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Costa Rica

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Costa Rica Los Nacientes

Los Nacientes is a small farm above the Don Mayo mill in Bajo Canet de Tarrazu. Nacientes in this context refers to natural artisanal springs. Hector Bonilla purchased this farm in the past year so this is the first crop processed at his mill. It's in a beautiful location and has healthy Catuai cultivar trees, which is perhaps part of the more nutty cup character this coffee gives. The farm is at 1630 meters and the close proximity to the mill means that it's just a short trip to deliver the freshly picked coffee cherry to the mill each afternoon for processing.

The dry fragrance has a toasted granola scent, and nutty sweetness; hazelnut and dry roasted peanut. The wet aroma has honey and nuts as well, wildflowers, and dark muscavado (raw sugar) at Full City roast. The cup is different from many of our other Costa Rica offerings; lower acidity, more body. It has a creamy, nutty roast taste with slight citric accent that provides a little effervescent quality to the cup. There is a hint of quince, especially at a lighter City roast, but this cup seems most suited to Full City level, where the brightness is more muted and a latent plum fruit note emerges behind the roasted almond taste. There is also a hint of clove spice in the background.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Catuai cultivar coffee interplanted with banana, Nacientes.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Bajo Canet, Tarrazu
Processing: Wet-Process Style
Arrival Date: July 2011 Arrival -GrainPro
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Catuai
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Excellent body, lower acidity than other Costa Ricas
Roast: Full City roast seems ideal here, to bring out the body and plum notes that pair with the almond roast taste
Compare to: More body and lower acidity than other Costa Ricas, balanced roast taste.
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Costa Rica Tarrazu "Sangre de Toro"

Sangre de Toro means "Bull's blood" and it describes very, very ripe coffee cherry. I have heard this crimson-colored level of ripeness referred to as Sangre de Toro in several countries, so when I mentioned it the Calderons, a producer we work with in Santa Maria de Dota area of Tarrazu, they knew exactly what I was talking about. The idea was to create a very small lot from on of their high elevation plots near the beneficio selected from only blood-red coffee cherry. With this lot, I asked if we could pay the coffee pickers extra to re-sort their coffee fruit. In other words, they usually come to the mill and simply deposit them in the hopper, so varying levels of ripeness are pulped and processed together. But I wanted to find out what would happen if they did as they do in Kenya; have pickers lay out the cherry and resort it so that only these Sangre de Toro fruits were included in the lot. What I anticipated was a slightly winey fruit character perhaps with a slightly milder acidity, a more rounded flavor profile, perhaps with a bit less bracing brightness and structure, but great depth and mild fruit tones. I guess that's just my experience with really ripe coffee cherry. With the added labor to hand sort the coffee cherry and careful processing we paid the highest price for this lot of any Costa Rica coffee, but it is well worth it we think. I am proud of this lot because it was instigated on the farm, and something truly unique to Sweet Maria's.

The ripeness of the coffee cherry is definitely brought to bear in the aromas and cup flavors of the Sangre de Toro lot. From light to dark roast levels, the dry fragrance has soft chocolate tones, with vanilla and fruit traces. It is in the wet aroma that indications of cup flavor reveal themselves; plum, apple, cinnamon bark, melted butter and caramel sauce emerge. I was really amazed at how different my test roast levels were in the cup, and each excellent in their own regard. The lightest roast came through with the buttery mouthfeel and sweet flavor, ripe lemon and tangerine fruit notes (a soft acidity paired with these flavors, not puckering). It finishes silky and super sweet. At City+ the cup has more malic acidity and apple fruit tones, a light brown sugar sweetness as sucrose develops with the roast, hazelnut in the finish and a very lush mouthfeel. I roasted my third sample toward 2nd crack (without entering it at all), Full City+. This had an aggressive roast chocolate flavor, rounded dark cocoa sweetness in the finish, buttery mouthfeel, plum fruit notes. It's a rounded flavor profile, well-structured but nothing outrageous; yet as it cools it becomes more and more convincing of it's intrinsic qualities. I don't get the winey fruit I anticipate from this project, but I can't be more pleased with the cupping results. The rounded and well integrated brightness would lead me to believe that other coffees, some containing less ripe cherries, contribute to a "false acidity" in the coffee, a brightness due to slight levels of astringency and not from true, positive acidic brightness.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Coffee harvest at the farm of Sangre de Toro, earlier this year.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Santa Maria de Dota, Tarrazu
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: July 2011 Arrival, Grain Pro
Appearance: .0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity/ Sweetness, fruit, structure.
Roast: City roast is stunning, without any grainy light roast notes. City+ is more malic. FC+ has great cocoa notes, but tastes like a more standard coffee than this truly is. So I would keep it lighter...
Compare to: Very comparable to classic Dota Tarrazu flavor profile, but more refined. Initial brightness, fading to soft sweetness - a great cup (and from the family that was #1 in Cup of Excellence for 2011 too!)
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Costa Rica Lourdes de Naranjo - Finca Fidel

This coffee comes from a mill that is a stone's throw from Finca Genesis, an emblematic coffee for us here at Sweet Maria's, and quite close to Macho Arce's farm as well. Fidel is a farm managed by Aldomar, who also oversees the Manantiales mill where it is processed. Rather than the honey-style pulp natural method that gave us some uneven results from this mill 2 years ago, this is a fully-washed type coffee. I had a mini heart attack when the samples arrived this year because it is quite a small bean lot, and I wasn't thrilled with the preparation (higher than usual number of broken beans, see the .6 defect score). In reality, the cup has been minimally affected by the preparation issue (I find about one quaker per 150 gram roast). We evaluate coffee with our taste and smell senses, not with our eyeballs. And this year's Finca Fidel is really nice, performing well in a wide range of roast levels.

There is an abundance of cocoa powder and cane sugar in the dry fragrance, with mild red apple fruit notes. It's a rather bold juicy scent, and along with apple there is white grape, and a bit of tangerine in there. The wet aroma has the same juicy fruited notes, more pronounced apple juice (malic) character, also marked by a caramelized sugar-browning sweetness. On the break, a very floral honey scent emerges. The cup is very nice; bright and lively acidity gives a refreshing effect, and hibiscus floral notes come through, especially as the cup temperature drops. There is a Turbinado sugar sweetness (raw sugar-like, but not rustic sugar like Muscavado). Apple tastes are evident when the cup is hot, changing more toward Peach snapple tea flavor in the cooling coffee. There's a hint of praline and hazelnut in the background. The lighter roasts of this coffee, just through first crack and stopped immediately, had a distinct under-roast scent, a bit on the grassy side. It's a dense bean and can take a bit more heat to roast. I would suggest City+ to Full City+.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Using photoshop to help you find Finca Fidel amongst the trees!
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Lourdes de Naranjo
Processing: Wet Processed style
Arrival Date: April 2011 Arrival, GrainPro Bags
Appearance: .6 d/300gr, 15-17 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Typica Villalobos
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Bright refreshing cup flavors, clean fruited notes
Roast: City+ to Full City+.
Compare to: A dense Costa Rica that can take a little more roast.
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Costa Rica Bajo Canet de Tarrazu

This lot is from a small region in the greater Tarrazu valley, near San Marcos de Tarrazu. It is called Bajo Canet de Tarrazu; Bajo means "low", but in fact the coffee in this area averages 1600 to 1700 meters, quite high! While you find Bourbon and Typica varietal coffee trees in this area, most of the coffee is the excellent Caturra type, as well as the equally nice Villa Sarchi. I liked this coffee because of it's moderate acidic brightness, and strong fruited aromatics and flavor. It also performs very well with slightly darker roasts, whereas some of our other Costa Rica offerings have a sweet spot in the lighter roast levels.

This coffee is well fruited in the fragrance from the ground coffee, with suggestions of banana and melon. There is also quite a lot of caramel sweetness, while in the wet aroma it is a more bracing chocolate bittersweet roast taste that in apparent. The cup character depends greatly on roast level, but has fruited notes in lighter and darker roasts. The same fruits, melon (aspects of watermelon and honeydew) are there, with banana and chocolate-covered orange peel. Darker roasts actually seem to have greater sweetness (the opposite is often the case). I felt that Full City and Full City+ roasts had a dark brown sugar aspect, and a nice tangy roast taste as well. The fruits still come through clearly at the darker levels, and the body is elevated a bit. There's a herbal/botanical backdrop to this coffee which I find interesting, and comes out in the cooler cup. But for the most part it's a nice crowd-pleaser, less acidic than other Costa Rica lots, and balanced out by rather thick body.





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Why flash photography and Photoshop sharpening make everything better (not). Costa Rica.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Canet Micro region, San Marcos de Tarrazu
Processing: Wet-Process
Arrival Date: August 2011 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Villa Sarchi
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Great sweetness and body, versatile coffee
Roast: Full City roast was my favorite, but it works throughout the roast range, really.
Compare to: A great drinking coffee, meaning something you will brew up morning, noon and night.
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Costa Rica La Legua Bourbon

La Legua is considered a Tarrazu coffee, although at one time including this outlying area as part of Tarrazu valley proper was considered heretical. This coffee is grown between 1650 and 1750 meters, and is pure Bourbon plant material. Bourbon (say "boar-bone") is the varietal the originated on the island of the same name, now called Reunion. It contributes a classic, balanced coffee flavor to the cup, and while it produces more fruit than Typica, is by most standards a moderate to low-producing coffee shrub. This coffee is processed using the ecological Penagos coffee washing machine to remove the skin and fruity mucilage, then soaked in clean water (essentially it is double washed) and then sun-dried at Don Mayo coffee mill. The Bonilla family at Don Mayo has produced some of the nicest coffees from the Tarrazu area, and the pairing of a great high altitude coffee, Bourbon cultivar, and excellent processing from the patio to dry mill all shows in this cup.

The dry fragrance has a toasted granola scent, dark sugar sweetness, and roasted almond. Adding the hot water, the wet aromatics sweetens with a Malt-o-meal hot cereal scent, hints of boysenberry syrup, and spicy accents of cinnamon. The cup needs some time to cool down for the flavors to really open up. It strikes me as extremely balanced in the creamy body, and amber malt character in it's sweetness. The berry fruit flavors began to peek out, this time as a blackberry note at the FC roast level. The roast flavors are more nut-based in tonality, between a very mild roasted peanut and hazelnut. City roast has a sweet tobacco flavor, but City + reminds me of amber malt syrup, hence the fact that maltose must be present in this coffee. The degree to which you convert those sugars in roasting will determine a lot of your flavor here. My favorite straddled the divide between City+ and Full City. The finish has a sweetness of panela sugar cakes, the minimally-processed sugar used in much of Latin America. This dense, Bourbon cultivar is a bit tough to read, in terms of degree-of-roast.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Clumpy form of Bourbon in the tree, La Legua de Aseri
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: La Legua de Asseri, Tarrazu
Processing: Wet-Process Style
Arrival Date: June 2011 Arrival -GrainPro
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Excellent nut, malt and berry aromatics and sweetness
Roast: City+ to FC had the maximum berry fruits and amber malt sweetness.
Compare to: A very balanced, creamy body, toasted granola notes and dark berry fruits. Very nice for SO espresso!
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Costa Rica Helsar de Zarcero - Macho Arce

This is a lot from the farm of Manuel "Macho" Arce in the West Valley area of Zarcero, close to Naranjo town. I had noticed this coffee when cupping in Costa Rica years ago, distinct for its clean, classic origin character. It's mostly Caturra cultivar, and has the zesty brightness and citrus accents that exemplify this varietal at it's best. I remember Tarrazu lots from 10 years ago sometimes cupping like this, a classic bright coffee, but the Arce farm is from the West Valley area. I have been to this farm a few times; Manuel Arce goes by the name "Macho" even though he seems quiet and thoughtful. His old Land Rover pickup is a bit macho, but hey ... it's a real farm truck. In the past this coffee was sold to blend with general mill lots, but it's a quality that deserves it's own spotlight. It is processed at the Helsar de Zarcero mill, which is consistently turning out some of the best coffees from this area of Costa Rica.

The dry fragrance has a praline sweetness; maple syrup and pecan nut, and panela sugar cake in the darker roasts. The wet aroma has a brown sugar sweet scent with candy-like fruit accent, pineapple in the light roasts. The cup has a bright citric acidity and balance as well. The light roast has vanilla and refined sugar sweetness with orange and lemon notes. Darker roasts have caramel and vanilla, and are a little rummy. The aftertaste has suggestions of vanilla and hazelnut re-emerging, along with a lingering citrus tang. It's a bright, lively cup, not overly complex, but very refreshing (if a hot beverage can be characterized as refreshing). In darker roasts, the fruits taste more mature and ripe, the brightness has a nice tonality to it. I really like the way the darker roast level has a mahogany-toned sweetness, persistent and not overtaken with carbony tones. And I was a little surprised by the nice, viscous body when I first hit the cups... it's more than expected from wet-process type Costa Rica coffees. I am not calling it heavy body, but simply a nice thick quality to it, for a Central. I preferred the City+ and Full City roasts to the very light City level.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Manuel "Macho" Arce, coffee farmer, Costa Rica
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Llano Bonito de Zarcero, West Valley
Processing: Wet process
Arrival Date: June 2011 Arrival, Grain Pro
Appearance: .0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Typica, Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / A bright cup, orange acidity, sweet, clean
Roast: City+ to Full City+: At light roasts it has a thin body, but the best and brightest citrus accents. At FC roast it becomes more chocolaty and has a thicker mouthfeel
Compare to: A classic West Valley cup, and a classic Costa Rica cup too, with vivid citrus flavors.
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Costa Rica San Martin de Leon Cortes

San Martin de Leon Cortes is a small village on a high ridge, and not located on any official map. It is situated on along a part-paved and part-dirt road in the famed Tarrazu coffee-growing region of Costa Rica. Coffees from this area seem to mature over a longer period of time, and later than other areas of the Leon Cortes area of Tarrazu. This might account for some of the different cup flavors, or it could be that there are still old, local varietals in this area. This coffee is sourced from small producers in the area and processed at a nearby mill that has prepared some of our nicest lots in years past. So it's the best of both worlds for coffee quality; a great source for coffee cherries, and great processing and patio-drying.

