Coffee Schemes & Wellness Dreams
About ten years ago, I was managing one of the first residential developments along the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua, when in came a Doctor with a Dream. Doctor Dan was, at the time, a practicing physician in the U.S. – but looking for something more.
Nothing unusual or different about that story; most folks come here looking for a new life, or just a new way of being. But Dr. Dan came with something different… and his vision sucked me in from the start.
Please understand: After having lived in these parts for some time, I’m the Queen of Cynical. I make bets with other expats on how soon the newbie with Happy Native Syndrome will be making their return flight reservations. I never named the farm animals because I adore bacon and chicken salad. Along the same lines, I never became friends with someone who had less than two years in the region, because I figured they’d be gone sooner rather than later, and why put myself through all that effort?
AQUA Wellness Resort Yoga Platform
You see, Dan had been practicing traditional Western Medicine for years in a lucrative market. He and his partners treated some of the most famous faces (or in his case, feet) in the world. They were extremely successful in their field, yet something was missing in their lives and the lives of their patients: Wellness.
“Wellness” at the time was a philosophy that had yet to become entrenched on our side of the world. Treating the body, mind, and spirit while bettering a person’s quality of life was something unheard of… ‘anti-aging’ meant face lifts and hormone pills… and the idea of doctors helping people prevent disease rather than treat it sounded like a bad science fiction movie. I completely understand why my friends suggested that I see a shrink sooner rather than later.
Fast-forward a few years, when we had put together a deal that was beginning to make this whole dream look possible. The perfect location locked in, and a couple investors in the bag, we broke ground with not nearly enough capital but more than enough drive.
Nicaragua has some of the world’s richest coffee, and it’s not widely known because not much of it gets exported. Nicaragua wins or places in the ‘Tasa de Exelencia’ (Cup of Excellence) competition every year, and usually takes more than one award. Coffee is one of the three most common items tourists take home with them, because, well it’s just truly an amazing brew.
Villa at AQUA
So, secure in the knowledge that we were going to become Coffee Magnates and more than a little tipsy from the second bottle of wine, our group decided we’d brand the coffee. We’d call it “Monopoo”.
The Spanish word ‘Mono’ means monkey. (I don’t really think we need to define the word ‘poo’, thank you very much.)
You’ve probably heard stories of the world’s finest coffee coming out of some country in darkest Africa, where they feed coffee beans to a civet cat (which, in our rather jollier than normal state we remembered being a monkey). After the animal evacuates the beans, they are apparently gathered and processed to the point where the resultant coffee is one of the world’s most delightful taste experiences.
On what planet someone came up with the idea of picking through animal poo to extract undigested coffee beans, I’m not sure… but apparently it’s a delicacy right up there on a level with big ‘ole roasted tree slugs in the Amazon. Regardless, we thought it was a great idea.
Monkeys at AQUA Wellness Resort
Admittedly, there is so much wrong with this idea it’s hard to know where to begin… but honestly, in our alcohol-infused state we were convinced it would be our claim to fame.
It’s at this point that I tell you one of the reasons my company helps others become successful in Central America: I have come through quite a number of the many mistakes that can possibly be made here, and watched others make the ones I managed to miss. The beautiful part is that without Big Brother watching, a person can make mistakes on a scale they never thought possible– and I’ve seen them all.
So our band of brethren proceeded to make a few of those mistakes…
Sadly, we lost one of our number to leukemia, and others simply dropped out along the way as the challenges of working in a completely foreign system without the resources they were accustomed to, defeated them. We realized to our supreme disappointment, that we were never going to become wealthy enough from doing this project that we could buy a coffee plantation.
Through it all, we never lost our sense of humor over the Monopoo coffee, and sometimes laughing about it has kept us going.
It’s a most amazing place, set on a pristine beach with TreeTop Villas placed within the forest canopy. It’s Nicaragua’s model project for sustainable development, and the Spa features specially designed massages and body treatments using local organic products such as cacao, honey, and papaya. Morning and evening yoga classes help guests and residents flow into balance. Wellness programs are being developed and expanded.
Villa at AQUA interior
Most importantly…The monkeys are still there.
Just after Aqua’s opening, I was privileged to stay as a guest in one of the TreeTop Villas. I walked into the kitchen, and as with most hotels, there was a coffee maker and a packet of coffee.
And I sat down and cried.
So I’m never going to be a coffee magnate. And we still have some work to do to finish Phase One, and the Wellness programs- not to mention Phase Two. And when we’re finished, it will be even more amazing than it already is.
But what a sweet reminder that dreams don’t have to be enormous, or life-changing. Sometimes they’re as simple as a cup of coffee.