Boots on the Ground: Costa Rica

Recently I returned from Costa Rica with Piero from Cafe Imports. We spent four days there filled with cupping potential offerings fresh off harvest as well as meeting with our past and future farmer relationships. On day one we cupped forty selections to narrow in our selections and build an itinerary for our next couple of days.

We started the next day by heading up to Beneficio Rio Jorco in the Central Valley to meet with Francisca and Oscar Chacon. They are third generation coffee producers and are known for being one of the first families to process high-quailty honey and natural coffees in Central America. This past year we carried their Washed Micro-lot #19. It was a pleasure to see their hands on approach to innovative processing and walk their farms with them.

After lunch on the road, we headed to meet the Aguilera Brothers in the West Valley. This family of twelve brothers and sisters operates five farms, and their own mill, almost entirely on their own. We are looking forward to offering one of their exceptional honey processed Villa Sarchi offerings in the next couple of months. They also are known for fielding a pretty exceptional soccer team, but that is a separate story.

The next day we headed over to the Tarrazu region. We started the day with a visit with the community of La Trinidad who grew one of our favorite offering this past year. We walked the bridge they built, with a bonus premium from last year's sales, to replace the road that washed out two years ago. With this bridge they save two hours on each trip to and from town, also enabling their children to attend school much more easily. It was an honor to some of the direct impact of our purchasing decisions. After a home cooked meal and a hike through a couple their farms we headed into San Isidro de Leon Cortez to meet up witch Don Cesar.

Don Cesar owns and operates the Don Pepe micromill. Don Pepe placed three exceptional coffees on my top-ten table the first day. They are some of the sweetest, cleanest, and most transparent honey and natural coffees I have ever tasted. This coming year, we will be carrying both processes, with exclusive access to the natural micro-lot. To make things even better, Don Cesar is an incredibly good person. His relationship with Cafe Imports started when he stopped to help Piero with a flat tire. My time with Cesar was filled with him convincing his friends to also sell directly to Piero, enabling them to make a much higher premium for their hard work.

Having this one-on-one time with Piero also allowed me to gain a much better understanding of his daily operations as a green buyer. He works exceptionally hard to build trust and strong relationships with these producers which allows us direct access to some exceptional coffees. Coming off this trip, I was inspired by seeing the circle completed. Watching a producer read their name clearly displayed on a package of our coffee reminds us that we are all in this together. Each of us, farmer, mill managers, importers, buyers, roasters, and baristas, are doing our part to honor this product so that in the end, you, the consumer, has an exceptional coffee experience.

- Tony Querio, Head Roaster & Green Buyer

Top: Coffee cherries at the Aguilera Brothers' Finca Licho | Don Cesar, his natural, and the homes of the La Trinidad Community on the ridge in the background

Middle: Members of La Trinidad with their coffee | Drying Don Pepe honey processed

Bottom: A bag of Las Lajas back on its farm | New coffee buds in La Trinidad