-floored shacks with no electricity; cold ‘showers’ fashioned from buckets filled with rainwater and classrooms with iron bars at the windows. In response to this, pupils raised enough funds to buy desks and chairs for the school in Escuela Vincente Talavera in Sontule which the children have now painted.
Martina explains: “The best afternoon ever was when we painted the children’s desks. The children at Dunhurst School should be proud of themselves for raising the money to buy these.”
Coffee Fairy is Changing Lives
A life-changing year in Nicaragua has ended with a Midhurst office manager setting up her own coffee company.
For Martina Gruppo has vowed to use money from the coffee sales to help pay for the education of the coffee farmers’ children.
Last year 39-year-old Martina rented out her home, sold her car and left her job. She took a course in teaching English, packed a bag and headed off to a remote community in Nicaragua’s Miraflor nature reserve.
“I lived with a family and everything was very basic.” said Martina, “but it was absolutely the best thing I could ever have done.”
While teaching in the primitive community school Martina helped to set up a cottage industry bringing backpacker tourism to the community.
“We were so remote none of the backpackers came near us, so I went out and talked to people,” she said.
“The women in the village would arrange places for them to stay and organise horses for sightseeing.”
And one of the things the back-packing tourists loved most was the coffee.
“They thought it was fantastic and wanted more of it,” said Martina.
So the women in the little community bought coffee beans from neighbouring farms. They began roasting, packing and selling it to bars and hostels.
“Soon the women were using the money they made to upgrade their homes and they started putting more aside to provide a water tap outside the school,” Martina told the Observer.
And then Martina realised she could help them even more.
“Very few people in this country know anything about Nicaraguan coffee – it’s all going to America,” she said.
“Nicaraguans generally offer people something else because they simply don’t realise how wonderful their own coffee tastes,” she said.
“I decided to sell it in Britain. I have never done anything like this before. The only thing driving me is the absolute conviction that this is right.”
After endless talks with coffee farmers in Miraflor, she managed to convince them the idea would reap huge benefits. And she has a company in Peterborough poised to roast and pack the coffee after the harvest this year.
“I want people to know all about the area the coffee comes from and to see how buying this coffee can change lives in the country where it is grown.”
“In three or four years’ time I am going to be sending children of Nicaraguan farmers to secondary school and if it takes off, we would even open a health care centre over there.”
Grounds For Optimism
When Martina Gruppo gave up her cosy cottage and sports car to teach English in Nicaragua it was with vague notions of being able to make a difference. What she didn’t realise was quite how big the difference would be. Since embarking on her adventure almost a year ago, 38-year old former office manager from Godalming has been introduced to the delights of cold outdoor showers, mud-floored shacks and virtually non-existent electricity. But a chance idea to help the villagers sell more coffee has led to an ever expanding fair-trade project encompassing a growing number of women’s coffee co-operatives.
Martina’s task initially was to help teach English to local tour guides in a bid to increase the number of tour guides visiting Miraflor, a unique nature reserve in the north of Nicaragua, home to several farming communities.
But never one to pass up a challenge, Martina wanted to take things a little further.
“I decided there were far too few people getting the opportunity to see Miraflor,” she explained. “There was only a very short paragraph in any of the guide books and as far as I was concerned they weren’t passionate enough about the place. It’s also slightly off the more common backpacker’s routes and the tours are more expensive. I wanted to open up Miraflor to younger people, gap year travellers and people who are touring Central America on a budget.”
Martina also wanted to give something back to the family who took her in and help provide them with a sustainable income.
During her time off from teaching, Martina visited other places around Nicaragua, she put up flyers in hostels and negotiated lower prices for guide tours with horses, accommodation and meals.
Not only did the idea work, but Martina also uncovered another untapped market.
“Those who visited loved the fresh organic coffee that grows in Miraflor and bought bags of it,” she said. “Also one of them suggested that the hostel should sell it to its customers as it is so delicious.”
The market for Miraflor coffee became more apparent on a visit to a coastal resort.
“I was talking to the owner of a beach hotel about where she bought her coffee from,” Martina explained. “She said it was a real pain as she needed to go to the capital of Managua if she wanted to buy organic coffee and would be delighted to buy some from the community. I had my first order.
“Things started to progress very quickly from there. I made more contacts and spoke to more and more businesses.”
Cafe Maripose De Miraflor, meaning butterfly coffee, was now up and running, but it wasn’t all plain sailing. Trying to gain the interest and the trust of the women’s co-operatives back in Miraflor proved tricky at first.
“As it became obvious this was not only a great idea, but something that could really benefit the whole community, we decided to involve the women’s co-operative in Sontule,” she said.
“All we needed was a meeting so we could explain it to them and see who out of all of them would like to be involved. I came face to face with community politics, 23 terrifying women with agendas of their own and historical jealousies between families that make EastEnders look like Teletubbies.”
Martina now has her work cut out for her, combining teaching with travelling the country trying to set up as many orders as possible so that members of the community can continue the business in the future.
In the last few months she has signed up another co-operative and has involved the Quetzel Trekkers, a non-profit organisation which organises moonlit hikes and tours.