Oh, Costa Rica, known for its stunning national parks, rainforests, beaches, volcanos, and yummy coffee. The food, the culture, the people will make you want to kick up your feet, sip on some coffee, munch on some local chocolate, and enjoy the diverse landscapes. Not to mention that Costa Rica houses about 43,000 coffee farmers!
Turrialba Region & Aquiares Estate
Coffee started to grow in Costa Rica sometime in the 1700’s due to ideal growing conditions that includes fertile soil, high altitudes, a cool climate, and access to fresh water. There are 8 coffee producing regions: Central Valley, Tres Rios, Turrialba, Brunca, Guanacaste, Tarrazu, Orosi, and West Valley- each featuring different flavor profiles of coffee.
Our Costa Rica Red Honey hails from the Turrialba region, home to the Aquiares Estate, and CATIE, the Center for Tropical Agriculture Research and Education. Turrialba is full of lush green hills and volcanoes that surround the city. People travel here to go white water rafting, hiking, canyoning, and rock climbing. The Turrialba Volcano is still active today and the region’s soil is enriched with volcanic ash, which is rich in nutrients. The farmers grow vegetables and sugarcane along with coffee. Our importer, Ally Coffee, who helped us build a relationship with Aquiares says,
“Although the farm was founded in 1890, Alfonso Robelo is the man responsible for its transformation a century later. Alfonso arrived in Costa Rica in the 1980’s seeking refuge from the civil war in Nicaragua, where he was politically active. When politics soured into violence, he fled the country to keep his family and himself safe after receiving several threats against his life. Once in Costa Rica, Alfredo began building the Aquiares community on the enchanting slopes of the Turrialba volcano, a lush area of forests, rivers, fauna, and bright flowers.”
Alfonso transformed the relationship between land owner and farm worker by evolving the farm into a small town, allowing residents to purchase their own homes for the first time. Aquiares sticks to their goal of sustainability by focusing on carbon neutrality, experimenting with processing and not being afraid of new and improved practices. This attention to sustainability is why Roast House loves Aquiares and the coffees that they produce.
Their community serves as a wonderful model of sustainable and equitable coffee production. They continue to blow our mind with their innovative practices. Ally Coffee revels on how Aquiares is changing the ways the world looks at coffee production:
“In addition to capturing carbon, the farm’s protected biological corridors have long ensured the well-being of local animals and plants. Aquiares also welcomes researchers from around the world to conduct agricultural and environmental studies on their land. Projects have included investigating the benefits of agroforestry on soil health and observing the diverse bird and wildlife species that thrive in an agroecological environment.”
Aquiares Estate recognizes the need for innovation, which is why they produce the H1 Centroamericano F1 Hybrid, a.k.a the Costa Rica Red Honey that you all love so much (or will love so much).
What Are Coffee Hybrids & Why Do We Need Them?
When you think of the word “sustainability”, what do you think of? Disposable paper cups? Reusable mugs? Reusable bags? Do everything in moderation? Less waste? The word “sustainability” has become a trendy word over the years, especially in the coffee industry. People are tossing that word around like a peaberry. Yet, few people purchase organic, fair trade coffee. It is estimated that by 2050, we may lose around 40% of cultivable land for coffee. Imagine waking up one day and not being able to taste or smell that sweet sweet coffee brewing in your kitchen. You hear about climate change all the time, but the changing weather patterns, pest, diseases, deforestation, and rising temperatures are threatening coffee production worldwide. We like to think about sustainability in regards to the coffee supply chain- that we make decisions today in a mental framework centered around future viability. Which is why we value farms like Aquiares who continue to put work into true sustainability. To combat the extinction of coffee, World Coffee Research’s vision is “to create a toolbox of coffee varieties, genetic resources and accompanying technologies and to disseminate them strategically and collaboratively in producing countries to alleviate constraints to the supply chain of high quality coffee. They are working tirelessly to protect coffee and create a sustainable future.” They focus on coffee genetic improvement by creating F1 Hybrids, which are named for filial 1, the first generation of offspring between distinctly different parents. The science behind coffee genetics is beautifully difficult, two coffee varieties are merged to create one coffee in order to prevent leaf rust and disease.
The H1 Centroamericano is generated by crossing the Sarchimor T-5296 with a wild Rume Sudan variety. According to Ally Coffee, “it is reproduced through a tissue culture cloning process called somatic embryogenesis.” This hybrid is high yielding, and rust-resistant, and has a complex, deep flavor profile. They are less vulnerable to stressful environments and provide hope for future hybrids. F1 hybrids have a promising future and can help alleviate environmental stress for famers. Yes, World Coffee Research and others are taking action to help the coffee industry as a whole, but we as roasters and lovers of coffee participate by recognizing the need to support people who are dedicated to true sustainability.
Red Honey Processing
Now, back to our Costa Rica Red Honey. A honey process is when you remove the cherry peel and leave the mucilage inside while the beans dry. The mucilage is extra sweet and sticky, making the beans oh so tasty. There are a couple different kinds of honey processes- white, black yellow, gold- which just means that some have more mucilage and some have less. White and yellows have less while red, golds, and blacks have more remaining, which lead to a fuller-bodied coffee. Reds are processed under more shade to slow down drying time. Since the mucilage remains on the bean for a good while, sugars are absorbed into the coffee bean. The beans are dried on raised beds for 18-24 days.
This is our second year working with Aquiares and this red honey process continues to impress us. This year we're tasting a massive amount of sweetness from vanilla to brown sugar. After a sip, the flavor carries from brown sugar to a deep chocolate and honey. The vibrance is reminiscent of a pineapple upside-down cake with a black cherry finish. Make sure you buy a jar, we promise you won’t regret it.