Farm Diaries: Costa Rica 2012

Our Director of Coffee, Byron Holcomb, recently got back from a relationship-building trip to Guatemala and Costa Rica. Here is Part Three of his letters home.

Pura Vida, 

They say that for everything here. Hello. Goodbye. Thanks. Whats up? It is kinda catchy. But I’m more likely to pick up what our host kept saying about how challenging this crop will be for both Costa Rica and Guatemala. “Hijo de Gran Puta!” (Son of a b—). Guatemala’s harvest is early. Costa Rica is late. Both have really irregular maturation because of rain, cold and all around strange weather. 

I love how honest farmers are. “Yeah, this harvest isn’t going to be our best. Sometimes because of the rain we have to pick pintones” (half-ripes). In general this means a more under-ripes, less quality drying, and more expensive pickings (doing 4-5 pickings when they used to do 3). 

That said we (finally) found a cupping table that rocked our world. Yesterday we left the hotel at 6:20am and headed back to Terrazu to meet with an Association that won 6 places in the Cup of Excellence last year and has been placing in the top ranks for the last 4 years. They are going super fast because they pay great prices and seem to be packed with awesome people. 

There is one family that we visited two of their farms. They have five farms that range from 2-15 hectares. The two hectare farm at 1,500 meters won 8th place last year in CoE. The family is in its third generation and the six young family members (from 35-22ish) are all really sweet and kind. After seeing their farms, we went to their house for breakfast and shots of Black Label whiskey. Let me explain. The father who was 65 and looked 80 was so moved by the fact that roasters came to his house he forced them to take a shot of whiskey with him, (before we ate breakfast). I smiled and raised my empty hand while they grimaced. The reason it was a big event is that no roaster has ever been to their house. The Senor was sure he would die before he actually met someone who purchased his coffee. They sell to La Minita and others etc. They don’t even know who bought their CoE lot! 

Of course, it is tempting to buy some just to make everyone happy. I told them my hope was that the coffee was as beautiful as my experience. We should be able to cup some of it in the next couple months. If the coffee is crazy brilliant, game on. 

Speaking of crazy brilliant, after four tables of stock lots, we finally tasted some coffee and shared numbers like 91, 88, 87 etc. Some of them tasted super fresh and will settle really nicely. Others were Geisha, others were sweet sweet honeyed coffees. One tasted just like a Pacamara. They only represent a few farms and some were first pickings (not the best quality). At least we were rather calibrated and left excited. Incredible diversity and some really top notch coffees. 

Today was my catch up day. Laundry, hair-cut, email, buy coffee for Korea, lots of email. 

Tomorrow, I will head off with Tim O’Brien to visit some more micro-mills and find some brilliant coffees (when they are ready). 

Pura vida, 
Byron