We are excited to have our awesome Costa Rica offerings now available on our website! I was fortunate to visit both of these amazing micro mills, Helsar de Zarcero and Don Sergio, as well as several others this past year early in the harvest. My host, Exclusive Coffees, is an amazing exporter in Costa Rica working with some of the greatest producers and millers in t
he country, and they have recently started projects in Nicaragua and Panama as well. Only the most motivated and quality minded producers work with Exclusive, and some amazing lots are finding their way to roasters as a result. They focus their efforts around quality, research and education. This past year they just opened a new facility in San Jose, with an amazing cupping lab and boutique dry mill to take their producer partners' coffee through it's final steps.
I'll be hopefully making a trip back in the next couple of months, so I'll share just a few highlights of the visit. As you may know, I'm a lover of the canine companion, so I tried to take a picture of one pooch at every mill.
The first mill/farm I visited was Finca Genesis, run by Oscar and Olga Mendez. Oscar is so passionate about the coffee, and very excited to talk about his work. He claims to be "organic by conviction," in that he is not officially certified organic, but runs an organic operation. His relationship with the land and his respect for the terroir is inspiring, and his dedication to quality is intense.
Another very small mill we visited was Don Sergio, which we are excited to have bought coffee from this year! You can purchase this coffee at our online store. Sergio and his family are also dedicated to an organic process, and have been certified since the early 90s. The farm, home and landscape surrounding this mill in West Valley is amazing. We spent some time walking around the part of the farm nearest to the house, took a look at some exotic wood seedlings Sergio had recently planted, then spent time together in the house drinking orange juice made from the tree outside, talking as best we could through language barriers (still working on my Spanish) and looking out over the farm. As I was leaving, Sergio Jr. tried to offer me one of the tiny kittens that had recently been born there, I sadly had to refuse.
Helsar de Zarcero was really exciting to visit, because I have admired their work and their coffees for several years. The operation is super organized, efficient and the attention to detail and traceability is great for research and continued quality. We met with Ricardo Perez, one of the amazing and talented owners, and watched some processing. The mill processes coffee from the owners' farms, but also has created relationships with nearby producers who are as quality minded as they are, and have given back over 60,000 USD to the surrounding community. Some amazing lots have come out of these relationships, including Dogwood's current offering from them, which is a relationship with producer Nereo Ramirez. Buy it online here! Helsar de Zarcero is committed to sustainability as much as quality, since maintaining the land has as much to do with the quality of the coffee, if not more, than processing. All three of the owners own farms, Santa Lucia, Los Anonos and La Lleana, are certified organic. This mill is also carbon neutral certified, which is fairly new. They compost all the cherry left over from processing, and put it back in to the land. These are truly amazing folks, and we're so excited to have their coffees.
For our upcoming espresso (the Dogwood changes all the time) we'll be introducing a Costa Rica. One of these is from another producer that works with Helsar de Zarcero, Hernan Solis, and the other is from the Santa Rosa farm at La Lia micro mill, owned by Luis Alberto Monge. The mill is in the San Lorenzo de Tarrazu coffee region. One of the other farms Luis owns, El Dragon, placed fifth in this year's Costa Rica Cup of Excellence competition. He is very dedicated to quality, doing things right, and learning every year. The mill and surrounding area is beautiful, with huge Canna Lilies bordering the patio area. He has a gorgeous nursery, and plants mostly Red and Yellow Bourbon, Caturra and Catuai.
Another mill I was very excited to visit was the well respected Don Mayo. One of the first coffees we got when we started doing retail at Rustica Bakery was a microlot from them, and I've admired coffees from Don Mayo having had them from Stumptown and others. It's interesting that the longer I've been doing what I do, I recognize producers, farm and mills more than I do the companies that roast the coffee. No doubt, it's because of these companies that I know these coffees, but more and more people are learning how to roast better, to cup better and want to do these things even better, so there's so much more access to great coffee.
Don Mayo is set up really well for visitors, they are big on education, and they have this rad little sample roaster in their cupping room:
Getting to Don Mayo was awesome, the most hilly, mountainous roads took us there. It amazes me how trucks with coffee get around these places. More info about Don Mayo at www.cafedonmayo.com.
I visited a dozen other mills, and it was great to see so many different types. We visited one large estate (Santa Anita) and of course the very small ones such as Genesis and Don Sergio, but also so many others in between. Some of the other mills I really admired were Don Jose, Don Ezequiel, Brumas del Zurqui and Los Angeles. I'm excited to hopefully visit again during the next harvest, which is happening soon! Costa Rica is an amazing place for coffee, and home to some amazing people, Dogwood is proud to be partnering with so many of them for our coffee!
- Oscar Mendez at Finca Genesis
- Abba at Finca Genesis, watching over the coffee trees.
- Sergio Corrales and family at Don Sergio micro mill
- Outside the cupping room at Helsar de Zarcero
- The edge of Finca Santa Lucia, Ricardo Perez's farm, named after his daughter.
- Luis Alberto Monge at La Lia
- Me with some little Yellow Bourbon plants at the La Lia nursery.
- Patio outside the cupping room at Don Mayo
- Sample roaster at Don Mayo
- Friendly pup at Los Angeles
- Me, looking happy at Los Angeles (photo by Yiannis Taloumis of Taf coffee in Athens, Greece)