Visiting coffee origins is a crucial step in genuinely understanding the coffees we work with every day, and appreciating the tremendous amount of work that goes into the other side of the supply chain. We seek out opportunities to visit farms whenever we can, to learn more about the producers, and to source the best coffees available. Accompanied by our Master Roaster & Co-Founder, Mark Wain, our Head Roaster recently visited Costa Rica, to visit farms and find some fresh new coffees. After his return, Ryan wrote the following Trip Report, detailing everything he saw and learned during this exciting trip, which we’re happy to share with you now.
The hotel we stayed at was located in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. San Jose is a major city, with all the concrete, traffic, and people to show it. To get to Dota, the first coffee-producing region we visited, we left our hotel around 9:30a, and went for a 90-minute drive in which we crossed the Continental Divide. The northeast side of this mountain range, where we started, is in the Caribbean weather zone, and was dark, cloudy, and raining. Conversely, once we crossed over to the southwest, into the Pacific weather zone, the clouds opened up, the sun came out, and we were treated to a beautiful day. This was a prime example of how the mountains are responsible for creating so many different micro-climates in Costa Rica.
Though Tarrazu is a well-known origin for coffee, there still exists some confusion around the name, and which areas constitute it. The coffee growing region of Tarrazu includes San Ignacio, Frailes, San Pablo, San Marcos, and Santa Maria, with the latter three known collectively as Los Santos. To the locals, Tarrazu is the town of San Marcos, and Dota is the town of Santa Maria & parts of Los Santos (though the Dota Valley is technically much larger). “Dota” defines a far more specific place than “Tarrazu”, and has a greater control over the quality of the coffee they produce.
Compared to the busy city of San Jose, Dota is much more of a small town. Quiet, and very friendly, where everyone seemed to know each other, and everybody seemed content. Much more relaxed, and easy going. The people were much more easy going, and no one seemed to be in a rush. The phrase Pura Vida (which directly translates to “pure life”), is commonly heard in Costa Rica. It represents their way of life: easygoing, optimistic, and appreciative of life. The people of Dota seemed to be the perfect embodiment of Pura Vida.
We arrived at Coopedota around 11:00a and met the with its CEO, Don Roberto Naranjo. Coopedota is a farmer-owned co-op mill, which serves many of the farms in the Dota Valley. We joined Don Roberto for coffee at a local café called Privilegios, and discussed our future goals, our desire to support responsible producers through relationships & continued yearly purchases, and his goals of promoting coffee and coffee-work as a vehicle for social mobility. After, Don Roberto took us on a guided full tour of Coopedota, showing us the mill, drying beds, holding tanks, and silos. The aroma of their coffee pulp fermenting is one I’ll never forget: wonderful, sweet, fruity, and very distinct. Tasting naturally processed coffees now immediately take me back to the memory of this co-op.
We were later honored to share a meal with Don Roberto and Doris, his wife. Doris prepared a traditional black bean soup, along with some flattened, fried plantains. While the meal itself was delicious & satisfying, what really struck me was their willingness to invite us into their lives, even if only for a moment. More than just having lunch together, this meal became a representation & solidification of the partnership we had been discussing throughout the day.
Once we finished eating together, Don Roberto took us up to one of his highest altitude farms (1,900masl), where harvest was still under way. We met some of the pickers, who were covered from head to toe to protect them from the sun. Their friendliness and quietness were accompanied by an intense attention to detail, making sure to only pick the ripest cherries for harvest. Finally, we cupped 13 coffees, and found some truly amazing coffees. We bought a pair of coffees from Coopedota: Vara Blanca, and El Vapor, which we’ll be excited to release this fall.
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