Origin Trip Report: Costa Rica, Feb. 2024

Origin Trip Report: Costa Rica, Feb. 2024

Our green coffee buying team is on the move again this month, visiting Costa Rica and El Salvador. We're proud of the long-lasting relationships we've nurtured through nearly 20 years of our Direct Trade program, and always seeking out promising coffee producers to bring into the fold.

In the past few years, Volcán Azul has been the source of a number of exceptional single-origin coffees in our lineup. Needless to say, our team was very excited to begin the trip there!

Day 1: Volcán Azul

"Fifth-generation coffee producer Alejo Castro pulls from 200 years of family tradition and knowledge as he continues to innovate and push the boundaries of specialty coffee on the slopes of the Poás Volcano in Alajuela. Over 50% of Volcán Azul’s production utilizes unique processing methods, such as anaerobic naturals, while also exporting 27 different coffee varieties, including Mokka, SL28, and Gesha."

Volcan Azul Gesha plantation"One of the newer managed Gesha plantations. No herbicides are used here. The ground cover helps to cool the soil and prevent erosion during the rainy season which will typically start in late April/early May."

"Vivian Kahle, Alejo Castro Kahle, and Fernando Castro Jiménez (flanked by PT's COO Brent Piepergerdes and Bird Rock Coffee Buyer Jacob White). Together, the three continue the legacy of producing coffee that their families began 180 years ago in Costa Rica."

Alejo explaining pruning strategy at Volcan Azul

"Alejo explaining the pruning strategy for this section of nine-year-old trees near the mill. Insolation, slope, shade, wind, and soil moisture all must be accounted for in order for pruning methods to be successful."

Day 2: Finca Llanos

"Over the past 8 years, Oscar Echevarria and Stefan Müller of Finca Llanos (pictured at top) have been developing their own approach to soil management. Moving away from synthetic fertilizers, they’ve created their own system to manufacture natural fertilizers using vermicompost that’s pelletized and applied through drip irrigation, yielding a soil that’s nutrient rich and active with microbes."

"This ideal substrate has given them impressive results, with their SL28 and SL34 coffee varieties showing incredible growth only 15 months post germination."

(If Stefan Müller's name looks familiar, that's because he also owns Don Benjie Estate in Panama! He produced our 2023 Good Food Award-winner, Static Gesha Natural.)

Day 3: SMS Specialty

"On our third day, we visited SMS Specialty’s wet mill, Patalillo, located in Tres Rios. SMS works with more than 200 small producers in Costa Rica, providing processing, agricultural, and social services. Additionally, they have their own farm, Hacienda San Ignacio, where new coffee varieties, cultivation techniques, and agricultural technologies are developed and trialed before being shared with their producing partners. We had the opportunity to cup the results of these trials, with the standout hybrid varieties featuring stone fruit sweetness with basil like aromatics."

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