Tarrazu, Costa Rica

Unlike in the West Valley, the flowering in Tarrazu was in full swing. As we drove up into the coffee country, the hillsides looked as if they had been sprinkled with powdered sugar, some trees being almost more white flowers than green leaves. Lowering the car windows immediately filled the car with an overwheming scent of coffee flower, like lilac or jasmine, mixed with the smell of coffee pulp and smoke from wood fired ovens.

 

PUENTE TARRAZU

The Puente Tarrazu mill is becoming a regular contributor to the Square Mile coffee offer list. The mill is a partnership between 6 local families, led by Rodolfo Rivera, and this year we picked up a lot from their Finca El Sur for Red Brick, as well as a small lot from Rodolfo’s Finca San Martin 1900. Puente Tarrzu mill their own coffees as well as neighbouring ones. When we arrived we ran into Mario from nearby Finca Los Quarteles who was there doing some hulling of his 1800 masl honeys. Using a small mechanical huller, and with some help from his son Jose Mario, he was mixing leftover dry parchment chips from the procesing of Puente’s white honeys into the sticky clumps of his own honeys, in order to reduce the stickyness of the mass and allow it to pass through the huller more easily.

IMG_0656
Start with sticky honey processed parchment
IMG_0657
Add dry parchment chips
IMG_0667
Mix well
IMG_0694
Throw it into the huller
IMG_0674
Try to teach Anette how to operate a huller
IMG_0684
Best leave it to the experts
IMG_0652
And the parchment goes from this
IMG_0670
To this!

Puente have had their wet mill for 11 years and 3 years ago they built a dry mill as well. Last year they hired a young guy called Alejandro to manage the dry milling side of the operation. While he’s completely new to coffee he has already helped raised the quality of Puente’s production. Considering the harvest was late and the crop was reduced, the increase in quality will help them a long way in making up for loss in volume. They might be facing the same issue next year, as the flowering is already about two months late this spring.

IMG_0719
The bodega at Puente Tarrazu
IMG_0716
Rodolfo giving me a tour of the drying setup
IMG_0714
Greenhouse covered patios at Puente
IMG_0688
In the busy season, guardiolas are used to help dry the coffee
IMG_0690
Inside the main Puente bodega
IMG_0708
Alejandro weighing out 69 kg bags of greens

Coffee is truly a family and community business, and at the hand sorting belt I found Alicia, Marjorie, Jenny and Dania working away. They are nieces and neighbours of the Puente Tarrazu families, and lend a hand during harvest and processing to get everything done on time. It’s hard yet necessary work for them to achieve their standards, but I was reliably informed that the eight hour shifts of beans zooming by could indeed get tedious!

IMG_0702
Hand sorting belt

It’s always great to visit Puente, to see what they’re working on and listen to their stories. For example, over cookies and coffee that Ephraim made himself (its usually his wife’s job so he was a bit nervous), I learned about his past as a bar owner and chef. Which explained why the chicharrones he made for us last year were some of the best I’ve ever had!

IMG_0710
Alexis, Ephraim, me and Rodolfo

 

LA LIA

I was really excited to see one of my favourite mills take 3rd at the Cup of Excellence this year, and to get a chance to catch up with them at the awards ceremony.

 

IMG_0317
Luis, Doña Lia, Oscar and me

Brothers Luis Alberto and Oscar Adolfo Monge Ureñas named their mill after their mother, Doña Lia, and built it on one of their many farms, Finca San Lorenzo. Since their start in 2007 they have placed in the COE several times, and their reputation for high quality coffee has proven itself well deserved on every cupping table I’ve come across them. Their impressive nursery is a joy to see, with a host of different varieties such as Villa Sarchi, Caturra, SL28, Geisha, Red and Yellow Pacamara, Red, Yellow and Pink Bourbon on show.

IMAG0544
Second and third patios

This year we bought from their Santa Rosa 1900 farm, a high altitude plot with Red Catuai that was processed as white honey. Luis also took us around to one of the new additions to their operation, Finca Pie San, but being so new I didn’t get a chance to cup any of it this year. Next year however, I hope to see it on offer!

 

LA CASONA DE DOÑA LINA

It’s always great to make new acquaintances in the coffee world, and this year I got a chance to try the coffee from Roger Solis and his new mill, La Casona.

IMG_0750
The La Casona receiving station
IMG_0733
Raised and covered beds
IMG_0752
Roger Solis
IMG_0753
Sturdy beds ready for next years harvest

Roger owns two farms, Finca El Rodeo at 1600 masl and Llano Bonito at 1900. I picked up a few bags of the latter one, having been impressed with it on the cupping table among all the blind samples.  Roger’s mill is only two years old, he built the wetmill first and put all his profits from last season into building his bodega this year.  The bodega is beautiful and warm, made from eucalyptus wood grown on the farm, and will allow them to stop storing coffee in their house.  Investing heavily in improving quality across the board, he focuses on looking after the farm and has drafted in his son, Jorge, to be the miller. At only 17, Coco, as he is commonly known, has had a steep learning curve but is glowing with excitement as we walk around and have a look at the mill. Drying for a minimum of 12 days, they have built a combination of drying options, with open raised beds, covered raised beds, and a space for drying underneath the bodega; shade covered but open to the breeze.  They also do a lot of double washed Kenya style processing, which adds to the labour input but results in a really clean, interesting cup.