The dry fragrance has the a hint of floral character, rose-like scent at City roast level, and praline nut/pecan toffee smells at City+. The wet aromatics are similar, slight floral in light roasts with a raspberry and honey. Darker roasts had nice aroma but lacked subtlety. The cup is brilliant and clear, with a caramel and nut roast flavor at City roast, becoming even sweeter at City+ level. It is a really elegant and sweet cup; at the right roast levels it shines. It cools with more berry fruit emerging, a bit of mora (a blackberry type), some apple brightness, and a very refined, clear sweetness. There is a slightly ripe fruit/winey aspect to the cup, suggesting very mature coffee cherry selection. In this aspect, it has a Kenya-like suggestion in the cup. The body is not heavy, but silky in texture. This is not a powerhouse coffee, but the qualities it has are so well-defined, hence very positive scores!



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Ben at the bar/market El Recreo, the only shop in San Martin.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Tarrazu, San Martin de Leon Cortes
Processing: Wet-Processed Style
Arrival Date: June 2011 Arrival -GrainPro
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Catuai
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Brilliant and clear flavor profile, floral and sweet
Roast: City to City+ is recommended. Darker roasts tend to obscure the floral and delicate fruit notes in this very refined cup. It tastes rather average at FC+.
Compare to: Very refined, and one might say "competition-level" coffee. Keep the roast light!
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Costa Rica Chirripo Los Crestones -Finca Alaska

Los Crestones is an area of unique rocky outcroppings in the area of the Chirripó National Park, a zone called La Piedra de Rivas. It is also a minor region of coffee production adjacent to the parklands, in quite a different zone than the major areas one might be familiar with; Tarrazu, Central Valley, or the Western Valley regions. This lot was a 2011 crop selection from a small farm, Finca Alaska. Los Crestones is a coffee producer group who shares a micro mill and drying patios, but each farm processes their coffees separately. Finca Alaska is actually three small farms owned by Asdrubal Acuña Hernández, one of the founding members of the group. This lot comes from 1650 - 1700 meters.

The dry fragrance at lighter roast levels has a "jam on toast" scent; sweet grain, currant jammy note, as well as honey and a bit of hazelnut. I was really surprised by the sweet aromatics here when adding hot water to the grounds; stone fruit notes, peach and apricot, come through in the cup as well. Clean and bright, buttery, caramel and cane sugar sweetness, toffee, hazelnut, cleanly disappearing; these are my notes for the City-City+ roast of Finca Alaska. With a good 48 hours of rest after roasting, the lightest levels were my favorite: intensely bright and fruited. The body is rather impressive for a wet-process style Costa Rica coffee; it has good density to it nonetheless, giving the coffee some viscosity on the palate. It is not a super complex coffee, and fades elegantly, though rather fast, on the palate.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Entrance to Finca Alaska
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: La Piedra de Rivas, Chirripó Region
Processing: Wet Process (forced demucilage)
Arrival Date: April 2011 Arrival, GrainPro Bags
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Nice sweetness, classic Costa Rica brightness, viscous body.
Roast: City to City+ for maximum sweetness and brightness, Full City to tone it down a bit.
Compare to: Classic, high-grown, clean and sweet Centrals.
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Costa Rica Hernan Solis Villa Sarchi

This is a microlot is processed at Helsar del Zarcero mill, but is not a blended mill lot. It is from the farm of one producer, Hernan Solis, and is entirely one varietal of coffee, Villa Sarchi. Villa Sarchi cultivar is a natural offspring of the old Bourbon type coffee, adapted to the climate of Costa Rica and the Naranjo area in particular. Hernan's farm is at 1600-1700 meters in a zone called Llano Bonito de Naranjo. The significance of the Helsar mill handling all Hernan's coffee is key to the cup quality as well. You can grow great coffee from a great varietal at great altitude, then ruin it completely in the wet-process or drying. Helsar is a farmer-owned mill that has produced great coffee every year we have worked with them, and has continued to invest in their neighbors’ coffees as well by building more capacity to process small lots separately. The care put into this coffee at all stages is proven out by the taste. It's a bright cup and also possesses nice body and balance. It's a screamer, a high-toned coffee at City roast, but quite balanced at Full City roast level. It is versatile.

The dry fragrance has a lot of milk chocolate and caramel sweetness at Full City roast, with toasted almond and buttery sweetness at lighter levels. In the wet aromatics, there is the scent of roasted hazelnut and orange peel. City+ roast has the best aromatics, with complex hints of citrus flower, hibiscus and plum. There is an intriguing winey fruited note in the aroma as well. The cup is outstanding: There are grace notes of peach tea, plum, citrus, a little lemon rind, and plum (at FC roast). Light roasts have a more almond-hazelnut roast tone, fading to tangy and crisp chocolate flavor in the finish. It changes quite a bit as the temperature drops, and stone fruit flavors come out. The cup character is very balanced in body and brightness at darker roast levels. The body isn't that heavy, but has a very syrupy quality. My lightest roasts, City level, tasted fairly thin but had a great zesty brightness. I suggest City+ roast for the best cup, a marriage of brightness and sweet cup flavors.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Every coffee farm needs a treehouse! Hernan Solis\' has an amazing view.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Llano Bonito of Naranjo, West Valley
Processing: Wet process
Arrival Date: April 2011 Arrival (GrainPro Bags)
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Villa Sarchi
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Great balance, brightness and clean fruited notes
Roast: City+ for the brighter cup or it makes a great FC+ roast.
Compare to: A bright-yet-balanced, single-cultivar lot.
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Costa Rica Manantiales -Finca Fidel

Mantantiales is a stone's throw from Finca Genesis, an emblematic coffee for us here at Sweet Maria's. I had met with the last owner, Daysi Rodriguez a couple years ago, but last year's lot did not come in well and we rejected it. It seems Daysi was really too busy to manage the farm and, white-knuckled but in full acknowledgment of the slip-ups in the past, ceded management to a full-time farm manager, Aldomar. The arrival of this year's lot from Manantiales, a microlot from Aldomar's Finca Fidel, processed at Manantiales mill, shows a dramatic improvement. Rather than the honey-style pulp natural method that gave us some uneven results last year, this is a fully-washed type coffee. I had a mini heart attack when the samples arrived this year because it is quite a small bean lot, and I wasn't thrilled with the preparation (higher than usual number of broken beans, see the .8 defect score). In reality, the cup has been minimally affected by this broken bean issue. I am getting even test roasts, and the cup is excellent!

There is an abundance of cocoa powder and cane sugar in the dry fragrance, with red apple fruit notes. It's a rather bold juicy scent, and along with apple there is white grape, and a bit of tangerine in there. The wet aroma has the same juicy fruited notes, sweet and also marked by a caramelized sugar-browning sweetness. On the break, a very floral honey scent emerges. The cup is outstanding; bright and lively acidity gives a refreshing effect, and hibiscus floral notes come through, especially as the cup temperature drops. There is a Turbinado sugar sweetness (raw sugar-like, but not rustic sugar like Muscavado). Apple tastes are evident when the cup is hot, changing more toward Peach snapple tea flavor in the cooling coffee. There's a hint of praline and hazelnut in the background. The lighter roasts of this coffee, just through first crack and stopped immediately, had a distinct under-roast scent, a bit on the grassy side. It's a dense bean and can take a bit more heat to roast. I would suggest City+ to Full City+.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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A view of Los Manantiales at sunset.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Lourdes de Naranjo
Processing: Wet Processed
Arrival Date: Late July 2010 Arrival (GrainPro)
Appearance: .8 d/300gr, 15-17 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Villalobos
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Bright refreshing cup flavors, clean fruited notes
Roast: City+ to Full City+
Compare to: A dense Costa Rica that can take a little more roast.
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Costa Rica West Valley WP Decaf

Sometimes you find a nice quality cup from a coffee lot that, besides the flavor description, does not have much to say ... it lacks a story behind it. Such is the case with this decaf Costa Rica. But while tasting it, I thought that we sell coffee, not stories, and this is a respectable decaf coffee, with balance and brightness. It\'s from one of the mid-sized exporters in Costa Rica, someone we don\'t normally relate to since we buy farm-direct small lots from micro-mills. This is from a macro-mill (joke, sort of) in the West Valley and comes from bulk coffee cherry purchases in the region, not from a specific farm. But for a decaf I really liked this coffee.

The dry fragrance here is nice; sweet, nutty and softly fruited. There\'s a molasses and malt syrup sweetness, mild chocolate, as well as macadamia nut in the wet aroma. The cup has a mild brightness, with \"chocolate fudgesicle\" flavor. I guess you have to remember fudgesicles from back in gradeschool to get that one. It\'s a cocoa-chocolate-milk-malt flavor, unless you eat the stick. There are malt and vanilla flavors in the mid-range. To maximize these qualities, I recommend keeping the roast light. City + is plenty for this coffee, and retains a bright, lively character, and a slight twist-of-lemon accent. It\'s not going to knock down any doors with it\'s power, but after all it is decaf, and isn\'t really intended to. In fact it might open a few doors with its balance and pleasantly restrained cup character.





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The glory and splendor of the West Valley, Costa Rica
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: West Valley
Processing: Wet-Process, then WP Decaf
Arrival Date: February 2011 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Various
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity /Clean cup, nuts and a bit of fudgesicle!
Roast: City+ for the cup I describe. I notice more roast oil comes to the surface on this coffee than others.
Compare to: Nice, sweet, clean, balanced and mild decaf.
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Costa Rica Hernan Solis Villa Sarchi

This is a microlot is processed at Helsar del Zarcero mill, but is not a blended mill lot. It is from the farm of one producer, Hernan Solis, and is entirely one varietal of coffee, Villa Sarchi. Villa Sarchi cultivar is a natural offspring of the old Bourbon type coffee, adapted to the climate of Costa Rica and the Naranjo area in particular. Hernan's farm is at 1600-1700 meters in a zone called Llano Bonito de Naranjo. The significance of the Helsar mill handling all Hernan's coffee is key to the cup quality as well. You can grow great coffee from a great varietal at great altitude, then ruin it completely in the wet-process or drying. Helsar is a farmer-owned mill that has produced great coffee every year we have worked with them, and has continued to invest in their neighbors coffees as well by building more capacity to process small lots separately. We ship this coffee at the peak of the season, and cellar it at the warehouse to offer later. That used to be difficult because coffee would take on a baggy jute flavor and lose moisture content while sitting. But we export this coffee with a special impermeable GrainPro liner under the jute, and I think it actually improves during storage here in our mild Bay Area climate. The care put into this coffee at all stages is proven out by the taste. It's a bright cup and also possesses nice body and balance. It's a screamer, a high-pitched coffee at City roast, but quite balanced at Full City roast level. It is versatile. Any roast style you chose seems to work well with this lot: I am getting great results from City to Full City+ to Light French.

The dry fragrance has a lot of milk chocolate and raisin sweetness at Full City roast, with a zest of citrus at lighter levels. In the wet aromatics, there is the scent of fresh-baked sweet brown bread with a little bit of roasted hazelnut. City+ roast has the best aromatics, with complex hints of citrus flower, hibiscus and plum. There is an intriguing winey fruited note in the aroma as well. The cup is outstanding: There are grace notes of peach tea, plum, citrus, a little lemon rind, and plum (at FC roast). Light roasts have a more almond-hazelnut roast tone, fading to tangy and crisp chocolate flavor in the finish. It changes quite a bit as the temperature drops, and stone fruit flavors come out. The cup character is very balanced in body and brightness at darker roast levels. The body isn't that heavy, but has a very syrupy quality. My lightest roasts, City level, tasted fairly thin but had a great zesty brightness. I suggest City+ roast for the best cup, a marriage of brightness and sweet cup flavors. I really like Hernan's coffee every year, but I think this crop in particular is phenomenal!



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Every coffee farm needs a treehouse! Hernan Solis' has an amazing view.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Llano Bonito of Naranjo, West Valley
Processing: Wet process
Arrival Date: July 2010 Arrival (GrainPro Bags)
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Villa Sarchi
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Great balance, brightness and clean fruited notes
Roast: City+ for the brighter cup or it makes a great FC+ roast.
Compare to: A bright-yet-balanced, single-cultivar lot.
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Costa Rica Dota Tarrazu -La Bisunga

This lot is from a new micro-mill we are working with in the Santa Maria de Dota area of Tarrazu; Beneficio Los Angeles. We offered a unique nano-lot early this year called Sangre de Toro from the same mill and same farm: La Bisunga. Situated at 1650 to 1780 meters, it is planted in Caturra cultivar, and occupies about 1 hectare of land (2.5 acres). The mill is directly across from the home of the Calderon family. Ricardo Calderon was a member of Coopedota, the outsized regional coffee coop, when he decided to try to get better payment for his coffee by offering it in a more direct way. By processing his own coffee cherry rather than delivering it to the cooperative, he risked a steep investment in the milling equipment, the building, and all the labor involved. But the reward was getting a better return by selling a finished product, green coffee, not just the fruit. This basic formula has been repeated by many producers in Costa Rica who did not feel that simply selling coffee cherry was advancing their situation. While not a key to success for all, those who truly understand coffee and have a great chance to achieve excellent quality (ie. good cultivars, high altitude, healthy trees) have done well taking this route. I met the Calderons before their first crop was in, but in cupping the initial samples I knew their coffee was going to be stellar.

Malt and molasses mark the sweetness in the dry fragrance of La Bisunga. There are vanilla and caramel scents from the sugar-reducing roast reactions, especially intense in the wet aroma around City+ roast. But I am a bit surprised how intensely bittersweet the scent gets when roasted a bit darker to FC+; there is definitely a clear dividing line here between the lighter roast aromas and darker ones. Some dusky floral notes and dried fruits that are sketched out in the aroma come through clearly in the cup flavors. The cup is very balanced; brightness, body, bittersweetness. It's unlike other coffees from the Dota area of Tarrazu, which have a winey or pulpy fruit sometimes. (This is partly because the time from picking to processing is delayed, and the cherry ferments in the skin). Almond and cocoa roast notes dominate the light roast, turning to intense bittersweet chocolate at Full City. Peach tea flavor at City + is very pleasant, turning toward green apple in the finish. Also, I made some really nice SO Espresso shots at FC+ roast.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Ricardo Calderon at La Bisunga.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Santa Maria de Dota, Tarrazu
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: August 2010 Arrival, Grain Pro
Appearance: .0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity/ A classic balanced body, bittersweetness, brightness
Roast: City+ to Full City roast is ideal, but works well at FC+ or darker, producing a more bittersweet chocolate flavor profile
Compare to: A classic Central America flavor profile, and typical for high grown Tarrazu in particular. I made some really nice SO Espresso shots at FC+ roast.
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Costa Rica Helsar Caturra - Macho Arce

This is a separated lot from a single producer at the Helsar de Zarcero micromill. I had noticed this coffee when cupping in Costa Rica for its clean, classic origin character. I remember La Minita in it's best years tasting like this. It is from the farm of the Arce family, one of the contributors to the Helsar lot we sold earlier in the season, but offered here as it's own discrete microlot. Manuel Arce goes by the name "Macho" even though he seems remarkably quiet and humble. His old Land Rover pickup is a bit macho, but hey, it's a real farm truck. This coffee deserves it's own spotlight.

