Notes From a Costa Rican Coffee Farm, Part 1
Happy February, fellows! Marc, here...your coffee roaster...writing to you from back in frozen San Francisco, California.
As you may know, I was fortunate enough to travel to Costa Rica last December, tagging along with my girlfriend and her family. Along with being able to fully defrost and surf some hot little waves, we were also granted six days in the mountains of El Roble De Heredia, nestled between two coffee farms in a casita of our very own.
What I witnessed changed my life as a roaster and as a business owner. Below is an attempt to explain that change, accompanied with some un-touched photos from the trip.
Before I arrived at origin, I "knew" coffee was a fruit. I could logically grasp the concept. I had seen pictures like the one above of endless lines of green shrubs with sparkling red berries on them. And I knew, logically, that inside those berries, were coffee beans. But arriving at a farm for the first time changed everything. Tasting, smelling, and touching the coffee cherries themselves straight from the vine was a sensory experience that can't be replicated. It was a sensory experience that goes beyond logically grasping something from a computer image.
Now, back in San Francisco, far from the tropical coffee farms of the world, as I pour raw green coffee into the drum of the roaster, I picture the plants they came from. I can feel the images of terraced hillsides under canopies of banana trees. I can taste the juicy sugary pulp. I can see the people who spent hours finding only the best, most ripe cherries, and tossing them into their baskets for processing.
On this trip to Costa Rica, we arrived on the second day of harvest. We were driven wildly through the dirt-and-boulder roads by the owner of the farm (I was convinced our tire would pop on every turn) and eventually found the group of coffee pickers. These people were amazing. Meeting them, and explaining in my broken Spanish that I am "una tostador de cafe" was the most significant moment of the trip. It fused together two ends of the coffee-producing spectrum. The experience put a face to cliches like "Fair Trade." If my purchasing practices aren't fair, these are the people who get screwed. These are the people.
The simple fact of our world today, is that a $1 cup of coffee simply isn't sustainable. Somebody is getting screwed, and it probably isn't person who sold it to you...it's probably these folks on the farm. So when you wonder what specialty coffee is all about, or what Bedfellows Roasting Company is all about...wonder no more. Our profits don't go to landlords or shareholders, they go to purchasing higher and higher quality coffee to deliver to our customers and wholesale partners. They go to support co-ops and trade organizations that directly support the people on the front lines. Because those people make great coffee. Coffee that is completely traceable.
I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of "Notes from a Costa Rican Coffee Farm," there's plenty more amazing memories to tell, and photos to accompany those memories. Coming soon...