Santa Gema de Mozonte

By: Chris Davidson

Mario Jose Vilchez Urbina exudes a calm confidence that immediately sets those around him at ease. It’s a treat to listen to him describe in his clear and measured speech the most important things in his life: his family, his faith, his coffee and baseball. His approach to his business is humble, methodical and laser-focused. Quality is his primary objective in the coffee he grows on his four small farms, all located within a mile of each other in the Mozonte region of Nueva Segovia. Finca Santa Gema includes 10 acres of coffee as well as Mario’s wet mill, and sleeping and eating facilities for his staff. His other three farms, La Santísima, La Escondida and La Excelencia, represent another 20 total acres of coffee production.

Mario’s day usually begins with 30 minutes of meditation, followed by a karate workout. Mario and his son both study martial arts, his son in their home town of Ocotal and Mario with a teacher online. It’s difficult to imagine any type of violence coming from the Vilchez family. Mario says the discipline helps him feel centered and focused, and more thoughful about how he responds to challenging situations. Several days a week, Mario makes the hour drive from Ocotal up to his farms in Mozonte, more often during the harvest season. He personally oversees all of the wet processing on the farm, and manages his workers like a coach manages a sports team. In fact, “Equipo Santa Gema” has been one of the more successful beisbol club teams in Mozonte. Mario put the team together with interested employees, mostly pickers and farm managers, and sees a lot of parallels between operating his two successful teams for business and sports.

The road from the small town of Mozonte up to the coffee growing areas is dusty and dry, surrounded by spindly pines and rocky terrain that wouldn’t appear condusive to coffee growing. The micro-climates in the mountains are partly due to natural springs that send rivers of fresh water down through the hills. These springs, along with more rainfall and humidity in general abruptly transform the landscape from arid to lush. Walking through the forests around Mario Vilchez’ farms is like a jungle hike, with elevation just over 1,400 masl keeping the temperature relatively fresh throughout the day. Red Catuai and Caturra make up the bulk of Mario’s production, along with some small amounts of Maragogipe, Maracaturra and a few other exotic varieties. “Lush” is also a good descriptor for the cup character of Mario’s coffees, which are prized for clean peach, honey and green melon flavors. We typically only have a small amount from a few of Mario’s farms each year to offer, and always look forward to their arrivals!

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