The dry fragrance has a praline nutty sweetness; caramelized sugar, maple syrup, pecan, and unrefined panela sugar cake in the darker roasts. The wet aroma has an apple-like brightness (malic), bran muffin and brown sugar scent. I really like the way the darker roast level has a mahogany-toned sweetness, persistent and not overtaken with carbony tones. And I was a little surprised by the nice, viscous body when I first hit the cups... it's more than expected from wet-process type Costa Rica coffees. I am not calling it heavy body, but simply a nice thick quality to it, for a Central. The cup is bright, with pink grapefruit acidity, yet balanced. There are yellow fruit flavors, Meyer lemon as well as green grape, all fresh fruited notes with zesty brightness. The light roast has vanilla and very slight refined sugar sweetness, darker roasts have caramel and vanilla, and are a little rummy. The aftertaste is fairly brief, with suggestions of hazelnut re-emerging. It's a bright, lively cup, not overly complex, but very refreshing, if a hot beverage can be characterized as such. In slightly darker roasts, the fruits taste more mature and ripe, the brightness has a nice tonality to it, and white sugars taste slightly more caramelized; I preferred the City+ and Full City roasts to the very light City level.



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Manual "Macho" Arce, coffee farmer, Costa Rica
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Llano Bonito de Zarcero, West Valley
Processing: Wet process
Arrival Date: July 2010 Arrival, Grain Pro
Appearance: .0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Typica, Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Milk chocolate, orange, caramel, bright
Roast: City+ to Full City+: At light roasts it has a thin body, but the best and brightest citrus accents. At FC roast it becomes more chocolaty and has a thicker mouthfeel
Compare to: It's a classic West Valley cup, and a classic Costa Rica cup too, with bright and vivid citrus flavors.
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Costa Rica Herbazu Yellow Honey

Yellow Honey is also called "Miel" and is basically a style of processing coffee, between wet-process like our other Herbazu lot, and a Pulp Natural process. With yellow honey, there is a light layer of fruit from the coffee cherry allowed to remain and dry on the parchment coffee. It results in an interesting cup, often with more body, complexity, and slightly rustic sweetness. Cafetalera Herbazu is a well-known farm in the West Valley region, the Lourdes de Naranjo area to be exact. It is one of the early pioneers in independent, small mill coffee farms, the work of the Barrantes family. They grow a type of Villa Sarchi cultivar that they have used for so long, it has become their own mutation in a way. It's quite a short plant (Villa Sarchi is a dwarf mutation of Bourbon, as is Caturra). The mill and drying patios are right in the center of the farm, which ranges from 1550 to 1700 meters. I have been there a couple times and have always been impressed with how efficient and neat the mill looks, as well as the trees, which are kept well pruned and short. They don't employ much shade on the farm, and their particular type of Villa Sarchi seems adapted to this exposure. The wet-process lot we have this year of Herbazu is fantastic, as is the Yellow Honey lot here, although it was a smaller crop in general for the farm. It’s a classic, citric Costa Rica flavor profile, vividly bright, but with some interesting modifications in flavor from the Honey process. The fragrance of the dry coffee grounds has (coincidentally) Bit-O-Honey candy sweetness, toffee, and citrus blossom accents paired with an interesting savory-sweet scent. The wet aroma has orange and Meyer lemon notes, with a graham cracker scent as well, malty and honey. The cup is dynamic, bright, with citrus juice adding a high-note zing to the cup, while there is a tenor-level flavor of caramel and barley sugar. I like the City+ roast level, but it might be too bright for some folks. In the slightly darker roasts levels (FC, FC+) a berry note emerges, so adding a bit more roast time to tone down the coffee a bit is always an option. It also balances out with more rest (48+ hours) and the body improves. This is an amazing cup, with a sour-sweet polarity that makes it a very exiting tasting experience. I find it is very versatile, and works anywhere from City roast, through the middle ranges, and into 2nd crack, if you are so inclined. Herbazu has produced some great coffee this year. We actually pulled some great SO espresso shots from this, although it is mightily bright.



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Leaves of the Villa Sarchi cultivar at Cafetalera Herbazu
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Lourdes de Naranjo, West Valley
Processing: Yellow Honey (Miel)
Arrival Date: June 2010 Arrival, GrainPro
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Villa Sarchi
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold intensity / Vividly bright, caramel-toffee-honey, savory sweet.
Roast: City+ roast to Full City +
Compare to: Bright coffee, more body than the wet-process Herbazu lot.
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Costa Rica Dota Tarrazu "Sangre de Toro"

Sangre de Toro means "Bull's blood" and it describes very, very ripe coffee cherry. I have heard this crimson-colored level of ripeness referred to as Sangre de Toro in several countries, so when I mentioned it to Diego Calderon at the Los Angeles micro-mill in Santa Maria de Dota area of Tarrazu, he knew exactly what I was talking about. The idea was to create a very small lot from La Bisunga which is near the Los Angeles beneficio, and the house of Diego and his father Ricardo Calderon. With this lot, I asked if we could pay the coffee pickers extra to re-sort their coffee fruit. In other words, they usually come to the mill and simply deposit them in the hopper, so varying levels of ripeness are pulped and processed together. But I wanted to find out what would happen if they did as they do in Kenya; have pickers lay out the cherry and resort it so that only these Sangre de Toro fruits were included in the lot. What I anticipated was a slightly winey fruit character perhaps with a slightly milder acidity, a more rounded flavor profile, perhaps with a bit less bracing brightness and structure, but great depth and mild fruit tones. I guess that's just my experience with really ripe coffee cherry. With the added labor to hand sort the coffee cherry and careful processing we paid the highest price for this lot of any Costa Rica coffee, but it is well worth it we think. I am proud of this lot because it was instigated on the farm, and something truly unique to Sweet Maria's.

The ripeness of the coffee cherry is definitely brought to bear in the aromas and cup flavors of the Sangre de Toro lot. From light to dark roast levels, the dry fragrance has intense chocolate tones, with vanilla and fruit traces. It is in the wet aroma that indications of cup flavor reveal themselves; plum, apple, cinnamon bark, melted butter and caramel sauce emerge. I was really amazed at how different my 3 test roast levels were in the cup, each excellent in their own regard. The lightest roast came through with the melted butter mouthfeel and sweet flavor, ripe lemon and tangerine fruit notes (a soft acidity paired with these flavors, not puckering). It finishes silky and super sweet. At City+ the cup has more malic acidity and apple fruit tones, a light brown sugar sweetness as sucrose develops with the roast, hazelnut in the finish and a very lush mouthfeel. I roasted my third sample toward 2nd crack, FC+, without entering it at all. This had an aggressive roast chocolate flavor, rounded dark cocoa sweetness in the finish, buttery mouthfeel, plum fruit notes. It's a compact flavor profile, well-structured but nothing outrageous; yes as it cools it becomes more and more convincing of it's intrinsic qualities. I don't get the winey fruit I anticipate from this project, but I can't be more pleased with the cupping results. I can only guess for now how incredible the SO espresso could be for this lot ... until I set up another session to roast just for that purpose!



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This is the "Sangre de Toro" cherry color, at Los Girasoles farm
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Santa Maria de Dota, Tarrazu
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: July 2010 Arrival, Grain Pro
Appearance: .0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity/ Sweetness, fruit, structure.
Roast: City roast is stunning, without any grainy light roast notes. City + is more malic. FC+ has great cocoa notes, but tastes like a more standard coffee than this truly is.
Compare to: Very comparable to classic Dota Tarrazu flavor profile, but perhaps more refined.
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Costa Rica San Marcos Tarrazu

San Marcos is the name of a micro-mill in Tarrazu, run by Jorge Gutierrez. It is just outside the town of San Marcos de Tarrazu, in the Tarrazu valley proper. While the mill is a new Penagos type system and will take coffee from cherry to export-ready green coffee, Jorge has years and years of experience as a member of the local coffee cooperative. But the fact is, coop membership has not allowed many of the farmers to actually get ahead in their coffee business, since they trade their coffee cherry to the coop mill, rather than a more valuable finished product. Given that building a micro mill is a large investment for a farmer, but ultimately he will receive the value of a finished, exportable product, not a raw material. The fact is, the Gutierrez family has some fantastic farms: This coffee is from specific farms that are side by side, San Luis and San Pedro, located at 1700-1750 meters altitude. They are planted in a mix of Caturra and Catuai Rojo cultivars, and the total land is 6 manzanas (about 4 hectares or nearly 10 acres).

This San Pedro/San Luis lot has a potent dry fragrance from the ground coffee; cocoa, chocolate-almond biscotti, hazelnut. They sound like mid-range muted roast tones, but the way they are manifested in this cup, it's almost aggressive. The wet aroma is actually a little less potent, but has a nice chocolate-covered raisin scent, a hint of cherries, dry roasted peanut. The cup flavors have that classic Tarrazu origin character, a balance of brightness, bittersweet chocolate, fruit and citrus. Cocoa-powder and light fudge is paired with more piquant apple and orange brightness. The aftertaste lingers as a zesty citrus acidic snap, with sweetness of honey, and soft chocolate notes elegantly disappearing. The warming sensations of chocolate, braced by brightness and balanced with sweet sapid tastes make this a very pleasurable cup. When I put it in a lineup of other coffee origins, it has strong nut flavors, hazelnut and roasted peanut. But it is not at all like the way a Brazil coffee would show peanut character. We like brewing this coffee here at the warehouse: It's not exotic, but if you wonder why Costa Rica has a reputation for fine coffee, this San Marcos lot should provide a good object lesson.



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Daughters of Jorge Gutierrez (Tatiana, Katerine, Daniela) in front of their new mill equipment.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: San Marcos de Tarrazu
Processing: Desmucilaginado (Wet-Process Style)
Arrival Date: July 2010 Arrival, GrainPro
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Bright, balanced, elegant cup
Roast: City roast was a bit too light here; I recommend City+ for the sweetest and most nuanced flavor profile.
Compare to: Classic Tarrazu brightness with cocoa and nut tones.
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Costa Rica Chirripo -Finca Alaska

Los Crestones is an area of unique rocky outcroppings in the area of the Chirripó National Park. It is also a region of coffee production adjacent to the parklands, and this lot was a late harvest selection from 1600-1700 meters. This is a small lot, a really new coffee region that we have never offered before. It might be surprising to some to note how we received this lot. I rejected a Crestones offering last year with no complaint except that I found it boring and it didn't inspire many descriptors. I can't deal with a coffee like that. Any mill, especially a good one, that separates their lots by producer, by coffee plot, or by micro regions within their growing areas, is going to have variable qualities. Not every coffee can be a winner, even if you do everything right; harvest well, select ripe cherry, process and dry correctly, etc. You will maximize quality for each respective lot, but you can't elevate it beyond the threshold of the coffee shrub's potential, it's health, the soil and microclimate, the organic input factor, and all the other agricultural variables. Anyway, Finca Alaska is one farm that is part of the Los Crestones group, who share a micro mill but each farm processes their coffees separately. Finca Alaska is actually three small farms, all owned by Asdrubal Acuña Hernández, one of the founding members of the group. This lot comes from a small 1650-1750 meter area, and it was completely different than what we rejected in 2009; this is so sweet and bright! The dry fragrance at lighter roast levels has a "jam on toast" scent; sweet grain, currant jammy note, as well as honey. I was really surprised by the sweet aromatics here; stone fruit notes, peach and apricot, come through in the cup as well. Clean and bright, buttery, caramel and cane sugar sweetness, toffee, hazelnut, cleanly disappearing; these are my notes for the City-City+ roast of Finca Alaska. With a good 48 hours of rest after roasting, the lightest levels were my favorite: intensely bright and fruited. The body is light, but has a good density to it, giving the coffee some good viscosity on the palate. It is not a super complex coffee, and fades elegantly, though rather fast, on the palate. I like that: Sometimes you don't want a coffee that will hang around in your mouth for a half hour after drinking it. Sometimes it's nice to have a break from crazy dry-process fruit bomb lots, or exotic leathery-hidey Yemeni coffees. Crestones is like pushing the reset button, to recall what a really clean, delicate, bright, mild, sweet cup of coffee actually tastes like.



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Chirripo National park situated above the coffee areas.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Chirripó Region
Processing: Wet Process (forced demucilage)
Arrival Date: June 2010 Arrival (GrainPro)
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Great sweetness, classic Costa Rica brightness, lighter body.
Roast: City to City+ for maximum sweetness and brightness, Full City to tone it down a bit.
Compare to: Classic, high-grown, clean and sweet Centrals.
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Costa Rica Finca La Ponderosa 100% Bourbon

Finca La Ponderosa is a special high elevation coffee from Tarrazu, processed expertly at the Beneficio Don Mayo by the Bonilla Family. I met Don Mayo founder Hector and his son Pablo in Costa Rica several times and when they visited here last year. And I must admit, they have the coolest logo ever (a coffee bean head with the traditional Tico coffee workers hat, called a "chonete" ... something of a Gilligan type thing.) But only during harvest of this year was I able to get to the Ponderosa farm itself, up a winding road and across a valley in the area of Tarrazu called La Legua. I walked the farm and nursery with Jairo Cruz, who manages Ponderosa, and whose family owns the farm in partnership with the family of Hector's wife. The farm has a mix of cultivars planted, but the lot we received is pure Bourbon varietal. And I am very happy with how this lot of coffee arrived; very, very balanced. It's a coffee I could drink all day long. The dry fragrance has tons of chocolate scent, as well as toasted granola, dark sugar, and roasted almond. Adding the hot water, the wet aromatics sweetens with a Malt-o-meal hot cereal scent, melted butter, and slight spicy accents of cinnamon. The cup needs some time to cool down for the flavors to really open up. There is a slight apricot fruit in the background, but overall the coffee is not fruited. The roast flavors are more nut-based in tonality, between a very mild roasted peanut and hazelnut, especially at City+ level. A touch darker and chocolate notes dominate ... in fact the cup has tons of chocolate at most roast levels, layered so that initially the sensation of soft milk chocolate tones transform into semi-sweet bittering residual flavors on the palate. And more than anything, the cup is sweet. I keep thinking of amber malt syrup at City+ roast, the fact that maltose sugars might be present in this coffee. The degree to which you convert those sugars in roasting will determine a lot of your flavor here. My favorite straddled the divide between City+ and Full City. The finish has a bittering of chocolate and slight sweetness of panela sugar cakes, the minimally processed sugar used in much of Latin America. This dense, Bourbon cultivar is a bit tough to read, in terms of degree-of-roast. Erring on the lighter side will yield better results. Overall it yields a classic, compact flavor profile, typical of Bourbon cultivar, being both well-structured and balanced. We also had some really great SO espresso shots from the FC+ roast of La Ponderosa Bourbon! The shots had rich chocolate laced with blackberry flavors, caramel-chocolate finish. Fantastic!



