Origin Field Lab: Nicaragua – FAQ
1. What is the cost of the OFLN, and what is included in that cost?
The OFLN costs $1,800* per person and includes all lodging, meals, lab materials, and transportation for six nights and five days in Nicaragua. The $1,800 bill does NOT include individual airfare to Managua, Nicaragua; it include souvenirs, communication (international phone calls), or alcoholic beverages that an individual might choose to purchase.
*There is a discounted price of $1,400 for Counter Culture's exclusive wholesale customers.
2. What are the dates for the lab?
The lab activities will begin in Managua, Nicaragua. at seven a.m. on Monday, February 3, and end in the evening on Friday, February 7. Participants should make travel arrangements to arrive in Managua no later than Sunday, February 2, and depart from Managua on or after Saturday, February 8.
3. How do I apply for the 2014 lab?
Apply online here.
4. Why Nicaragua?
Since 2004, Counter Culture has been taking groups of explorers to experience coffee farming in Nicaragua. In addition to its proximity to the United States and the ease of travel within the country, Nicaragua's political history and agricultural proclivities contribute to a unique view of the complexities of contemporary coffee production.
5. What is the trip itinerary?
We will spend the first part of the week in Madriz, on farms around Cusmapa and Las Sabanas, where the Cinco de Junio cooperative's members grow the coffee that we purchase. Through a combination of classroom and field work, each day we will learn about and see a different aspect of coffee – from botany and processing methods to payments to farmers and Nicaragua's political history. Later in the week, we will travel to Ocotal to visit a dry mill and export facility, and Friday we will tour the well-known Selva Negra coffee farm for a different perspective on ecological farming before heading back to Managua.
6. What can I expect from this lab, and what, in turn, does Counter Culture expect from me?
We designed the Origin Field Lab as an advanced course for people who have either worked in, or been enthusiastic students of, coffee for at least a couple of years. As a participant, you may expect: a thoughtfully-designed curriculum, lab instructors with experience and knowledge of coffee as well as local history and culture, a dedicated group of fellow students, and perspective on coffee that only comes through hands-on learning.
From our attendees, Counter Culture expects: passion for coffee; an eagerness to learn with and from your peers; patience and flexibility for the hang-ups of international travel; and open-mindedness about coffee, people, and cultures other than your own.
7. Are there any prerequisites to attending the Origin Field Lab?
We expect participants in this in-depth course to have a base level of coffee knowledge and cupping experience. We recommend participants take the Coffee Origins Lab and either the Comparative Cupping Lab or Cupping Leader's Lab prior to the OFLN. Applicants who demonstrate recent Counter Culture lab attendance will receive preference over those without Counter Culture lab experience and those with ancient Counter Culture lab experience. Employees of Counter Culture's exclusive wholesale customers will also receive preference.
8. What will our accommodations be like?
We will stay at several places during the week – Cinco de Junio has a long-standing and deep relationship with the Fabretto Children's Foundation, a non-profit organization that works on improving education and access to education in the communities where the co-op's members live, and Fabretto has generously offered their guesthouse for to our group. The practical guesthouse hosts Fabretto's volunteer service groups on a regular basis and the accommodations are simple but comfortable: bunk beds and DIY dishes on one hand, and electricity and warm showers on the other.
We will also spend one night at the ecolodge at Selva Negra, outside of Matagalpa, and for our in our "in-town" nights in Jinotega and Managua, we will stay in clean, comfortable, and convenient hotels.
9. If I have never traveled outside the United States, will that be a problem? What if I don't speak Spanish?
Aside from the obvious documents you will need (like a passport), it should not be a problem at all. We strive to help everyone, regardless of travel experience, feel comfortable.
Spanish language skills are certainly helpful, but not necessary, and a fluent Spanish speaker from Counter Culture will translate whenever necessary.
10. Is the Origin Field Lab physically demanding?
Participants should be prepared to spend at least two hours per day walking on hilly, uneven trails. You need not be a star athlete – we have accommodated a pregnant woman and a few folks in their sixties – but comfort on your feet and a healthy respiratory system are crucial for this lab.
11. If I have a scheduling conflict, can I join the lab late/leave early?
The dates for the OFLN 2014 are firm, and we cannot accept late arrivals or early departures.
12. Will I have free time to go sightseeing on my own?
We have a full schedule during our five-day intensive course and we expect all participants to attend all of the OFLN's classes and activities. We have planned for a couple of hours of free time each evening, which is enough time for participants to hike, read and relax, but not enough time for off-site activities. In years past, lab participants have chosen to arrive early or extend their stay in Nicaragua past the scheduled dates in order to explore the country beyond coffee, and you are, of course, welcome to do the same.
13. Can my friend/partner/spouse come along?
Space is very limited on the Origin Field lab, and trip participants apply individually; applications are considered on an individual basis. While we have accommodated friends and couples in the past, all applicants should have a strong interest in learning about coffee and expect to engage coffee-related activities throughout the week.
14. When will I know if my application has been accepted?
We will consider applications on a rolling basis until we fill all available slots, or until December 1, 2013, whichever comes first. We will let you know within a few weeks of your submission whether your application has been accepted.
15. When is the next Origin Field Lab, and will it always be held in Nicaragua?
We hope, at some point in the near future, to expand the OFL beyond Nicaragua and to offer more than one opportunity per year. At this point, however, this February 2014 trip to Madríz and surrounding communities is the only international lab on our itinerary.