January 20, 2020
With the windows of the truck rolled down we soaked up the sun as Francine drove our small group from Sisters Coffee; Dan, Jesse and I through mountainous terrain of Tarrazu, Costa Rica. The ambling road would climb several thousand feet to the top of a mountain ridge just to descend to the valley floor below repeating this multiple times during our journey. Two hours into the drive we came to a halt just below a ridge crest on the lush mountain slope next to a grey Suzuki Jimmy. Ricardo hopped out of the Jimmy and introduced himself. An agronomist for Coopetarrazu, he would guide us on our visit with two members of the La Trinidad community.
In the fall of 2018, after an extensive cupping process, we selected La Trinidad as an offering for our Sisters Coffee Roaster Series. Standing out from thirty plus other samples from Central America La Trinidad’s unique profile, with notes of vanilla, almond, and nectarine, made us quickly fall in love with this coffee from South of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica.
In early 2019 while planning our visit with the Villartoro’s in Huehuetenango, Guatemala we eagerly added a few days onto the trip specifically to visit the La Trinidad community. Cafe Imports and Oxcart Coffee, Cafe Imports Costa Rican exporting arm, graciously coordinated an afternoon for us to connect with two producers from the community with Coopetarrazu. Travelling from Guatemala to Costa Rica was the easy part and late in the evening on March 1st we arrived in San Jose with plans to meet community members from La Trinidad the next day.
After meeting Ricardo we followed his Jimmy the remaining mile or two to Remilio’s house. We exited our vehicles in front of the uniquely colored house, painted an alluring shade of green, and Remilio was already outside waiting. Remilio was the first La Trinidad community member we were to meet. A sturdy individual with a captivating personality, our interaction with him was all smiles, laughter, and kindness. As he introduced himself we were immediately drawn in by his enthusiasm, he was ecstatic to meet us, as we were him. A leader in the community, he and his wife own eight hectares of coffee on the north facing slope of the mountain ridge La Trinidad is affixed to. Shortly after meeting we piled into the back of Remilio’s 4x4 truck and made the short journey down the rugged road less than a quarter mile arriving at his freshly harvested coffee plot. We were a few weeks late to see coffee on the trees, as the coffee pickers had moved through his plot whisking away every last cherry to the CoopeTarrazu receiving station, back up the ridge toward San Marcos. Sitting at 1500 meters above sea level and around 200-300 meters above a beautiful lake, Remilio’s coffee thrives with near perfect sunshine and healthy soil conditions. The lake, Proyecto Hidroeléctrico Pirris, is also perfectly situated below Remilio’s farm, and the La Trinidad community in general, with cooler temperature rising from the lakes surface and drifting up the ridge creating a microclimate completely unique in the area. Remilio’s coffee trees looked healthy and even though it was an off year for Costa Rican coffee production, he stated that he had a good year in terms of quantity of production.
Before leaving Remilio, he invited us into his house and served fresh juice and invited us to return on vacation and stay at his cabin to drink whiskey with him in the future. After hugs, pictures and many thanks, we departed in our vehicles for our next visit, roughly 500 meters down the crest of the ridge.
The second producer we met was Luis and his son Fabricio. Luis and Fabricio were extremely welcoming just like Remilio, however Luis was the opposite in almost every other aspect. Whereas Remilio was exuberant and outgoing, Luis was quiet and reposed.
We met on the doorstep to Luis’ home with Francine and Ricardo conducting introductions. Luis and his family’s coffee farm was right behind their house on the south facing slope of the mountain ridge. After a brief exchange of words we circled around their house to walk their coffee plot. Their trees had also been harvested previously however they had already begun the process of renovating their farm, getting it set up for the 2020 harvest. Sun exposure on the south of the ridge was much more intense than on the north and Luis’ plot showed the effects of the prolonged exposure, with the soil much more dry than at Remilio’s. As we walked the rows of coffee Luis and Febricio explained to us their struggle to keep their coffee trees healthy and thriving. Soil on their property is heavy clay and quite acidic taking a specific combination of shade trees and soil additives to lower the ph of the soil to create better growing conditions. The slope of the ridge Luis and Fabricio grow their coffee on is very steep also making all their extensive work that much more difficult. To combat the steepness they had hewn terraces into the slope creating narrow walkable passageways. Traversing their plot on the terraces, we dodged coffee and shade trees trying not to kick up the mulch laid down to keep moisture in the soil. With just two hectares, Fabricio and Luic work tirelessly to keep their coffee thriving and create income for their family.
Once our tour was completed we walked back to their house where we discussed the important stuff in life, soccer. Luis is an avid soccer fan and a big supporter of the Costa Rica national team. So, I threw out all my knowledge on the CR national team which is limited to Bryan Ruiz and their goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Once I had exhausted all the knowledge we took a few group photos and bid Luis and his family farewell.
Even with tasting La Trinidad’s coffee for a year prior to our visit Dan, Jesse, and I all felt like our connection to the coffee and the community grew significantly in the time we spent with Romelio and Luis. Both producers gave us insight to life in a vibrant community and offered different looks at coffee cultivation in their unique microclimate. With their continued hard work and agronomical assistance from Ricardo, as a part of La Trinidad’s association with CoopeTarrazu, the communities coffee continues to be a staple in our coffee lineup.
We are planning a return visit to the La Trinidad community in 2020 where we hope to foster new connections with members of the community and reconnect with Remilio and Luis. Until then, you can find the La Trinidad community’s coffee here on our website.