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Classic clumping form of true Bourbon coffee cherry, Finca La Ponderosa
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Tarrazu Valley
Processing: Wet-Process
Arrival Date: May 2010 Arrival, GrainPro Bags
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Layered chocolate roast taste, nut, malt,
Roast: City+ to Full City+. I also pulled some great SO Espresso shots at FC+
Compare to: A classic Tarrazu coffee. A very balanced cup, true to its Bourbon varietal character, creamy body, layers of chocolate, toasted granola, melted butter.
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Costa Rica Cafetalera Herbazu

Cafetalera Herbazu is a well-known farm in the West Valley region, the Lourdes de Naranjo area to be exact. It is one of the early pioneers in independent, small mill coffee farms, the work of the Barrantes family. They grow a type of Villa Sarchi cultivar that they have used for so long, it has become their own mutation in a way. It's quite a short plant (Villa Sarchi is a dwarf mutation of Bourbon, as is Caturra). The mill and drying patios are right in the center of the farm, which ranges from 1550 to 1700 meters. I have been there a couple times and have always been impressed with how efficient and neat the mill looks, as well as the trees, which are kept well-pruned and short. They don't employ much shade on the farm, and their particular type of Villa Sarchi seems adapted to this exposure. But it is a proven winner, with a consistently bright, dynamic, clean cup flavor, and Herbazu won 4th place in the 2009 Cup of Excellence! Sadly, the crop is very small this year at the farm, due to climate and rainfall patterns this past year. But even from the earliest samples I cupped of this '10 crop while in CR, the cup quality has been superb. We have offered the pulp natural "honey" coffees from Herbazu: This lot is their wet-process style estate grade, which is a forced demucilage process (as opposed to traditional fermentation wet-process).

The result is a classic, citric Costa Rica flavor profile, vividly bright, crisp and clean. The fragrance of the dry coffee grounds is full of honey, refined toffee sweetness, and citrus blossom accents. The wet aroma has dynamic orange and Meyer lemon notes, with a graham cracker scent as well, malty and honeyed. The cup is dynamically bright, with fresh-squeezed lemon juice adding a high-note zing to the cup, while there is a tenor-level flavor of honey, caramel and barley sugar. It's that aspect, the fact that there is such excellent bright acidity (meaning the high flavor notes, not the stuff that hurts your stomach), as well as well-defined sweetness, that makes Herbazu my choice for a take-home, weekend coffee! I like the City+ roast level, but it might be too bright for some folks. In the slightly darker roasts levels (FC, FC+) a berry note emerges, so adding a bit more roast time to tone down the coffee a bit is always an option. It also balances out with more rest (48+ hours) and the body improves. This is an amazing cup, with a sour-and-sweet polarity that makes it a very exciting tasting experience. I find it is very versatile, and works anywhere from City roast, through the middle ranges, and into 2nd crack, if you are so inclined.



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Evening at the Herbazu mill, laying out the day's coffee for patio drying.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Lourdes de Naranjo, West Valley
Processing: Wet Process (forced demucilage)
Arrival Date: May 2010 Arrival, GrainPro Bags
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Villa Sarchi
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Vividly bright acidity, caramel-toffee-honey sweetness, clean cup.
Roast: City to Full City+ or a bit beyond. This is versatile coffee that can hold up to darker roast levels, but I love the fresh lemon juice flavors of C+ as well as the berry notes that emerge at FC/FC+
Compare to: Powerfully bright coffee, Kenya-like in it's acidity.
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Costa Rica Cafetin San Martin

San Martin is a small village at the end of a dirt road not located on any official map. It is situated on a high mountain ridge in the famed Tarrazu coffee-growing region of Costa Rica. Cafetin in not a large commercial grower, but a group of 25 small family farms. An American, Tim O�Brien lived in this small town as Peace Corps Volunteer from the US in 1994-96. Here he made life long friendships in the remote mountain towns of the central highlands and developing a taste for the great local grown coffee. In 2003 he returned to Costa Rica and as a social project he build a small mill to process his old friends coffee to help them recover from the coffee crisis. In the process it was discovered that the town had a special micro-climate and heirloom varieties of coffee with exceptional quality, winning 5th in the last Cup of Excellence competition. The dry fragrance has the floral notes I prize, a sweet rose-like scent, praline nut/pecan toffee; a wonderful combination of smells. The wet aromatics are similar, floral, a raspberry tea note, honey. This cup is brilliant and clear, with a caramel and nut roast flavor at City roast, becoming even sweeter at City+ level. It' a really elegant cup, the kind that does very well in competitions (and of course, that's why it did!) It cools with more berry fruit emerging, a bit of Mora (a Latin blackberry), some apple brightness, and a very refined, clear sweetness. There is a slightly ripe fruit/winey aspect to the cup, suggesting very mature coffee cherry selection. In this aspect, it has a Kenya-like suggestion in the cup. The body is not heavy, but silky in texture. This is not a powerhouse coffee, but the qualities it has are so well-defined, hence very positive scores! This coffee has a great flavor profile, and I would not be surprised to see it in the top 3 of next year's CoE event.



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That's our boy Ben, at the Cafetin drying beds during a little shower, earlier this year.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Tarrazu, San Mart�n de Le�n Cort�s
Processing: Wet-Processed Style
Arrival Date: August 2009 Arrival (GrainPro Bags)
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Catuai
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Brilliant and clear flavor profile, floral and sweet
Roast: City+ is recommended. Darker roasts tend to obscure the floral and delicate fruit notes in this very refined cup.
Compare to: Very refined, competition-level coffees.
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Costa Rica Caturra - "Macho Arce"

This is a separated lot from a single producer at the Helsar de Zarcero micromill. I had noticed this coffee when cupping in Costa Rica for its clean, classic origin character. I remember La Minita in it's best years tasting like this. It is from the farm of the Arce family, on of the contributors to the Helsar lot we sold earlier in the season, but offered here as it's own discrete microlot. Manuel Arce goes by the name "Macho" even though he seems remarkably quiet and humble. His old Land Rover pickup is a bit macho, but hey, it's a real farm truck. This coffee deserves it's own spotlight. The dry fragrance has a praline nutty sweetness; caramelized sugar, maple syrup, pecan, and unrefined panela sugar cake in the darker roasts. The wet aroma has an apple-like brightness (malic), bran muffin and brown sugar scent. I really like the way the darker roast level has a mahogany-toned sweetness, persistent and not overtaken with carbony tones. And I was a little surprised by the nice, viscous body when I first hit the cups... it's more than expected from wet-process type Costa Rica coffees. I am not calling it heavy body, but simply a nice thick quality to it, for a Central. The cup is very bright, with pink grapefruit acidity, yet balanced. There are yellow fruit flavors, Meyer lemon as well as green grape, all fresh fruited notes with zesty brightness. The light roast has vanilla and very slight refined sugar sweetness, darker roasts have caramel and vanilla, and are a little rummy. The aftertaste is fairly brief, with suggestions of hazelnut re-emerging. It's a bright, lively cup, not overly complex, but very refreshing, if a hot beverage can be characterized as such. In slightly darker roasts, the fruits taste more mature and ripe, the brightness has a nice tonality to it, and white sugars taste slightly more caramelized; I preferred the City+ and Full City roasts to the very light City level.



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Sr. Thompson and Sr. Arce at the Helsar mill, a few months back.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: "Llano Bonito de Zarcero", West Valley
Processing: Wet process
Arrival Date: July 2009 Arrival, Grain Pro
Appearance: .0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Typica, Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Milk chocolate, orange, caramel, bright
Roast: City+ to Full City+: At light roasts it has a thin body, but the best and brightest citrus accents. At FC roast it becomes more chocolaty and has a thicker mouthfeel
Compare to: It's a classic West Valley cup, and a classic Costa Rica cup too, with bright and vivid citrus flavors.
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Costa Rica El Puente Tarrazu Caturra

Beneficio Ecologico Puente Tarrazu is a coop mill owned by 6 farmers, among them Rodolfo Rivera who produced this lot on his plot called La Cuesta. The farm is at 1600 meters in Leon Cortez district, adjacent to Tarrazu (and considered Tarrazu by many since these coffees are often sold to Tarrazu wet mills). Rudolfo placed in this years Costa Rica Cup of Excellence with a different Caturra wet-processed coffee ... he might have entered this lot but for the fact that I had already consigned it back in February! We shipped and stored it in our special GrainPro bags and now that we are tapping into this lot, I am very pleased with the cup. The dry fragrance has a honey graham cracker scent at light roast levels, with caramel and butter as well. In the wet aroma there is a fair amount of lemon and vanilla wafer; mild, sweet and balanced overall. The cup has character like a honey-process coffee (Miel) in terms of body, a slightly rustic honey-like sweetness, but bright notes of a wet-process coffee. My lightest note had a grainy sweet note, so I preferred the slightly darker City+ roast and Full City levels. I found the cup silky in mouthfeel, sweet, with glazed almond roast notes. Cocoa notes come to play at Full City roast and persist into the finish. There's a touch of almond skin bitterness in the finish that I find pleasant and bracing. It's a very nice cup, and considering that new crop Costa Rica coffees from higher elevation farms are not due until mid-April, it's great to have coffees that cup so vibrant and fresh during a time when, in past years, we had very few Central offerings.



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El Puente Ecologico. Much of the coffee here is patio-dried. Rudolfo, Thompson, Roberto
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Santa Cruz de Leon Coretz
Processing: Desmucilaginado (Wet-Process Style)
Arrival Date: July 2009 Arrival GrainPro Bags
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Bright, balanced, silky mouthfeel
Roast: City roast was a bit too light here; I recommend City+ to Full City for the sweetest flavor profile.
Compare to: It cups more like a hybrid between a Miel coffee and a wet-process coffee: bright, yet with nice body.
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Costa Rica Chirripo - Los Crestones

Los Crestones is an area of unique rocky outcroppings in the area of the Chirripó National Park. It is also a region of coffee production adjacent to the parklands, and this lot was a late harvest selection from 1600-1700 meters. This is a small lot, a really a new coffee region that we have never offered before. It might be surprising to some to note how we received this lot. I rejected a Crestones offering earlier in the season, with no general complaint except that I found it boring and it didn't inspire many descriptors. I can't deal with a coffee like that. Any mill, especially a good one like this that separates their lots by producer, by coffee plot, or by mini regions within their growing areas, is going to have variable qualities. Not every coffee can be a winner, even if you do everything right, harvest well, select ripe cherry, process and dry correctly, etc. You will maximize quality for each respective lot, but you can't eevate it beyond the threshold of the coffee shrub's potential, it's health, the soil and micro-climate, the organic input factor, and all the other agricultural variables. Anyway, that mill outturn was plain, this one, late harvest, from a 1600-1700 meter area, arrived so sweet and fabulous it made me do a double take. Was this really Crestones? The dry fragrance at lighter roast levels has a "jam on toast" scent; whole wheat toast derived mostly from the sweetness of the roast and a peach preserve jammy note. I was really surprised by the sweet aromatics here ... the wet aroma. It's a classic Costa Rica cup, clean and bright, buttery, caramel and cane sugar sweetness, mild fruits, toffee, hazelnut, cleanly disappearing. It has a rather light body, but attractive mouthfeel qualities, and floral accents in the cup, but is not a super complex coffees. It fades elegantly but rather fast on the palate. I like that: Sometimes you don't want a coffee that will hang around in your mouth for a half hour after drinking it. Sometimes it's nice to have a break from crazy dry-process fruit bomb lots, or exotic leathery-hidey Yemeni coffees. Crestones is like pushing the reset button, to recall what a really clean, delicate, bright, mild, sweet cup of coffee actually tastes like. And the emphasis here is sweet - I don't give that many "9" scores for sweetness but Crestones at C+ roast deserves it for sure.



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Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Chirripó Region
Processing: Wet Process (forced demucilage)
Arrival Date: July 2009 Arrival (GrainPro)
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Great sweetness, classic Costa Rica brightness, lighter body.
Roast: City+ to Full City for maximum sweetness.
Compare to: Classic, high-grown, clean and sweet Centrals.
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Costa Rica Brumas Finca El Centro

This coffee is a micro lot that originates at Brumas del Zurqui, located in the area of San Isidro de Heredia, Central Valley. Much of their coffee is a pulp natural type (which we have offered by the colorful name Vino de Arabia), but this is a full wet-process type coffee created with a forced demucilage machine. It is from the higher altitude farm owned by Juan Ramon Alvarado, El Centro, ranging from 1450-1550 meters. In fact, this is one of the higher altitude coffees available in the Central Valley region, which is becoming rapidly urbanized due to it's close proximity to the capital, San Jose. The coffee is unique because of Juan Ramon's extensive training in Agronomy and Economics. He seems to looking at coffee in a new and innovative way, which leads us to some great discussions when we meet. (The latest was about the "charge" of the soil, electrically speaking, and the way it influences the receptivity of the coffee roots to nutrients!) His approach is different and the cup character is also quite different than the West Valley or Tarrazu lots. The dry fragrance has honey sweetness, pecan nut, as well as a malted grain scent at the light roast. Darker roasts aromatics turn to chocolate laced with raisin and plum. The wet aroma was really nice at City roast, with butter and maple syrup over oatmeal! No, that was not what I ate for breakfast, either. This is a Costa Rica flavor profile with a bit of heft to it, with dense and opaque body. That's an uncommon quality in wet-processed style CR coffees. The lightest roast I did was very sweet, with pear fruit notes and apple brightness to it. But the finish is a little grainy at City roast. I found the Full City roast to be the best overall. While aromatically a little flatter, there is thick mouthfeel, sweet plum and raisin notes, a slight winey quality to the fruit, and chocolate roast taste. In the finish, there is a panela sweet quality. Panela are the raw sugar cakes sold in Latin America, and have both caramel and vanilla qualities along with sucrose sweetness, a full and slightly rustic flavor. In the long aftertaste, baked apple notes emerge. It's a different cup than the lighter-bodied, mildly citric Costa Rica lots, and a compelling offering in that respect.



