Jack and Dismas are on a 10-day coffee buying trip to Central America. These are notes from their journey.
Hello, once again from Costa Rica! It’s 7:00 am, Saturday, March 1. We are in the quaint town of San Marcos, high in the mountains of the Tarrazú region, one of the most famous coffee producing regions in Central America.
Yesterday, we checked out of our hotel in San Jose and went straight to the lab. Exclusive Coffees has their own first class dry mill where they process and bag for many of the micro mills. Their beautiful lab is approximately 3,000 square feet. Every week, they cup and score all the lots of all the micro mills they work with (a huge task)! In addition, they host buyers like ourselves for daily cuppings.
When I walked in the door, I saw a good friend sitting on the reception couch. He’s from Brooklyn and my jaw hit the floor. His name is JD and he has 3 cafes and a small roaster in Brooklyn named Oslo. Small world! We laughed and reminisced for few minutes before getting to work. We cupped two tables of 15 coffees each. This was a big table and a challenge to manage. It took awhile for me to hit my stride but 30 minutes in I felt good. Three coffees on the first table stood out and six on the second. Tomorrow, we’ll bring those into another rotation to be sure they stand up. One particular coffee we loved was a Geisha varietal. Popularized about 10 years ago by the Peterson family of Bochete, Panama, it is now regarded as one of the most unique and demanding varietals. When it’s right, it’s truly amazing. The coffee we cupped was one of those. It tasted sweet, creamy, and very balanced, with notes of orange blossom and jasmine. I only had a few sips but I will remember it for a long time. Wow. Of course, it was not available for sale, only a sample. Maybe next year!
After the cupping, we headed for Tarrazú, the most famous coffee producing region of Central America. Tarrazú has over 150 micro mills. We went directly to Don Mayo micro mill, winner 2009 and 2011 COE, as well as many other awards. They are one of the most established mills in all of Costa Rica. One of their unique approaches is picking incredibly ripe cherry–almost too ripe. This creates heavy fruit notes in their washed coffees.
Another very cool thing we saw was an extended slow drying process. They built African drying beds, then stacked them about 10 feet high. This slows the drying to 21-plus days which will extend the shelf life of the coffees. Standard centrals last approximately 5 – 6 months. With this slow drying process they expect over a year!
One more day.