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Costa Rican buying trip – 2011

May 13, 2011

At the end of February 2011 we visited our friend Francisco of Exclusive Coffee in San Jose Costa Rica.  Our goal this trip was to re-visit our relationship not only with Exclusive Coffees, but also our current coffee producer Luis who owns the Rio Jorco Micro-mill.  Below is our observation of the Costa Rican coffee growing market, as well as introduction to two great new Micro-Mills coming to Fratello.

Costa Rica Dry mill, Exclusive Coffee

To my amazement and delight, our trip started visiting the new offices of Exclusive Coffees.  They moved into a much larger facility with a state of the art cupping lab.  As always the coffees being cupped at Exclusive are roasted to perfection (which is extremely rare when visiting farms/labs at origin) and the selection of coffees for the most part where shining stars on the table.  Costa Rica has many great growing regions, and now has many first class micro-mills in each of these regions.  To keep our palates focused, we only cupped coffees from Tarrazu and the West Valley.  Aside from the cupping facility, Exclusive Coffees has installed their own Dry Mill to assist in the grading, separation and cleaning of the micro-lots being produced by the micro-mills they work with (approximately 100 micro-mills).

costa rica coffee producer direct trade Tarrazu

It’s no secret that the current pricing in the coffee market is almost at an all time high.  We’ve seen prices reach $3.00/lb at the New York Commodity Markets this year, the second highest since February 1997.   A weak US Dollar, increased demand for high quality Arabica coffees, global shortages of green coffee due to 25-35% shortfalls of production in most of Central & South America, coupled higher production costs due to costs of labor, oil, transportation costs as well as increases in fertilization are all are all factors which are driving prices up, with no real end in sight.

Costa Rica red coffee cherries direct trade

With these higher prices going to the farmers, what we noticed when touring the farms and micro-mills is how many of these famers have re-invested into the infrastructure of their wet mills.   Along with this, many farms have begun re-planting coffee trees, increasing the amount of fertilizer and making plans for increased production in the years to come.  What we see them doing is INVESTING INTO THE FUTURE OF QUALITY COFFEE & PRODUCTION.  This is huge!  This is something we also noticed in Colombia as well.  Looking 2-3 years out, we can see a lot more production to keep up with the increased demand, which continues to grow every year.

Costa Rica Red Coffee Cherries Tarrazu

This unfortunately wasn’t the case at every farm/mill we went to.  Sadly, Rio Jorco was one of the mills that disappointed us this year.  I wont to get into why on this blog post, but what I will just say is that we are not going to continue with this relationship this year.  We will re-look at them again, but they need to see some significant improvements…

Costa Rica Micro Mill direct trade

What is exciting is what we decided to come back with.  Our first 25 bag micro-lot  (Lot#37) of coffee is going to be from the farm San Pablo & La Cabana Micro-Mill.  It is located in a micro region of Leon Cortes of the Tarrazu Valley.   The coffee producer, Javier Meza, grows his 100% Caturra coffee at 1550 meters (5100 feet).  Only 3 people work at this mill and produce 250 sacks of coffee a year (38,000-42,000 lbs / year).  The lot we purchased is fully washed and sundried on raised African beds.  Javier takes great care in slow drying his coffee in hopes of achieving an above average consistency of moisture content and density of green beans.

Costa Rica Micro Mill coffee beds direct trade Fratello

The second 45 bag micro-lot (Lot #25-01) of coffee is produced by Miguel Rojas and processed at the award winning Helsar Micro-Mill in the Naranjo micro region of the West Valley.  This 100% Caturra lot of coffee was grown at a staggering altitude of 1700 meters (5600 feet).   This Lot is also fully washed & sun dried.

This gives Fratello’s clients two micro-lots of Costa Rican coffee to choose from that are both high altitude grown 100% Caturra, fully washed and sun dried.  You will need to try them both to taste the differences a micro-region makes in cup profiles.

Our commitment to quality continues to grow and prove itself in ever improving quality coffee.  We continue to deep-source our coffee in hopes of discovering unique coffee profiles & stories that hopefully educate not only you, but also your clients.  Thank you for your support, without it, we could not continue to support the families we work with.

We have more photos from this trip available to view on Flickr or Facebook.