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Juan Ramon with the demucilage machine at the Brumas mill.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Central Valley, San Isidro de Heredia
Processing: Wet-Processed Style
Arrival Date: August 2009 Arrival (GrainPro Bags)
Appearance: 2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Dense body at FC roast level, fruit, chocolate
Roast: While City+ roast was very nice, I liked the cup at Full City, where a hefty body developed along with ripe fruit notes. Full City+ works well too, with more intense and resinous roast flavors.
Compare to: Different than the citric, lighter bodied CR lots we offer.
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Costa Rica Herbazu Red Honey

Herbazu is a well-known farm in the West Valley region, Naranjo Zarcero area, next door to the Sin Limites farm. They grow a type of Villa Sarchi cultivar that they have used for so long, it has become their own mutation in a way. It's quite a short plant (Villa Sarchi is a dwarf mutation of Bourbon, as is Caturra). This was one of our favorite Costa Rica lots from last year, and is an interesting contrast to the fully washed (traditional wet-process) Herbazu lot we offer. It has all the vivid bright notes and clean cup character but with a more rustic set of flavors overall. Red Honey means this is a pulp natural lot where 80% of the fruity mucilage from the coffee cherry is left on the parchment. This is a high percentage of fruit, compared to a yellow-colored honey parchment where 50% is removed. The result is that it dries to a rich red color when the coffee is in "pergamino", with the exterior parchment shell intact. What this means for the cup is milder acidic brightness, and a lot of body. We also found this processing on a great, bright Costa Rica coffee makes for a very exciting SO espresso shot, with a heightened sense of density to the mouthfeel, and a balance to the bright notes in the cup.

Be prepared for an unconventional Central flavor profile! The dry fragrance has a unique savory sweetness, sweet toasted grains in the light roast and an emerging milk chocolate a bit darker. The wet aroma has hints of winey fruit, slight citrus accents, and balance bittersweet scents. The cup is dynamic and bright, yet also very balanced with a thick body far above the norm for Costa Rica coffees. The mildly rustic flavors in the cup, herbs, sweet fresh-mown grass or hay, might throw you off. It's definitely a flavor profile that takes some time to ponder, but in the end this is a sweet cup that is a joy to drink! There is a honeysuckle floral element, lemon tea zest in the lighter roast, turning to a caramel malt at FC roast. It's a fantastic espresso, especially if you can pull shots at 8.5 bars of pressure, a bit low, where a lot of SO espresso does better in my opinion. As it cools, a praline-toffee sweetness comes out, with a rustic suggestion which reveals the fact it's a hybrid process, between wet-type and full natural coffees.



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A lovely picture of the heart of Herbazu, the Barrantes brothers coffee pulper!
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: West Valley
Processing: Pulp Natural Process
Arrival Date: August 2009 Arrival (GrainPro bag)
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Villa Sarchi
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Great body, balance, complex as it cools
Roast: Very light roasts can have a sweet hay character some might find pleasant, others not. City+ to Full City+ is ideal. In any case, this is not a conventional Central coffee, and does not cup like one!
Compare to: Unusual combination of brightness and body for a Costa Rica coffee.
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Costa Rica Gillio Francesa -Finca El Espino

Gillio Francesa Ferraro is a character. He has aristocratic airs, and a bit of impatience that goes with his advanced years. But in his daily work as coffee producer, benefactor of a children's camp for orphans, and mad inventor, he looks like a guy in a lab coat who just rolled out from under his '64 Willys Jeep, after fixing a CV Joint. His mill is Guadalupe and is farm is called El Espino, the Spine(!), because of how it is positioned along the mountain ridge, the spine of the hills. While he isn't the youngest among the Costa Rica small farmers who have embrace the Micro-Mill movement, he certainly keeps pace with them (he was the elder statesman on their whirlwind tour of coffee roasteries this past August). And his coffees are top notch as well, Caturra cultivar planted at 1800 meters in the West Valley area of Zarcero. They have an exotic Costa Rica character, with nut-to-chocolate roast taste and laced with ripe, clean fruited notes, and unique scents of eucalyptus, sage, and campfire. This coffee really stood out for me at a cupping we did in San Jose, Costa Rica last March. I found really sweet aromatics, balanced and very attractive, yet something quite wild and rustic about the cup. Whenever I face the unexpected and unusual flavors, I ask myself the 2 basic questions about coffee: Is it clean? Is it sweet? To both I would answer yes to El Espino, and so I heartily endorse this lot. Keeping the roast around City+, there is an almondy nut aromatic, sage-like floral scent, mint, a mild foresty note. I think I prefer a darker roast though. Full City to Full City+ lent itself to great milk chocolate flavors, intensity, body. Darker roasts have a sweet molasses note on the break. The cup has a very caramelly sweetness, with milk chocolate accent throughout the roast range. It's heavily fruited with pear, apple and some banana (and a slight banana skin dryness in the finish). There are herbal flavors, a bit of lavender flower, and a very dense, almost gritty body, which highlights it's rather powerful demeanor overall. There is a more rounded, less prickly or acidic character that one might expect from coffee grown at such high altitudes as El Espino.



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Gillio's crazy vintage Willys jeep, a rather dangerous vehicle by any standard!
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Zarcero, West Valley
Processing: Wet-Process
Arrival Date: July 2009 Arrival (GrainPro)
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold intensity / Caramel and chocolate roast notes, dense, gritty mouthfeel, multiple fruits, herbal, dry finish.
Roast: Full City to Full City+ roast. I think Full City is ideal here. This coffee can take a little more roast, and it suits the rustic aspect and full body of this particular cup.
Compare to: A non-traditional Costa Rica coffee, one of the more rustic takes on Miel coffee that we have in stock, along with the Sin Limites.
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Costa Rica Helsar Villa Sarchi Solis

This is a microlot from one of the Beneficio Helsar producers, Roger Solis, grown on his farm at 1600-1700 meters in Llano Bonito de Naranjo. It is 100% Villa Sarchi cultivar, which is a natural offspring of Bourbon. So in the above name, Helsar de Zarcero is the mill mark, Solis is the farmer, and Villa Sarchi is the cultivar. (Interestingly, the Typica in the area is a unique type, often referred to as Typica Villalobos, which comes from farms of the Rodrigues Villalobos clan, or so he stated to me when I was at their mill in February!) Helsar is an excellent MicroMill and dry most of their top grade coffees on raised beds/screens in a covered tent (to increase heat and prevent rain damage). It's a bright cup, but has nice body and balance, especially at Full City to Full City+ roast levels. This might be partly due to the relation of Villa Sarchi to the Bourbon cultivar, the classic type known for balanced cup character. I believe the Villa Sarchi influence is a more balanced flavor profile, but with well-defined acidity. The dry fragrance has a lot of milk chocolate and raisin sweetness, and in the wet aromatics, fresh-baked sweet brown bread with a little bit of roasted hazelnut. The cup follows suit, balanced, in body and brightness at darker roast levels. There are grace notes of peach tea, a little lemon rind, and pear. It has the same dry-roasted nut tone, more almondy than hazelnut, fading to tangy and crisp chocolate flavor in the finish. It changes quite a bit as the temperature drops, and peach tea flavors come out. The body isn't that heavy, but has a syrupy quality. My lightest roasts, City level, tasted fairly thin and a bit grainy. I suggest City+ to Full City+, the latter having more balance. There is a striking zest of brightness here that can stand up to slightly darker roast levels.



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Leaves of the Villa Sarchi cultivar, in Llano Bonito de Naranjo, Costa Rica.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Llano Bonito of Naranjo, West Valley
Processing: Wet process
Arrival Date: July 2009 Arrival (GrainPro Bags)
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Villa Sarchi
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Great balance, with peach tea notes as it cools
Roast: City+ for the brighter cup or it makes a great FC+ roast.
Compare to: A balanced, single-cultivar lot.
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Costa Rica Peaberry-Petite Bean Experiment

When I was in Costa Rica at Exclusive coffee, we had a table with two amazing samples I rated near 90. I noticed both were very small in bean size, mostly peaberry, but also a lot of tiny little flat beans. When we flipped over the cards, it turns out this was part of an experimental preparation and not a larger lot of coffee. What a tease! Basically, the coffee at the higher parts of the farm was forming small fruits that were under the standard commercial screen sizes, so they were simply dropping into the lo-grade bin at the dry mill with bad and broken beans. Also, they ripen late in the season, after much of the crop is exported. So they were both small and late. But in reality, they tasted great! The best was the Cafetin San Martin, but the quantity was so small. Other farmers tried to harvest these small beans as well, with similar cup results (i.e. very good). So what we offer here is a blend of 3 farms and their "Petite Beans": Cafetin, Don Mayo and Montes de Oro. Note: This coffee does not have perfect preparation. It roasts a bit like an Ethiopia dry process coffee, a little bean to bean variation and a couple under-ripes (quakers) in there. The reason for this is that the milling equipment was not set up to handle such small sized beans. These normally are just allowed to drop through the screener and go into the low grade coffee sold for "local consumption." The guys had to actually source a new screen material and monitor the milling visually. But the result is a very interesting cup! The dry fragrance has a sweetness that is a bit like Aunt Jemima, sweet but not quite maple syrup-like, and with some vanilla and caramel. There's a hint of almond oil and spiced plum. In fact, this coffee has a slightly winey fruited note, a bit Kenya-esque, a little like the El Salvador Kilimanjaro. On the break there are cherry and plum fruit notes in the wet aroma, as well as honey sweetness. The cup has a darkly fruited sweetness, dried plums and black cherry, Monukka raisin and spice. I would describe this as a "juicy" coffee in terms of flavor and mouthfeel. There are clove and pepper accents here, and the finish is a bit on the dry side. The Full City roast has a caramelized dark brown sugar flavor, ending with a bit of almond skin flavor.It's a fairly bright cup, and there is a think body. The long aftertaste is slightly tannic and tight. It's a very interesting cup, the way it passes from fruited scents and sweet syrupy flavors to an austere finish.



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Cupping in CR with Wayner and Tim.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Tarrazu area
Processing: Wet process
Arrival Date: September 2009 Arrival, Vac Pack
Appearance: 1.2 d/300gr, 14-16 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Fruited cup, slightly winey, very sweet.
Roast: City - City+ had the most dimension here. This is an unusual coffee to roast, and BEHMOR users, beware of the small bean size. It might catch in the screen of the regular, stock Behmor drum.
Compare to: Bears some resemblance to the El Salvador Kilimanjaro, slightly winey in the fruit flavors, very sweet. Limit 2 Lbs please, since it is such a small lot, we want to spread it around!
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Costa Rica Don Mayo "La Ponderosa" Bourbon

La Ponderosa is a special, super-high elevation coffee from Tarrazu, processed expertly at the Don Mayo Micro-Mill by the Bonilla Family. I met the senior, Hector in Costa Rica last year, and again when they visited in September with the Costa Rica Micromiller group. He brought his son Pablo, who is a big part of the team at Don Mayo. And I must admit, they have the coolest logo ever (a coffee bean head with the traditional Tico coffe workers hat, called a "chonete" ... something of a Gilligan type thing.) And I am very happy with how this lot of coffee arrived; sweet and balanced. It's a coffee I could drink all day long. The dry fragrance has berry fruit to it, toasted granola, dark sugar sweetness, and roasted almond. Adding the hot water, the wet aromatics sweetens with a Malt-o-meal hot cereal scent, hints of boysenberry syrup, and spicy accents of cinnamon. The cup needs some time to cool down for the flavors to really open up. It strikes me as extremely balanced in the body initially, and amber malt character in it's sweetness. The berry fruit flavors began to peek out, this time as a blackberry note at the FC roast level. The roast flavors are more nut-based in tonality, between a very mild roasted peanut and hazelnut. And more than anything, the cup is sweet. I keep thinking of amber malt syrup, hence the fact that maltose must be present in this coffee. The degree to which you convert those sugars in roasting will determine a lot of your flavor here. My favorite straddled the divide between City+ and Full City. The finish has a sweetness of panela sugar cakes, the minimally-processed sugar used in much of Latin America. This dense, Bourbon cultivar is a bit tough to read, in terms of degree-of-roast. Erring on the lighter side will yield better results. The green coffee has some "foxy" beans, which is a trade term for a sound green bean that happens to have reddish silverskin still attached to it. This comes off in as chaff. Overall it yields a classic, compact flavor profile, typical of Bourbon cultivar, being both well-structured and balanced. We also had some great SO espresso shots from the FC+ roast of the Don Mayo Ponderosa Bourbon.



