Report on Costa Rica

Costa Rica Origin Trip by NZ Roaster Guild member Anna McGregor, January 2013
January this year we made the long trip to Hacienda La Minita in the mountains of Costa Rica, which was incredible!
Hacienda La Minita is one of the oldest specialty coffee farms in the world and run by a true legend of the specialty coffee world, William McAlpin since 1978 when he took over from his father who started farming in the mid 50’s.
This farm is all about ethics, quality, environmental care, sustainability and relationships. Rob, Kristiane and myself had an outstanding stay at the farm, picking coffee cherries, viewing the mill and the processing, meeting the La Minita family and getting hands on. Kristiane and Rob had a great time conversing in Spanish with everyone, which I think the farm workers really enjoyed! The views were incredible and riding on the back of the truck up and down the steep mountainside roads on the farm was so much fun. Orange trees were scattered amongst the coffee trees for workers to eat, and various other trees for shade that made for a beautiful panoramic vista. The watering of the nursery trees was done by gravity fed water supply from the on site Tarrazu River that also drove a turbine for power supply.
The coffee trees are handpicked and passed up to four times during harvest then ripe cherries are sorted for the mill.
THIS FARM is Rain Forest Alliance and Quality Certified. The coffee is farmed with dedication and striving for absolute quality, which was very evident from all we saw. Only ripe cherries are hand picked and sorted for the mill; weeds are removed by hand machete; no pesticides or herbicides used; fully washed process; green beans are hand sorted before bagging…twice!!! The coffee is traded ay US$4.85 lb. not fluctuating with the world coffee commodity price. This, in my opinion is ethical AAA+++ and quality AAA+++. We buy through Direct Trade with the coffee coming directly from the farm to us annually. As a roaster, this is a dream coffee to work with. No defects in the cooling tray and consistently roasting with uniform colour every time and delivering a flavor that has made it a world famous single origin renowned for the chocolate, maple and walnut taste notes.
THE MILL is a hive of activity during harvest and runs through the night during harvest time. The depulping rollers are made of brass, which is known be more gentle on the beans than the steel variety. The beans are carried by tiled water channels to the fermentation tanks where the time in the tank is monitored by hand feel, which varies according to daily temperatures. The beans are then carefully washed and transported for drying. Every member of the staff (more like a huge family) has their particular job and expertise. The farm has housing for the workers, a dental and medical clinic and is a government certified work environment. Bill McAlpin has a real commitment to the land and the people who live and work there.
This winnowing table uses gravity and vibration to separate the beans with the highest density that go into the La Minita Tarrazu. The beans are then hand sorted twice before bagging. We trade through DIRECT TRADE with La Minita and the coffee is shipped directly to New Zealand from the farm, which guarantees fresh season coffee. This is noticeable in the intense fruity bouquet of the green coffee. We find this coffee is excellent for espresso based coffees.
• 700 Acres/ Rain Forest Alliance
• 2 Million Trees/ Typica, Catuai/Caturra
• 200,000 new trees planted yearly
• Weed control done by hand machete
• No pesticides or herbicides used
• 1400 – 1700 masl
• 500 pickers during peak harvest
• 1700 bags produced annually
• 100% strictly hard bean quality coffee
The Highlight of our Year!
We have had a fantastic year with Kristiane’s second time win of the NZ Cup Tasting Championship and travelling to France where she competed for New Zealand coming in 6th place in the world. But, we would have to say that our journey to Hacienda La Minita has been the highlight. The guys at the farm were so welcoming! We loved riding up the mountain on the back of the truck; getting in amongst the trees during harvest; seeing the mill in full production mode; experiencing the passion and attention to detail given from seedling to green bean to produce this incredible specialty coffee; eating the local food and drinking in the incredible panoramic vistas; this was all an incredible experience. We love to be part of this global industry that brings so many people together in such an awesome way. It’s been amazing to go and see where and how one of our coffees in grown. Thank you Hacienda la Minita!