Episode 429 on Monday the 30th of January, 2017. Costa Rica Arbar El Manantial Red Honey Caturra.
We had very little information about this farm when we first found it in 21013 – so little information that the coffee didn’t even have a name! Back then all we knew was that the coffee was grown by Carlos Arrieta and it was delicious, but since then I've been lucky enough to visit the farm on trips to Costa Rica and, over the past few years, have found out lots more. Let me tell you what I know so far ...
I first got to meet Carlos at the exporter's office on the last day of my visit to Costa Rica in 2013. He arrived around ten minutes after I had cupped the first table of coffees, where I had found one lot that was making me sing. It just had to be his coffee.
Here ensued the worst negotiation to ever take place in the history of coffee buying ...
"How much do you want?" I asked.
He replies, "How much do you like it?"
"A lot,” I say.
"I'd like a lot then, please," Carlos says.
"OK ... "
Luckily at this point a grown-up from the exporter's office stepped in and made sure I didn't give Carlos my house, car and pension plan. We agreed a price that rewarded Carlos with more than he had ever got before and left me with a home to return to in Stafford.
The year before last I got to spend some time with Carlos and his family. I stopped for some lunch, hung out and asked lots of questions. First of all there's the mill, which is called Arbar and is very close to the house. It has drying tables and a small nursery, but it didn't have a deplulper (more about this later). The mill was brand new, and before it existed they would just sell their coffee to the local coop and so have no interaction with the coffee.
Then I found out that they own two small farms; this coffee is from the farm El Manatial, which was a new farm to us in 2014 but is now back for yet another year after being a massive favourite over the past few years. The farm is located in the Western Valley region near to the town of Lourdes de Naranjo. It's located at 1,600 meters above sea level and contains mostly Caturra, Catuai + a tiny bit of Villa Sarchi, there are also plans to plant some small micro lots too in the future. The farm produces between 700 - 1,400kg a year.
Carlos runs the farm with his wife and children, Maria Isabel, Yesica, Karen, Stephen and Jose Ignacio. He has owned this farm for sixteen years but only started processing the coffee himself in 2014 (while still paying someone else to pulp it for him). He hadn't been able to present his coffee to a single buyer previously, so he would send it to the exporter we use in Costa Rica and, thankfully, that's how we found him!
You may remember that two years ago the coffee was priced a little differently; our normal, nicely rounded-down price was not there. The coffee should have been sold for £7.50 (we negotiated a small price drop from the previous year because we bought everything from both farms, and this worked out that there were some economies of scale compared to the £10.00 of 2013), but we charged £7.88. Well, this was so that we (by “we” I mean “you”) could buy Carlos and his family a depulper for his next harvest. This meant he didn’t have to pay someone else to pulp his coffee, and he could gain more control of his amazing coffee.
I lent the money to Carlos, because I promised you would pay it back (and you did!). You can go and see what your generosity bought at the blog post here.
Last year one of my roasting team, Roland (of 'Roland's Daft Fact' fame), travelled to Costa Rica to be on the jury for their Cup of Excellence competition. If you ever wondered what a coffee roaster from the UK would get up to if let loose in Costa Rica, you should have a read about his trip in Roland Glew's Costa Rican Adventure.
In the cup you can expect the traditional amazing Costa Rican milk chocolate and caramel sweetness but here it's doing a dance partnered with a delicate apricot and peach acidity. In the finish there's also a super clean hit of pineapple.
Clean cup: (1–8): 7
Sweetness: (1–8): 8
Acidity: (1–8): 7
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 6
Flavour: (1–8): 7
Aftertaste: (1–8): 6
Balance: (1–8): 7
Overall: (1–8): 7
Total: (max. 100): 91
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