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The best coffee logo, ever! The bean head guy wears a traditional Tico coffee picker's hat: El Chonote.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Tarrazu Valley
Processing: Wet-Process Style Demucilaged
Arrival Date: August 2009 Arrival, GrainPro Bags
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Excellent nut, malt and berry aromatics and sweetness
Roast: City+ to FC had the maximum berry fruits and amber malt sweetness.
Compare to: A very balanced, creamy body, toasted granola notes and dark berry fruits. This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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Costa Rica "Cafe Sin Limites"

"We're No. 2!" It could be the chant around the farm and bodega at Cafe Sin Limites farm, because they have placed #2 in the Cup of Excellence for 2 years running! And the name sorta lends itself to motivational chants: Coffee Without Limits? What's with that? This is also our second lot of Sin Limites for 2009, a later harvest shipment after we sold out of our first. Jaime Cardenas and his wife Mabel Barrantes are the owners of this small boutique micro mill in the Lourdes de Naranjo region of the West Valley. The farm is at 1500-1700 meters and has produced some amazing coffees in the last 3 years, as the CoE track record proves. (This year's lot was #2 Fuego, Fire, which I guess is another 'new age' sort of naming scheme). Their coffee is, like the neighboring farm Herbazu, Villa Sarchi cultivar, which is a natural mutation of Bourbon. Certainly, this is true micromill/microlot coffee from a passionate small producer. In fact, the first time I dropped in on his small bodega, Jaime was sleeping in the warehouse with the coffee! There was a bed and small TV set with a "telenovella" blaring at full volume. He is a real crafts-person when it comes to his coffee and tries numerous experiments with depulping and drying the coffee to maximize the cup results. This lot is a "miel" or "honey" coffee, meaning that some of the fruit is allowed to dry on the parchment layer on the patio. It actually looks quite lousy as green coffee, but roasts up even and has a clean, sweet flavor profile. The dry fragrance from this batch of Sin Limites has tons of cocoa powder, nutty tones (at C+ roast), and maple sweet hints. There is a shift in the wet aroma, a more focused and volatile aromatic emerges, of almond oil essence, aromatic wood, cherry fruits, rustic honey sweetness. It's definitely a bright cup with some dimension, and a bit of funky rustic notes (not unlike the farmer that produces it!) The first thing that strikes you in the cup flavors is the complex brightness; fruited acidity, apple and cherry brightness, and an interesting smoky accent. It's not one of those thin, light-bodied, "bright-clean-simple" CR coffees; it has a fat, round mouthfeel, which pairs well with the almond nutty hint in the roast taste. I also think it's a cup that needs to cool a bit to appreciate the layers of taste. Honey notes, buttered toast, and lemon balm herbal suggestions come out as the cup cools down.



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Jaime pulling samples for me the last time I visited his crazy, mixed-up warehouse in Lourdes de Naranjo.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Lourdes de Naranjo, West Valley
Processing: Miel (Pulp Natural)
Arrival Date: July 2009 Arrival (GrainPro)
Appearance: .6 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Villa Sarchi
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold intensity / Bright acidity, slightly rustic and complex cup
Roast: City to Full City. It can take a wide range of roasts
Compare to: Complex cup for a Costa Rica, with more body than expected. Bright, and a bit rustic.
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Costa Rica R.I.P. 2009

RIP = Roasted In Parchment. Whose terrible idea was it to roast coffee in parchment? Oh wait, it was mine. And yes, we might have lost it on this one. It's as unusual as the Qishr (coffee skin) tea we have offered. RIP coffee is a name we came up with for "Roasted In Parchment," which is another of our crackpot ideas. But the logic is all there: after coffee is processed at the wet mill or the pulping station, it is dried in the sun. At this stage the coffee has its outer parchment shell on it; it is called pergamino in Central America. After it is dried down to 12% moisture content, the parchment coffee is rested in silos or bags for anywhere from 30-60 days. This allows the coffee to stabilize. In the parchment shell, the dried green coffee can be stored for much longer, and is more protected from temperature and humidity changes that damage cup quality. I had toyed with the idea years ago of importing coffee in parchment, and milling it here. You can store it and dry mill it right before shipping it to the customer. The logistics never made sense, and milling is expensive and dusty. Some time last year I was in my cupping room and on a whim I started roasting some samples I had of parchment coffee. I remember seeing women in rural Guatemala roasting parchment coffee on a wood stove. What would happen? I was really surprised by the cup. It was very different, not at all unpleasant. There was tons of body, an unusual maple syrup and cocoa powder taste. It seemed like I had blended coffee with something else, but I enjoyed it! I also found that the darker roasts were my favorite. So this year while traveling in Costa Rica I asked Juan Ramon at Brumas del Zurqui Micro Mill if they would ship us parchment coffee. They did, and with a twist: this is a mix of processes, wet-processed parchment, Yellow Honey parchment and Red Honey from pulped natural process. That means the fruit of the coffee cherry was left to dry on the parchment. Rather than the pale cream color of wet-processed parchment, this has a yellow-to-red tint to it and some spots of dried coffee mucilage. That fruit layer cooks during roasting and imparts a more rustic fruity note to the coffee. See the photos to know what to expect from the roasted appearance, a smorgasbord of colors! There are a few defect beans, or some not in parchment here - remove them before roasting. The dry fragrance, wet aroma, and cup flavors all have this fruit overlay, along with smoky campfire notes, and a pleasant woody flavor. There is a tea flavor too, rose hips, hibiscus flower, herbal. I like the darker roasts, when the darker beans have an exterior that is patchy and black. These remind me of good aged coffees, with inky dark roast flavor and unique smoky notes. On the flip side ...The light roast is especially like an herbal infusion. It's certainly a very odd cup of coffee, a hybrid. I prefer the darker roasts, but remember to check out my RIP Coffee Tutorial on roasting here: http://www.sweetmarias.com/RIP_Coffee_Roasting_In_Parchment/index.html Theoretically, there is more of a fire threat here, since the parchment layer means there is more combustible material in your roast chamber. Keep your eyes on your roaster at all times for this one. I seriously doubt we are going to start any trends here, but this is a unique chance to try a coffee roasting process you might not be able to see again, and a cup that resists easy description!



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This is what your RIP 2009 should look like after roasting - varied colors due to the mix of Miel and Washed process parchment.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Central Valley, San Isidro de Heredia
Processing: Miel and Wet Process Mix
Arrival Date: July 2009 Arrival (GrainPro)
Appearance: 1.4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Catuai
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Bold intensity / Smokey and fruited, very unusual, and hard to score.
Roast: FC+ is an intense, fruited ans smokey cup. C+ is good too, with herbal tea bright notes. Check out our RIP Coffee Roasting Guide for photos and more info on roasting this coffee.
Compare to: Incomparable … has some flavor similarities to Qishr tea in the light roasts, and to Aged coffees in the darker roasts. In a way, it's a really different beverage than coffee! It is the BEST example of thick, viscous body in coffee.
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Costa Rica Tarrazu -Montes de Oro

Carrizal is the name of the finca (farm) and Montes de Oro is the name of the Micro Mill that has produced this great lot. It's the work of Emilio Gamboa, Laura and their family, and a they have a beautiful farm in the Tarrazu region, overlooking San Pablo de León Cortés. The altitude is 1650 -1700 meters and they have an incredibly clean, well-organized Micro Mill, with a majority of the coffee dried on raised beds, the rest on patio. As you may already know, "Miel" means honey, and refers to the fact that much of the fruit from the coffee cherry is left on the parchment (pergamino) seed to dry. This creates a coffee with heightened body, lower acidity, chocolate and fruited hints. The sweetest roasts in the dry fragrance evaluation was the very City+ roast. It was very caramelly and honey-like. The coffee turns to chocolate as it passes to C+ and FC roast levels, but retains a milky sweetness too. The coffee opens up and reveals multifaceted fruits in the wet aroma, especially at the lightest (City) and darkest (FC+) roasts we tested. The range is from stone fruits, dried peach in particular, to guayaba/guava ... and in the darker roast, prune and berry. These aromatics are to be expected in the best coffees that undergo the "Miel" type process. (I have tasted a lot of mediocre Miel coffees in the past 2 years, so I do not take these qualities for granted - you can ruin a coffee with this method, and it takes an experienced farmer and miller to get the sweetness out of this cup while retaining a clean character overall). What strikes me with Emilio's coffee is the fact it works at all roast levels, a versatile coffee that can be "interpreted" by the person roasting it in several ways. The light roast has a honey graham cracker character, accented by lemon with a touch of rind in the finish. There is a grainy taste and mouthfeel that disappears with a little more roast, City+, where caramel, buttery sweetness and apple notes are dominant, with Toblerone toffee-chocolate flavors a bit darker. I really like this cup at FC+, a few snaps into 2nd crack. It reminds one of both classic Costa Rica character, balanced, but with the body lacking in wet-process coffees, and with that thick chocolaty body. It falls into the category of "great drinking coffee", something you want to brew up all the time, and share with others.



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Emilio Gamboa at his Micro Mill, from my trip last year.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: San Pablo de León Cortés, Tarrazu
Processing: Miel (Pulp Natural), Yellow Honey
Arrival Date: July 2009 Arrival (GrainPro)
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Great balance and body, versatile coffee
Roast: See the notes above. It works on a very wide range of roasts, City roast - just through 1st crack to FC+ and beyond. But it produces very different cup character at each level, always with sweetness. FC+ ended up seducing me ...
Compare to: Again, great drinking coffee, meaning something you will brew up morning, noon and night - classic character with increased body and proportion.
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Costa Rica Helsar de Zarcero

We are big fans of Helsar, and are offering several lots this year from this excellent West Valley mill, as we did last year. If you have been around Sweet Maria's site a while, you know the name. Helsar de Zarcero represents the combined efforts of Ricardo Perez and the brothers Rodriguez. Their farms are on a high ridge in the area of Alajuela, in the coffee areas of both Zarcero and Naranjo. They grow coffee, and also have formed a group of producers, for whom they process and dry the coffee to very high standards. I have visited the mill quite a few times now, and every time I see it, there are new innovations and improvements. They grow Typica, Caturra an a type called Villa Sarchi. The coffee is grown between 1650 - 1800 meters. Helsar is an excellent Micro-Mill and dry most of their top grade coffees on raised beds/screens in a covered tent (to increase heat and prevent rain damage). In fact, I was there last with Maria and Ben in the middle of a downpour, and not a single drop of water could be found on the drying patios! Coffee can be ruined so easily by small oversights in process and drying, and the Helsar boys seem to know this so well. Anyway, there care for the coffee shows in the cup. It's a classic, bright, clean Costa Rica cup. The dry fragrance has very attractive chocolate milk and cocoa powder sweet smells, as well as orange and caramel traces. Ditto on the wet aroma; caramel, soft chocolate sweetness, orange hint. The cup flavors are marked by sweet orangey citrus character, and hazelnut roast taste, especially at the City+ degree-of-roast. A more "candy-like" orange flavor is evident at first, fading into citrus peel aftertaste. The body is quite light, but silky and fits the refreshing, bright cup. It's not the most complex cup, but minimalist and "elegantly simple" would be a fair characterization. At Full City roast, there is appreciably more weight to the mouthfeel, and the cup takes on milk chocolate flavors with a slight orange emphasis. It works well under a nice, wide range of roast levels. It's a very bright, clean cup, and unlike the "Miel" or honey coffees we offer, a classic, traditional Costa Rica in that regard. I would challenge any high-profile Costa Rica coffee from other mills to go head-to-head with this Helsar lot!



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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The covered drying patio for parchment coffee at Helsar de Zarcero.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: "Llano Bonito de Zarcero", West Valley
Processing: Wet process
Arrival Date: July 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Typica, Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Milk chocolate, orange, caramel, bright
Roast: City to Full City+: At light roasts it has a thin body, but the best and brightest citrus accents. At FC roast it becomes more chocolaty and has a thicker mouthfeel
Compare to: It's a classic West Valley cup with bright and vivid citrus flavors.
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Costa Rica Asoproaaa Coop Tarrazu

Somehow, coops don't quite get it in terms of marketing. They never have the pastoral names we associate with coffee, or with the old farms ... you don't see Coop La Violeta, or Coop Buena Ventura. What you get are long, ugly, unpronounceable acronyms, like Asoproaaa for example. Don't forget - it ends with 3 aaa's . It stands for Asociación de Productores Agropecuarios de Acosta y Aserrí, and the beauty of coops is this - they don't care! It isn't about fancy marketing, and they don't have the long traditions (i.e. of wealthy old land-owning families) that named farms after a nearby natural feature, or other more aesthetic thing. Coops form to help little guys, and their focus is serving members. It's all about the bond between them, and the extremely long names usually embody that, and their mission. So we are happy to offer this beautiful coffee with a traditional, bright, clean Costa Rica cup under the unwieldy name of ASOPROAAA (3 aaa's!) In fact, Asoproaaa has quite a list of accomplishments by it's member farmers in the past 2 Cup of Excellence competitions in Costa Rica, including the No. 1 coffee in 2007. This is a mixed lot from their small producers though, not a farm-specific coffee. The dry fragrance has a great milk chocolate Toblerone scent, and I am surprised how vividly floral (coffee flower scent) it turns in the wet aromatics. There's hazelnut and some cherry-like fruited smells too, and in the cup flavors this bright, crisp, clean fruit note comes through brilliantly. I prefer the lighter roast for this reason (City), but the body is a bit thin here. At FC roast there is a very tangy chocolate flavor. This is a very nice flavor profile too, but quite different from the City-to-City+ roast. As far as I am concerned , this coffee can go head to head with any classic, traditional wet-processed Tarrazu and beat them easily.





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Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Tarrazu
Processing: Traditional Wet-Process
Arrival Date: Late June 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Catuai
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Bright cup with clean fruited tones and floral aromas
Roast: City is the roast that yields the crisp fruited and floral notes, but FC to FC+ has great, darker chocolate roast tones.
Compare to: Classic, traditional wet-processed Tarrazu. Of the 20 small Micro-Lots we are offering this season, Asoproaaa is the only "pooled lot." But the cup was so nice, we had to get it!
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Costa Rica La Magnolia SWP Decaf

La Magnolia is a trade name with a long history, and was consistently one of my favorite Costa Rica coffees for many years. Well, that was before I started dealing exclusively with the small farm micro-mills. But the fact is, La Magnolia is still a nice, clean cup, and this Swiss Water Decaf lot really impressed me for it's attractive sweetness. This coffee was formerly from Tres Rios area, but Tres Rios is now largely a shopping mall and subdivision in a booming suburb of San Jose, the Costa Rica capital. I am skeptical about how much coffee is truly grown in Tres Rios. Nonetheless, the La Magnolia mark goes on, and this Swiss Water cup was really nice. I noticed right away in the dry fragrance cup, a caramel and malty sweet note, with just a hint of molasses and fruit. This continues through the wet aroma, and into the cup, where sweetness, mild cherry-like fruit, and a nice velvety body. There's a very mild cocoa-laced chocolate note - it actually reminds me of a fudgecicle! I feel like this coffee sends another message, at least to me as a coffee buyer: Swiss Water has been working on their process and the results are improving. There was a time when everything from Swiss Water decaf plant tasted so flat and cardboard-like. But this coffee has a crystal clear brightness and sweetness, and a very smooth texture.





