by PAUL MASSARD, BEAN HUNTER
We arrived in Costa Rica ready for another adventure and that is exactly what we found. Our first day on the ground was a little confusing as it was Super Bowl Sunday and it was like Costa Rica had turned into just another American state. Every where we looked they were offering an American sports bar experience — chicken wings and nachos were all we could find to eat. Although we felt like we were still in the States for our first few hours on the ground, that sure changed the next morning. We took off for our first stop on this trip ― a two-hour drive to the Terrazzo region of Costa Rica. During the beautifully scenic and picturesque drive, Danny, Zach and I felt each other out in terms of how much heckling everyone could handle on this particular trip. About an hour later, we arrived in coffee country and it was great to see all of the plants at the end of harvest (harvest was early this year due to weather conditions), and catch a break from Danny's friendly heckling.
The first farm we visited was La Pira, where we get our amazing Geisha varietal as well as the Naturally processed Costa Rica beans. It was great to see Carlos, the farm owner, again and talk coffee. One thing that stood out here, as it did on all of our trip, was the damage to the land and the crop due to an excessive rain that Costa Rica endured during the maturation period of the beans. Carlos actually had a brand-new stream that ran right through the middle of his processing area. After getting some great insight on this year's crop and seeing his newly-improved warehouse and processing facility, we got to smell and chew on some amazing parchment coffee. This might be one of my favorite activities when visiting a coffee county ― just walking up to a drying patio or African bed and taking a big handful of drying coffee and smelling it, then tasting a few beans at this early stage. The difference from farm to farm and process to process is extraordinary.
After our great visit to La Pira, we visited two more small micro mills that were in their first year of production, Fallas y Rodrigues and Ezequiel Vallalta. Seeing these micro mills shows that these farmers are really taking pride in the quality of their product, as they are consolidating their supply chain and making sure that all of the processes are done with accuracy and care.
Danny smells the beans at Fallas y Rodrigues
Next, we headed out to a few more familiar places, including Los Angeles, another small farm and mill run by Diego and his two sons. After a little coffee raking contest we made a few coffee angels (think snow angles in drying coffee). Then, they treated us to a sampling of their homemade coffee liquor ― which I must say puts anything that we have here in the States to shame.
Beans at Los Angeles
Our last stop of the day was La Candelilla, where last year, we found our award-winning Peaberry. There we were greeted by Stephan and taken on a tour of the facilities. We were lucky to arrive when they were receiving coffee, and so we jumped in line and helped them unload it, measure it, process it and then spread it on the drying patios. We also took a nice walk through the fields and tasted the difference between a Geisha berry and a Catuai berry. The difference was astonishing! The Geisha berry was so much sweeter, it had the greatest wild honey notes.
Tomorrow, we'll report on Day 2 of our 2011 trip to Costa Rica.