5lbs. – Costa Rica Don Eli – Red Honey Catuai
Micromill: Don Eli
Altitude: 1600 masl & 1750 masl
Subregion: San Marcos
Farm Size (ha): 5 hectares
Variety: Typica and Catuai
Carlos comes from a long line of farmers. His grandparents worked coffee plantations, his father managed a farm, and Carlos grew up in the fields. He saw the struggles that his father and many other families experienced doing what they did and so he set out to experience more of the world. Speaking with Carlos today, in a barrage of languages, it’s easy to see that he is well versed in many cultures. As a young man he went to high school for a year in San Diego and even played on their soccer team as a foreign exchange student. After his studies, he backpacked through Europe and spent time in various countries. He loves to tell all his stories from his travels and cherishes the time he spent in the U.S., Europe, and India. He always knew he wanted to come back home and continue his family's’ tradition of farming, but he wanted to do it on his own terms; so he worked in restaurants in the US for a few years in order to save up and buy a farm of his own. We are sure glad that he did that, because he returned to Costa Rica, bought his first farm, and settled down with his wife Lucia with whom he raised 3 children, Marianela, Jacob, and Maria Jose, that are also following in the the footsteps of the generations before them. Today Carlos is a visionary and leader in the specialty coffee movement in Tarrazu and has many other farmers looking to him for guidance on how to pursue better quality, relationships, and prices. It is also noteworthy that Carlos gives back to his community in many other ways. He constructed a gymnasium in his village where people of all ages can exercise, hold courses, and train for competitive events. He absolutely loves sports, the youth, and visitors from all walks of life. He heads the Costa Rican arm of the global “Children’s Games” and prepares kids from his area to compete in a different city every year.
Tematica is extremely significant to Carlos and is the face of the Don Eli farm/wet mill. He put this land together piece by piece; even selling other properties in order to complete his vision. It is the closest farm to his house and he simply crosses over the Pirris River to reach it. Tematica means subject(s) in spanish and this area truly embodies many topics. It houses the wet mill, warehouse, “Trapiche” building used as the guest hostel and a place for farm workshops, as well as the Tematica and Organic/”Chamaco” coffee lots. The coffee from this lot is either around 100 year old Typica, 20 year old Catuai, or a small amount of 50 year old hybrids like Mundo Novo. The fields don’t produce a high yield and some of the trees are very old and therefore Carlos and Jacob choose to process this exclusive lot as a natural process.
This natural process is prepared by Carlos’ son, Jacob, who does all the processing for their coffee. After Carlos makes the trip through the Tematica lot to measure and pick up the extremely ripe cherries that his pickers skillfully select from this lot, he drops them off at their Don Eli micro mill where Jacob and Evelio immediately put the cherries to dry in a thin layer on raised beds.
When processing naturals it’s very important for Jacob to pay special attention to the initial drying phase. So, for the first few days the cherries are moved constantly in order to prevent too much fermentation. After a week, when the cherries look dryer they move them with a rake-like tool about every hour during the day and it takes roughly between 22 days and one month, depending on the weather, for the coffee to dry to its optimal moisture content. It’s very important for Jacob and Carlos after drying is done to let the coffee rest in the warehouse for about one month, especially the Natural process which seems to develop a lot of flavors while being in dried cherry for a month or so.
This coffee is part of Carlos’ specialty farmer support project. He buys coffee cherries from hand selected farms and pays them a high premium compared to what they could get elsewhere. The cherries get processed at Don Eli and an impact is made in the surrounding community by way of better prices for coffee. This particular lot comes from Carlos’ friend and “a real farmer”, Salatiel. It is nestled in the Talamanca Mountain Range that forms the prestigious coffee growing region of Tarrazu. Just North of the capital city of the canton, San Marcos, the plantations are situated on the southern facing slopes of the well-known La Cruz Mountain; which is renowned for the high quality of coffee it produces within its notches called Rodeo and Canet. The field sits at 1700 & 1800 masl and were planted with red caturra and catuai trees about 12 & 30 years ago.
Carlos’ son, Jacob, does all the processing for their coffee. The cherries are driven to Don Eli by Salatiel, dropped in the receiving tank, and Jacob flips on their Penagos Eco-pulping machine equipped with a mechanical demucilager at the end of it. Jacob carefully watches as all the cherries are moved through the machine with recycled water. The cherries are depulped and left with nearly all of their mucilage remaining on the seeds as they pass through the mechanical demucilager. Jacob chooses to process coffee coming from Canet this way because the high quality coffee it produces, it lends a more complex and sweet cup, and it’s eco-friendly.
Once the coffee has been processed, the slimey seeds are put out to dry. In this special technique, Jacob begins to dry the coffee on concrete patios and in tall piles for the first 3 days. The large piles get moved/turned only a handful of times per day in order to induce a slight fermentation. After the mucilage has begun to stiffen, the coffee gets moved to raised beds and is spread out into a thin layer. Then the coffee is moved with a rake-like tool by Evelio, the singular wet mill staffer, about every hour during the day. The whole process takes roughly 12-15 days until the coffee is dried to its optimal moisture content. Visually you can see that the parchment is very light colored and almost white when the process is over, hence the coining of the name “White Honey Process”.
Carlos chooses to get his coffee dry milled at one of the most renowned miller in the country, Tesoros del Cafe. Once he drops off his parchment coffee there, a 1 hour drive from Tarrazu to Cartago, it gets prepared for export. It is dry hulled, screen sized, density sorted, and sorted for defects by hand or electronic eye. After the coffee is ready for export, it is stored at Teseros del Cafe until it’s loaded onto a container for shipment.