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.