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Sourcing Coffee in Latin America: Costa Rica

Our most recent trip was to Costa Rica where we cupped micro-lot coffees and met with producers in the Naranjo and Tarrazú regions. Upon arrival we drove through the urban-industrial central valley to the pastoral hills of the Naranjo region about an hour and a half outside of the capitol city of San Jose.

   

  

Here we cupped 55 separated micro-lots from one cooperative. The micro-lot program is fairly new at this cooperative and since many of the producers are looking to receive incentives for growing great coffee, it's growing. Prior to programs like this, coffee from every member of the cooperative would be blended together at the mill and the coffee would lose traceability past the region. This meant members growing outstanding coffee would be paid the same price as members growing standard coffee. It is impressive to see this change in approach and the great response it is getting from the members of this cooperative.

      

 

 

We saw potential in the coffees at the cooperative in Naranjo but did not buy any of this coffee this year. The cupping and farm visits at Naranjo ended with a dinner of ceviche, steak, beans and rice and plenty of Johnnie Walker Black, a Latin American favorite, and Imperial to wash it down. We look forward to returning next year to revisit the producers and see the improvements.

 

   



From Naranjo we drove south of San Jose to the Tarrazú region. Tarrazú is well known for great coffee in Costa Rica. The steep, jagged mountains that make up the landscape reminded us of the enormous scale of Colombia. We cupped 64 coffees at the ASOPROAAA cooperative in the town of Acosta. Like the cooperative in Naranjo, ASOPROAAA is also fairly new to the micro-lot separation game and they have a growing number of members looking to participate.

 

   

 

ASOPROAAA is managed by a young, passionate guy named Luis Fernando. Luis Fernando is an inspiration to his members and this was apparent in the response we saw at a speech he gave at the end of our visit. You can tell his passion and trustworthiness helps inspire them to produce great quality coffee. The members know Luis Fernando and the cooperative will help them produce and process the best coffee possible as well as provide enormous assistance in finding buyers for their coffees. All of this work and passion can be tasted in the coffees we purchased from the ASOPROAAA coop.

 

  

 

The days at ASOPROAAA started with shots of properly pulled espresso looking over drying patios and mountains in the distance and ended with exhaustion from tramping through steep hills of coffee fields. Cupping a whole bunch of coffees was somewhere in the middle. The week ended with a game of futbol against a handful of the coop members. They beat us 6-1; in cowboy boots.

 

                    

 

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Sourcing Coffee in Latin America: Guatemala

Guatemala is a colorful country full of active volcanoes, uniquely painted chicken busses and women in brightly patterned traditional clothing who carry oversized baskets on their heads. When we arrived in Guatemala City in February we cupped dozens of coffees. Upon choosing our favorites we hit the road to meet the farmers who produced them.

 

 

Our favorite coffees were from the Antigua, Atitlan and the Fraijanes regions. These coffees all offered up excellent sweetness and clarity backed up by a nice body and clarity backed up by a nice body and fruited notes.

 

 

The coffee, farm and producer that impressed us most was Don Alberto with Finca San Patricio el Limon in the mountains overlooking the town of Palencia. “Don Beto” has a beautiful collection of coffee gardens that comprise his farm as well as pristine processing facilities and drying patios. Our favorite coffee was from the Las Brisas section of the farm. One aspect that sold us on Don Beto is his apparent passion for continual improvement. He works with his sons producing great coffee and we enjoyed seeing his operation and getting to know him and his family over cups of homemade passion fruit juice on his patio overlooking the valley of Palencia and the Pacaya Volcano.

 

We look forward to sharing several of Don Beto's micro-lots with you later this spring

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Sourcing Coffee in Latin America: Colombia

Over the last few months we have travelled to Colombia, Guatemala and Costa Rica sourcing unique micro-lot coffees and getting to know the people who produce them. These trips have provided great insight into what goes on at the farm level before the coffee lands in the US.  Look for these coffees to show up on the bar, online and in the bag over the next couple of months.

 



Our first sourcing trip this season was to Colombia.  In Colombia we visited with La Palma y El Tucan, a project, farm and processing mill in the department of Cundinamarca. Cundinamarca is not generally known to be a big producer of coffees these days. It is closer to Bogotá than any of the better known growing regions making the land more expensive to farm. Pretty much all of the coffee growers in this region are 65 years old or older as the younger generation doesn't see the value in producing a crop usually seen as a commodity. In Colombia, coffee sold as a commodity doesn’t command high enough prices to allow the producers to profit from the production most years. Therefore the younger generation in this area has abandoned this life for work in the city. La Palma y El Tucan is changing this model in an attempt to keep coffee growing alive in their area. They are paying fair prices for the farmers crops and also processing them at their own mill.  They are producing some very outstanding coffees (90+ SCAA ratings, it is very rare that a coffee scores above 90) and are bringing renewed hope and interest in coffee growing to their surrounding community.  

 

 

At La Palma y El Tucan we were lucky to meet many of their producing partners and we also experienced how the differences in green coffee fermentation times and processes affect the final cup. Fermentation is one process of removing slimy mucilage from a coffee seed before drying. This process, if performed correctly, can result in greater acidity, explosive fruit notes and enhanced body in a coffee. If performed incorrectly it can result in vinegary or oniony tastes in the cup. We were lucky enough to taste some great examples of exquisitely produced and processed coffees and we came home with two, exceptional, soon to be released, lots.

 

 

After long days of cupping coffees and visiting farms we drank a good bit of Poker beer and managed not to lose our hearing or vision while playing and getting beat in some thrilling games of Tejo(Colombian farmers are skilled at and passionate about their Tejo).  

 

 

We are very excited to see what La Palma y El Tucan have in store for the future and look forward to strengthening our direct relationship with this new, game-changing project.

 

Next Post:  Scoring great coffee in Guatemala

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