Costa Rica is incredibly famous for its coffee. We used to sell some, then we started to meet producers in less famous countries and because we valued those relationships over nonexistent ones in Costa Rica we stopped selling Costa Rican coffee.
About a month ago, we received a lead on a small group of farmers in a town called Cedral, up in the mountains around San Isidro del General. The lead came from Alia Kate, who works for GlobalWorks, a program that leads several-week long community-service expeditions in exotic locales. Alia would be in Cedral working on an international pre-business program with some high school students for the first week of August. Alia thought it would be cool for the students to see what green coffee buyers do. We thought it would be cool to start a relationship with a small community of people interested in promoting themselves on the international market.
So I got on a plane and went to see what was up.
Donald talks about honey processed coffee
For the first day I was there, en route to Cedral, Costa Rica felt a little sour, like everybody was being nice to me only because the country knows it has to be nice, has to impress tourists. Nobody was into talking about anything, everyone had been trying to scam me out of the limited supply of money I had. Then, I got to San Isidro, Ferlán from Cedral picked me up in his truck on the way to pick up his motorcycle, and it felt like I was with a real person, it began to feel welcoming and calm like all of the other countries we visit to buy coffee from.
The community of Cedral consists mainly of the Diaz Vanega family. Ferlán and Donáld are the two brothers in charge of coffee stuff. Their grandfather founded Cedral in the 1940s; ever since they’ve been augmenting coffee production, working on having their name recognized. GlobalWorks has sent groups of students to work in Cedral for 6 years, has helped to build a micro-processing mill and some other infrastructure. As a community, the people of Cedral like the idea of this kind of micro-tourism, homestay, visit to the coffee farm, hike up to the indian burial ground, conversations about the environment, no changes to daily life inspired by excessive tourism.
Everything coffee was cool. Most of the 15 members of ASOPROCE, Cedral Producer’s Association, live in town, 6 live in San Isidro. Nobody outside of family and friends comes to work, even during the harvest. Everyone receives equal pay. The land is clean and coated with delicious fruits, there’s a big vat of compost. When Cedral started their micro-processing mill, they sorted by producer. Then, they decided that for the sake of Cedral as a place, they would rather just sort by quality and sell as Los Jilgueros (the Jilguero is a bird native to the region), Coffee from Cedral. The community is working towards Bandera Azul, which is a voluntary program that began with beach towns and has since moved on to mountain towns. It’s basically meant to improve overall environmental quality without the harsh prices of third-party certification.
Donáld and Ferlán, their parents, their kids, some dudes from the government, a little bit with the Globalworks crew, I another good batch of honest people. We negotiated prices a bit, and Think Coffee hopes to have some coffee from the community of Cedral coming its way within the year. I’d like to go back and hang out, harvest, make bread, milk cows, wander around the mountains with my new friends. They’d like it if other interested people would do the same.
2. Candelilla Estate
Then, I went to visit La Candelilla Estate, in San Marcos de Tarrazú. This is another little family, only 9 producers, about 4 containers exported annually. Victor Naranjo came and picked me up, drove me up to see the land. The youngest of the family, Esteban Sanchez, then arrived to discuss all the processing. As small as Candellilla seems, it operates like a big efficient exporter. Same deal, all family and friends, everyone paid the same. Esteban told me that they make sure that no matter how the coffee is processed, that the beans are alive until the point they’re roasted, that you can always grow a new tree no matter how much it’s been washed or dried. That’s something I’ve never heard before, and I liked it. Irving Farm is roasting some coffee from Candelilla right now, we hope to have it on the Single Source menu soon.
Costa Rica is pretty cool. We still have our friends everywhere else, but it’s nice to make new ones, and to have just that much more sense of the coffee world.
Noah (AKA Barquito) works at our 8th Avenue location and is part of our Farmer Relations team.