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

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

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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