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Tom doing a few hours work harvesting coffee in Costa Rica, a couple years back.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Tres Rios, Central Valley
Processing: Wet-Process, then SWP Decaf
Arrival Date: June 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Mixed -Mostly Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Sweet and clean, velvety body
Roast: City Roast to FC roast: I had nice, dark fruit in the FC roast, and it still had the brightness of the lighter roast
Compare to: A nice, sweet, clean, mild decaf. Remember, Swiss Water decafs are very dark color, so roasting visually is difficult. Rely more on smells, sound and temperatures here ...
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Costa Rica La Candelilla Guaca Bourbon

La Candelilla is one of the larger farms in the "Micro-Mill" category, but like the others it is a true coffee estate, with complete control of the coffee from the plant, through the processing and preparation for export. It is operated by Victor Mata, and this coffee comes from a high spot called La Guaca (1500-1550 meters). The farm is in the La Sabana micro-region, at the south bank of the Pirris River, approximately 2 km west from San Marcos de Tarrazú town. They have a very impressive mill, and a lot of new plantings in various cultivars, such as Gesha. (As you can imagine, half of Latin America looks like it is being replanted in Gesha). But what we have here is a classic cup. It's a blend of the Bourbon-hybrid Mundo Novo and old Bourbon, and I am not sure of the exact percentage of each. In either case, a lot of the character in this cup. It works well under a wide range of roasts, and we tested very light City through FC+ levels with nice results. The wet fragrance has a classic Central American brightness, milk chocolate, and a restrained character overall. The light roasts have a distinct toasted almond flavor, and a substantial, silky mouthfeel. There is also a clean red apple fruit, and interesting zesty spice; pepper and a bit of clove. I prefer a little darker roast here, a Full City, near to the start of 2nd crack... but safely before the first snap of of 2nd crack begins. Here the coffee has a generous milk chocolate bittersweetness, great thick body, and dark fruited tones lurking in the background. There are raisiny notes, and as it cools some very nice honey sweet flavors fading into the aftertaste. It's a classic cup, not an exotic fruit bomb, but with a lot of lattitude in the roast to produce really nice results all along the roast spectrum.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Ricardo at the Candelilla bodega, from my trip last year.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Guadalupe de San Marcos
Processing: Miel (Pulp Natural)
Arrival Date: July 2009
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Mundo Novo, Bourbon and Mundo Novo
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Clean, bright, classic restrained flavor profile
Roast: City+ for the lighter, lower-intensity cup, or FC+ roast too. It takes a wide range of roasts.
Compare to: Classic bright Central American coffee with excellent structure. It's an easy coffee to "drink" rather than "taste". Slow down and pay attention to it's subtle charm! Note - this is great as a vacuum brewed coffee!
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Costa Rica Organic La Yunta Estate

La Yunta is a small 10 Hectare family farm in the West Valley area of Costa Rica ...more specifically, San Isidro de San Ramón. It has been in the family for 70 years, from the time that Beto Varela traded a "Yunta", which means a yoke, but also a pair of oxen, for the land the farm now occupies: And so naming the farm was easy: La Yunta! The farm is now owned by the second generation of the Varela Brothers (Pancho and Gemelo) and is certified Organic, a rarity in Costa Rica in and of itself. The farm doesn't have the towering altitude of some others we buy from (1200-1300 meters), but you wouldn't know that from the cup. This is a bright, citrusy cup, but also well-balanced. The fact it is 100% Caturra cultivar might have something to do with it. The seeds are small, and roast like a very dense, high grown coffee with little cracking at the ends, a tight crease in the middle (the "closed fist"), and not a lot of expansion in size. This is one of the few Micro Mill coffees that I did not get a chance to visit, but hopefully we can get there before next year's crop. For me, the coffee spoke for itself when I cupped it. The dry fragrance of the City+ roast is so sweet, laced with cherry blossom. The wet aromatics, smelling the wet grounds after adding hot water, and "breaking" the grounds with a cupping spoon, are even more sweet (with a savory accent) and floral. There are ample citrus hints but this floral character pervades. It's a bright, bright cup, very lively, effervescent. As the cup cools, there is a honey-sweetned tea note that comes forward. It has a refined sweetness, clean fruited notes (the body and flavor remind me of the syrup from canned peaches). The aftertaste has a pristine, crisp, fade-out, with an interesting aromatic cedar note coming forward on the palate at the end. It's a very clean cup, delicate, but still has a lot of character.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Gamelo Varela with his father, Beto, and at the micro-mill processing coffee cherry.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: San Isidro de San Ramon, West Valley
Processing: Wet process, sun-dried
Arrival Date: June 2009 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Incredibly clean, bright, citric and floral
Roast: City+ for the bright, intense cup I describe. But this coffee makes an outstanding FC+ roast too. It's an especially roast-sensitive coffee so expect to see flavor shifts with each batch.
Compare to: Classic bright Central American coffee with excellent structure. It's an easy coffee to "drink" rather than "taste". Slow down and pay attention to it's subtle charm! Note - this is great as a vacuum brewed coffee!
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Costa Rica Lourdes de Naranjo Herbazu

Cafetalera Herbazu is a well-known farm in the West Valley region, the Lourdes de Naranjo area to be exact. It is on of the early pioneers in independent, small mill coffee farms, the work of the Barrantes family. They grow a type of Villa Sarchi cultivar that they have used for so long, it has become their own mutation in a way. It's quite a short plant (Villa Sarchi is a dwarf mutation of Bourbon, as is Caturra). The mill and drying patios are right in the center of the farm, which ranges from 1550 to 1700 meters. I have been there a couple times and have always been impressed with how efficient and neat the mill looks, as well as the trees which are kept well-pruned and short. They don't employ much shade on the farm, and their particular type of Villa Sarchi seems adapted to this exposure. While we have offered the pulp natural "honey" coffees from Herbazu, this is our first time offering their wet-process style estate grade, which is a forced demucilage process (as opposed to traditional fermentation wet-process). The results are amazing, a classic, citric Costa Rica flavor profile, vividly bright, crisp and clean. The fragrance of the dry coffee grounds is full of honey, toffee sweetness, and citrus blossom accents. The wet aroma has dynamic orange and Meyer lemon notes, with a graham cracker scent as well, malty and honeyed. The cup is dynamically bright, with a fresh-squeezed lemon juice adding a high-note zing to the cup, while there is a tenor-level flavor of honey, caramel and barley sugar. I like the City+ roast level, but it might be too bright for some folks. In the slightly darker roasts levels (FC, FC+) a berry note emerges, so adding a bit more roast time to tone down the coffee a bit is always an option. It also balances out with more rest (48+ hours) and the body improves. This is an amazing cup, with a sour-and-sweet polarity that makes it a very exiting tasting experience. I find it is very versatile, and works anywhere from City roast, through the middle ranges, and into 2nd crack, if you are so inclined. News Item: Herbazu won 4th place in the 2009 Cup of Excellence!



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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The Barrantes brothers at the entrance to Herbazu farm.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Lourdes de Naranjo, West Valley
Processing: Wet Process (forced demucilage)
Arrival Date: June 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Villa Sarchi
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Vividly bright acidity, caramel-toffee-honey sweetness, clean cup.
Roast: City to Full City+ or a bit beyond. This is versatile coffee that can hold up to darker roast levels, but I love the fresh lemon juice flavors of C+ as well as the berry notes that emerge at FC/FC+
Compare to: Powerfully bright coffee, Kenya-like in it's acidity.
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Costa Rica Tarrazu KVW Decaf

This is a lot that was cupped, then sent direct to the German decaffeination plant KVW for their Methyl Chloride (MC) process and then returned to us. While there is often the strong possibility of a coffee going "flat" at the decaf plant, losing all its origin character, it always helps to start with a great coffee. Traditionally, brokers bought decaf from the plant, coffee supplied from lower grade "stocklots" by the decaffeinator themselves. The results were never very impressive. Now we are able to designate high quality lots, and get these kinds of results. The dry fragrance is bright and fruited. I get a bit of jackfruit, and in the wet aroma there is light molasses sweetness and chicory root, as well as macademia nut. The cup is sweet and bright; slight lemony acidity offers a little sparkle to the cup, while there are nut and vanilla flavors in the mid-range. It's quite amazing a coffee can survive the rigors of the decaf process with such a sweet, clean and bright cup. The body is quite light, as is the non-decaf, wet-process Costa Rica Tarrazu of tradition. To maximize these qualities, I recommend keeping the roast light. City + is plenty for this coffee, and retains all the bright, lively character, and that twist-of-lemon accent. I added a small cupper's correction based on ths excellent bright note.





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Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Tarrazu Valley
Processing: Wet-Process, then WP Decaf
Arrival Date: July 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Mixed
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Incredibly clean and bright for a decaf.
Roast: City+ for the bright, intense cup I describe.
Compare to: Quite comparable to a non-decaf Tarrazu, with some shifts in the sweetness.
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Costa Rica Vino de Arabia

This coffee is a lot that originates at a larger farm in the Micro-Mill movement, but on the scale of things in terms of the truly large mills and coops in Costa Rica, Brumas is tiny. The full name is Brumas del Zurqui, located in the area of San Isidro de Heredia, Central Valley. Brumas mill is between Volcan Barba and Volcan Irizu, and their coffee ranges from 1250 to 1600 meters. Brumas actually is a collection of several small farms that are blended to produce the flavor preferred flavor profile. It's a unique operation. We have several very exotic lots they did just for us this year, but the Vino is their main lot of wet-process coffee. They do it all on the farm, a key to the autonomy of those in the Micro Mill movement in Costa Rica, and perhaps Brumas is at the leading edge in some respects. Juan Ramon has taken over the coffee operation from his father, but the family has been in coffee since 1890. Juan Ramon is quite scientific in his approach, and conducts many experiments in improving the quality of Brumas coffees. He has been measuring the sugar content of coffee cherry on the br ix scale to determine the optimal ripeness, trying to find the best moment to pick a particular plot on the farm. Their mill uses the Penagos system, and less than 1 cubic meter of water per day. The coffee is dried in the sun, on raised beds or a small patio. Most goes to the raised beds. While this coffee uses the same equipment as the pulp natural types, the fruity mucilage is removed from the parchment, so this is a traditional a wet-process style coffee. It is quite elegant, with a rounded full body and some winey fruited notes (making the name not a pure affectation). The dry fragrance has both wine and chocolate hints, with a unique almond oil essence it it too. The wet aromatic has chocolate-nut balance and good intensity. Right away there is a clear sense that this is not the simple, clean, thin, bright Costa Rican cup type. Instead, this is incredibly rounded in terms of mouthfeel, with silky chocolate body, accented by red wine notes. It has a great sweet-bittersweet balance (like a nice chocolate like Vahlrona). The finish has ripe fruit, and the lighter roast is quite citric, with lemonade-like high notes. As it cools the well-defined winey brightness comes to the foreground.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Central Valley, San Isidro de Heredia
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: July 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Catuai
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Delicate balance of fine floral and fruit
Roast: City+, seriously … the bright notes are buried at FC+.
Compare to: Winey, rounded Central America with balance and brightness.
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Costa Rica Organic La Yunta Estate

La Yunta is a small 10 Hectare farm in the West Valley area of Costa Rica. More specifically, San Isidro de San Ramón. The farm is owned by the Varela Brothers and is certified Organic, a rarity in Costa Rica in and of itself. The farm doesn't have the towering altitude of some others we buy from (1250-1300 meters), but you wouldn't know that from the cup. This is a bright, citrusy cup. The fact it is 100% Caturra cultivar might have something to do with it. The seeds are small, and roast like a very dense, high grown coffee with little cracking at the ends, a tight crease in the middle (the "closed fist"), and not a lot of expansion in size. This is one of the few Micro Mill coffees that I did not get a chance to visit, but hopefully we can get there before next year's crop. For me, the coffee spoke for itself when I cupped it. The dry fragrance of the City+ roast is so sweet, laced with cherry blossom. The wet aromatics, smelling the wet grounds after adding hot water, and "breaking" the grounds with a cupping spoon, are even more sweet (with a savory accent) and floral. There are ample citrus hints but this floral character pervades. It's a bright, bright cup, very lively, effervescent. As the cup cools, there is a honey-sweetned tea note that comes forward. It has a refined sweetness, clean fruited notes (the body and flavor remind me of the syrup from canned peaches). The aftertaste has a pristine, crisp, fade-out, with an interesting aromatic cedar note coming forward on the palate at the end. It's a very clean cup, delicate, but still has a lot of character.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: San Isidro de San Ramon, West Valley
Processing: Wet process, sun-dried
Arrival Date: July 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Incredibly clean, bright, citric and floral
Roast: City+ for the bright, intense cup I describe. But this coffee makes an outstanding FC+ roast too. It's an especially roast-sensitive coffee so expect to see flavor shifts with each batch.
Compare to: Classic bright Central American coffee with excellent structure. It's an easy coffee to "drink" rather than "taste". Slow down and pay attention to it's subtle charm! Note - this is great as a vacuum brewed coffee!
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Costa Rica Dota - Conquistador

Dota is a small subregion adjacent to the Tarrazú valley proper, more remote than the areas where most of the coffee in Costa Rica is planted. And for years this particular coffee, El Conquistador, went primarily to a single roaster in Germany. Great Dota coffees are fairly small sized seeds, with greater density due to the high altitudes they are cultivated at. Some roasters used to believe that the unique Dota cup character was the result of extra fermentation times at the mill during the wet-processing of the coffee. But it fact it is processed the same way that other Tarrazú coffees are, with the same fermentation times. The difference is in the unique soils that are found in the Dota micro-region of Tarrazú, and the tradition of harvesting the coffee cherry very ripe. The result is a winey hint in the cup. We have stocked this coffee for several years now and in each blind cupping to new-crop Costas it is always a standout (but often in a slightly different way). City + roast of this lot has more of the winey fruited hints than a darker roast level. Depending on roast, this winey quality can taste more like ripe fruit than wine, really, and is a soft, muted flavor, not an aggressive wineyness of some Kenya auction lots, for example. There is chocolate throughout the roast range, from milk chocolate in the light roasts to a semi-sweet chocolate at FC+ or Vienna. Dota has a lower, more integrated acidity/brightness in the cup; the winey brighter note knits well with the body, and the chocolate roast tastes. At darker roast levels, especially FC or FC+, the cup has a really nice chocolate bittersweet, with a fruited/winey aspect moving into the background, or being completely overshadowed. The body is medium but has a fine, silky texture. Note: This just arrived but we have a limited amount of the Conquistador so we are limiting each order to 2 Lbs maximum. Sorry ... we want to spread it out and have it last a little while.