IMG_0749
The La Casona dogs, Max and Pinta
IMG_0737
Roger and Coco in the new bodega

 

GRANITOS DE ALTURA DEL ORTIZ

I’m a massive fan of this mill, not only for the quality of coffee they produce, but also for the fact that it’s ran by a bunch of kickass young women. I was so happy to see them take two spots at the COE this year, 10th with Johana’s Finca Ortiz 1900 and 28th with their mother Yorleni’s Finca Nery.

 

IMG_0322
Johana, me and Diana

Johana is only 21 but has been running the mill for the last few years, helped by her three sisters. Omar, their dad, has more than 20 years of experience as a coffee grower so oversees the management of the farms. Two months ago, with the sucesses they’ve seen since they built their wet mill, they decided to build a dry mill as well. In addition, they’ve constructed a greenhouse on the side of the bodega which will house raised drying beds for processing their honeys.

IMG_0777
The building housing Johana’s wetmill
IMG_0774
The brand new dry mill at Ortiz
IMG_0775
Under construction, a raised bed greenhouse

Their farm acerage is increasing too, they bought more land next to Ortiz 1900 where they will plant a selection of new varieties to experiment with. I bought some of the Red  Catuai white honey from Ortiz 1900 this year, and I can’t wait to share it with you!

IMG_0779
View of seedling beds and the dry mill/bodega
IMG_0767
A selection of varieties to be planted out
IMG_0769
These seedlings will be ready to go out into the field next year
IMG_0776
Tiny soldiers

It’s always great to hang out with these ladies, hear about their plans and watch a young generation of coffee producers make their mark on the industry.

IMG_0765
Joice has just started learning the guitar and treated us to a small concert!
IMG_0783
With Johana, Diana, Jocksi and Baby Jocksi, Dona Yorleni and Joice

 

LOS ANGELES

Across the road from Granitos is the mill Los Angeles, owned by the Granitos girls’ uncle, Ricardo Calderon, his wife Lourdes and kids Fernanda, Lizeth and Diego who are all involved in running the farms and mill. They took home four awards from this years COE, for the farms La Casa (30th), El Cedral (27th), Vendaval (21st) and Granadilla (15th).

IMG_0266
Ricardo receiving his certificate for El Vendaval
IMG_0278
Fernanda receiving her certificate for La Granadilla

New this year for Los Angeles is their bodega, built next to their house to store coffee, trucks, fertiliser and miscellaneous equipment. They’re planning a small shop in the front that will stock necessities for the pickers during harvest season, and on the mezzanine they have space that could be turned into a sample roasting and cupping lab.

 

IMG_0788
Ricardo at the loading bay of his brand new bodega
IMG_0791
Covered drying beds under construction
IMG_0802
Hand sorting at Los Angeles
IMG_0806
Green coffee sorted and ready to bag into jute
IMG_0807
The dry mill setup in the bodega
IMG_0809
Beautiful views even on a rainy day
IMG_0810
Diego and me in front of the Los Angeles sign

Since it was raining a fair bit while I was at Los Angeles, it was nice to just sit down inside their lovely house and have a chat, talk about the COE results and their plans for the future. There was time for a bit of gossip too, like the story of how Ricardo and Lourdes met and fell in love at her grandfathers discotheque back in the day. Love seemed to be on the minds of the new generation too, so I was curious to hear whether the recent COE auction didn’t act like a bit of a speed dating arena for the young coffee farmers. The Los Angeles kids giggled and denied my allegations, but Lourdes let on that the mother at one of the farms out in the West Valley had indeed been trying to create a bit of a love connection between her son and one of Lourdes’ daughters. We’ll see next year if young love triumphs!

Till then, Costa Rica!

Anette Moldvaer

Anette Moldvaer

Anette Moldvaer is the co-founder and green coffee buyer of Square Mile Coffee Roasters. Since starting as a barista in Norway 18 years ago she has worked in imports, education, training, cupping and roasting. She is a World Cup Tasting Champion, an international coffee judge and the author of "Coffee Obsession”.

Anette Moldvaer

Anette Moldvaer

Anette Moldvaer is the co-founder and green coffee buyer of Square Mile Coffee Roasters. Since starting as a barista in Norway 18 years ago she has worked in imports, education, training, cupping and roasting. She is a World Cup Tasting Champion, an international coffee judge and the author of "Coffee Obsession”.