Life by the Bean: The Faces of Nicaragua’s Coffee Industry

One photographer explores Nicaragua’s coffee industry from bean to cup, narrating the story of our morning brew through colourful, evocative imagery

In February of this year, photographer James Bowden embarked on a trip to northern Nicaragua, following the journey of coffee beans from plant to package across the country's jungled hills. Linking up with Richard Blake, founder of Cornwall's Yallah Coffee Roasters, and Noah Lane, co-founder of Foam Cafe in County Donegal, Ireland, on a coffee-sourcing mission, Bowden documented the processes and people he met.

The idea behind the project? To share the stories of the coffee industry far and wide, joining together the phases of production, from fresh fruit to in the cup, while attempting to highlight the precariousness of life for many workers within the trade. First cultivated in the country in the 1850s, coffee is now one of Nicaragua's key exports, but the socio-economic conditions for many workers continue to be fraught. For the team behind Yallah, seeking traceable bean producers and paying a premium on commodity prices to ensure fair wages are considered part and parcel of buying a bag of coffee.

Along the way, the trio - all keen surfers in their respective hometowns - had a chance to try out the breaks along Nicaragua's shoreline, too, finding community and companionship with the people they met by way of beans and boards.

Shot using a range of formats, colours, and films, Bowden's evocative snapshots - alongside interviews with Blake and Lane - are now available to buy in a book, Soil & Sand.

The Lowdown

The Soil & Sand book and coffee box includes two 200g bags of Nicaraguan coffee and a copy of the 80-page photography book. It costs £30 and is available from or

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