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Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Dota, Tarrazú
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: March 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 16-17 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Catuai
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Great body, slightly winey and berry notes.
Roast: City to Full City+; this coffee takes a wide degree of roasts, with winey hints more apparent at C+ roast, and pungent chocolate notes emerging at FC+
Compare to: Deep Costa Rican coffees, with good chocolate roast taste at FC or FC+ roast levels
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Costa Rica Finca Toño Miel

This lot is from a single farm in hills overlooking the beautiful town of Santa Maria de Dota, within the Tarrazu region. Dota coffees are known for the high altitude they are grown at, and their winey cup character. This lot is what we call a "Miel" or Honey coffee, referred to as Pulp Natural or Semi-Washed in other countries. The coffee fruit is run through the de-pulper, but instead of beginning the wet-process by fermenting the cherry for 12-24 hours in a tank, this de-skinned ripe coffee cherry fruit is simply laid out on the a raised screen "bed" to dry by sun and air flow. This is called pulp natural or 100% Miel coffee. It has more rustic character and lower acidity than the true semi-washed lots where 50% or 75% of the fruity layer is cleaned mechanically off the parchment shell that encases the seed. The result is something between an Ethiopia coffee, and Indonesian coffee and a Costa Rica, quite strange. The dry fragrance is fruited and chocolaty: coffee flower, and fruity bittersweet chocolate. The wet aroma similar, and the fruited notes have a ripe, winey aspect. In the cup the first thing to register in the light roast is wild, dried strawberry, with a winey aspect to it and cocoa tones. As it fades, it suggests papaya, and melon (in the C+ roast). The body is very heavy for a CR coffee at both C+ and FC+ roast ... in fact this coffee is no less intense at the light roasts as it is dark. The difference is the level of chocolate, and the tonality of the fruited notes. The aftertaste is pleasant, with bittersweet chocolate as a backdrop, and dark raisin notes. Darker roasts are my favorite here, where the chocolate turns bittersweet, acidity is fairly low, and in fact we have made some great espresso shots from the FC++/Light Vienna roasts of this Finca Tono coffee.





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Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Santa Maria de Dota, Tarrazu
Processing: Sun-dry raised bed "Miel" (pulp natural)
Arrival Date: February 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Catuai, Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Good body, Chocolate
Roast: Full City+ has best cup for the full-body-plus-chocolate character
Compare to: A cross between an Ethiopia, and Indonesia and a Costa Rica coffee
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Costa Rica Herbazu Yellow Honey

Herbazu is a well-known farm in the West Valley region, Naranjo Zarcero area, next door to the Sin Limites farm. They grow a type of Villa Sarchi cultivar that they have used for so long, it has become their own mutation in a way. It's quite a short plant (Villa Sarchi is a dwarf mutation of Bourbon, as is Caturra). This was a lot we saved for late in the season using our gas-impermeable bags from GrainPro, with great results. It has all the vivid bright notes and clean cup character as when it shipped. Yellow Honey means this is a pulp natural lot where 80% of the fruity mucilage from the coffee cherry is left on the parchment. The result is that it dries to a golden-yellow color. It is quite similar to the sister-lot we had, Red Honey. It is just a tad brighter and cleaner, with slightly lighter body than the Red Honey Herbazu lot. But it is still very much a pulp natural coffee, and compared to wet-processed Costa rica it has a heightened sense of density to the mouthfeel, and a balance to the bright notes in the cup. The dry fragrance has a unique savory sweetness, and the wet aroma has hints of winey fruit accented by citrus, with an additional toasted bread aroma. It's a complex smell. The cup is dynamic and bright, with bracing pink grapefruit bright notes over glazed almond roast notes. It strikes an interesting sour-sweet balance, but finishes on the side of the later, with a twist of citrus rind to boot. The body is far heavier than standard wet-process Costa Rica coffees, and has a silky mouthfeel.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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The Barrantes brothers at the entrance to Herbazu farm
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: West Valley
Processing: Pulp Natural Process
Arrival Date: August 2008 Arrival (Vac Bagge
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Villa Sarchi
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Savory aromatics, citrus flavors with sweet-sour balance
Roast: City+ to Full City+: At lighter C+ roasts it has the brightest citrus accents.
Compare to: Unusual combination of brightness and body for a Costa Rica coffee.
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Costa Rica Helsar Organic Naranjo

We are big fans of Helsar, and are offering several lots this year from this excellent West Valley mill. We have saved this lot for release late in the year, as new crop Costa Rica coffees are not due until May or June in 2009. We do this by using special bags designed for grain storage that have proven very effective to stabilize coffee during storage, and the results are great. This lot tastes as it did the day it arrived, maybe better! Helsar de Zarcero represents the combined efforts of Ricardo Perez Barrantes and Rodriguez Villalobos. Their farms are on a high ridge in the are of Alajuela, in the coffee areas of both Zarcero and Naranjo. They grow Typica, Caturra an a type called Villa Sarchi. Helsar is an excellent Micro-Mill and dry most of their top grade coffees on raised beds/screens in a covered tent (to increase heat and prevent rain damage). The dry fragrance has very attractive chocolate milk and cocoa powder sweet smells, as well as orange and caramelly traces. Ditto on the wet aroma; caramel, soft chocolate sweetness, orange hint. The cup flavors are marked by sweet citrus, and hazelnut roast taste, especially at the City+ degree-of-roast. Candy-like orange flavor is evident at first, fading into citrus peel aftertaste. Especially in the lighter roast, it's a very bright, clean cup, sweet at first and with a lively, citrusy grace note in the finish. The body is quite light, but fits the refreshing, bright cup. It's not the most complex cup, but minimalist and "elegantly simple" would be a fair characterization. At Full City roast, there is appreciably more weight to the mouthfeel, and the cup takes on milk chocolate flavors with a slight orange emphasis. It works well under a nice, wide range of roast levels.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Red Bourbon tree with ripe cherry, El Salvador
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Llano Bonito of Naranjo, West Valley
Processing: Wet process
Arrival Date: August 2008 Arrival (Vac Bagged)
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Roast: City to Full City+: At light roasts it has a thin body, but the best and brightest citrus accents. At FC roast it becomes more chocolaty and has a thicker mouthfeel
Compare to: It's a classic Naranjo cup with bright and vivid citrus flavors.
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Costa Rica Violeta -Don Teófilo Estate

This is a lot we received and immediately transferred into our gas-impermeable long-term storage bags, to maintain the freshness for a late-season offering. We refer to this as a "cellared" lot, for lack of a better term, since we don't have a cellar here at the warehouse! This process is much like vacuum packing, but is easier for us since we can line one entire 70 kg burlap bag with one of the new special storage bags, rather than divide it up into many small vac packs of 10 kg each, or so. Anyway, we think this method has yielded great results, and in the cupping room these special lots are cupping as if they just arrived. (One of them, the Helsar Typica Villalobos is cupping better than when it arrived!) This is a cooperatively milled coffee, prepared at La Violeta de Desamparados mill, by the AGRIVID Producer´s Group. It is from a farm called Don Teófilo, situated at 1500 meters, and planted in Caturra cultivar. The dry fragrance is very attractive, like honey on warm wheat toast. It has sweet grain, and a touch of butter, nut and caramel. It's actually a little less intense in the wet aromatics, but has the same character as the dry coffee grounds. The cup is lively, brisk in a way, and really enjoyable. The brightness has a lemon tea Snapple quality (City+ roast), with honey, and almondy roast tones. Besides lemon, there seems to be some raspberry, and in the finish it is more strawberry ... in either case, berry-like fruit. The body is medium, as anticipated for a wet-process type Costa Rica, and the aftertaste is crisp and not that long, fading with nutty tones after the brighter fruity acidity fades.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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The logo for Don Teofilo coffee from Agrivid.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB Estate Grade
Region: Tarrazu Valley
Processing: Wet process style
Arrival Date: August 2008 Arrival (Cellared)
Appearance: .0 d/300gr, 16-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Crisp, bright cup, lemon tea, raspberry, nut
Roast: City+: I enjoyed the lighter City roast too, but it tastes just a little under-developed at that stage.
Compare to: A classic wet-process type Costa Rica, bright, clean, dynamic.
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Costa Rica R.I.P. Red Honey Coffee

We might have lost it on this one. It's as unusual as the Qishr (coffee skin) tea we have offered. RIP coffee is a name we came up with for "Roasted In Parchment," which is another of our crackpot ideas. But the logic is all there: after coffee is processed at the wet mill or the pulping station, it is dried in the sun. At this stage the coffee has its outer parchment shell on it; it is called pergamino in Central America. After it is dried down to 12% moisture content, the parchment coffee is rested in silos or bags for anywhere from 30-60 days. This allows the coffee to stabilize. In the parchment shell, the dried green coffee can be stored for much longer, and is more protected from temperature and humidity changes that damage cup quality. I had toyed with the idea years ago of importing coffee in parchment, and milling it here. You can store it and dry mill it right before shipping it to the customer. The logistics never made sense, and milling is expensive and dusty. Some time last year I was in my cupping room and on a whim I started roasting some samples I had of parchment coffee. I remember seeing women in rural Guatemala roasting parchment coffee on a wood stove. What would happen? I was really surprised by the cup. It was very different, not at all unpleasant. There was tons of body, an unusual maple syrup and cocoa powder taste. It seemed like I had blended coffee with something else, but I enjoyed it! I also found that the darker roasts were my favorite. So this year while traveling in Costa Rica I asked Juan Ramon at Brumas del Zurqui Micro Mill if they would ship us parchment coffee. They did, and with a twist: this isn't wet-processed parchment coffee, it is Red Honey Parchment from pulped natural process. That means the fruit of the coffee cherry was left to dry on the parchment. Rather than the pale cream color of wet-processed parchment, this has a red tint to it. That fruit layer cooks during roasting and imparts a more rustic fruity note to the coffee. The dry fragrance, wet aroma, and cup flavors all have this fruit overlay, along with smokey campfire notes, and a pleasant woody flavor. There is a tea flavor too, rose hips, hibiscus flower, herbal. I like the darker roasts, when the parchment exterior is patchy and black. These remind me of good aged coffees, with inky dark roast flavor and unique smokey notes. On the flip side ...The light roast is especially like an herbal infusion. It's certainly a very odd cup of coffee, a hybrid. I prefer the darker roasts, but remember to check out my RIP Coffee Tutorial on roasting. Theoretically, there is more of a fire threat here, since the parchment layer means there is more combustible material in your roast chamber. Keep your eyes on your roaster at all times for this one. I seriously doubt we are going to start any trends here, but this is a unique chance to try a coffee roasting process you might not be able to see again, and a cup that resists easy description!





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Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Central Valley, San Isidro de Heredia
Processing: Red Honey Coffee
Arrival Date: July 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Catuai
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Bold intensity / Smokey and fruited
Roast: FC+ is an intense, fruited ans smokey cup. C+ is good too, with herbal tea bright notes.
Compare to: Incomparable … has some flavor similarities to Qishr tea in the light roasts, and to Aged coffees in the darker roasts. This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing tranparency program.
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Costa Rica Brumas Dry-Process

This coffee is a micro lot that originates at, Brumas del Zurqui, located in the area of San Isidro de Heredia, Central Valley. Instead of their wet-process/fermentation method, or pulp natural/raised bed lot (called by the colorful name Vino de Arabia by the farm), this is a full natural coffee. What does that mean? It means the ripe red cherry is harvested, and without removing the skin or fermenting the coffee, it is laid on screen "beds" to sun-dry. I visited the farm early this year to see the process, and their mill and drying area is one of the best, in my experience. On the screens, the coffee dries by direct sun and the air movement from all sides, a key factor in good natural dry-process coffee. The red cherry turns to a raisiny fruit, then ahard shell with a deep chocolate brown color. Then it is ready for dry-milling, where the skin, dried fruit and parchment shell surrounding the green bean is hulled in one step. After that, the coffee is screened for size, color-sorted and hand sorted to remove any defect beans. The key here is excellent selection of ripe cherry, and I knew we could count on Brumas for that! The process also means that the seed has longer contact with the fruit, and has a different drying enviroment inside the parchment shell, fruit and skin of the intact seed, and the result is quite different in the cup. This is about as far from a traditional, clean, simple, nutty, mild Costa Rica coffee as you can get. Think Ethiopia Natural Sidamo, Yemen Sana'ani, fruity dry-processed Brazil. Smell the dry grounds and you might be overwhelmed with ripe fruited fragrance, melon, spicy apple cider, butterscotch and caramel sweetness. The wet aroma has decidedly winey character with sweet-and-sour accents. The cup flavors are certainly on the rustic side, like natural ethiopia coffees; ripe fruit like peaches, melon, apricot. I can't help but thinking of blended fresh juices, with even a splash of red grapefruit juice (made from very ripe fruit of course). It has a rounded, pulpy body. There's a hazelnut and pecan tone at City+ roast, which transforms into chocolate at FC to FC+ roast. The finish is winey, edgy, like very ripe fruit, and might be off-putting to those who are not already inclined toward the rustic flavors of natural dry-process coffees.





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Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Central Valley, San Isidro de Heredia
Processing: Dry-processed on screens
Arrival Date: July-Aug 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Catuai
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Bold intensity / Intense fruit, more chocolate at FC roast
Roast: City+ for brightest fruit, FC+ for chocolate and winey fruit.
Compare to: A surprisingly fruited, complex cup, more like a dry-process Sidamo coffee than a Central American . This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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Costa Rica Don Mayo "La Ponderosa" Bourbon 2008

La Ponderosa is a special super-high elevation coffee from Tarrazu, processed expertly at the Don Mayo Micro-Mill by the Bonilla Family. I met the senior, Hector in Costa Rica last year, and again when they visited in September withe the Costa Rica Micromiller group. He brought his son Pablo, who is a big part of the team at Don Mayo. And I must admit, they have the coolest logo ever (a coffee bean head with the traditional Tico coffe workers hat ... something of a Gilligan type thing.) And I am so happy with how this lot of coffee arrived, so sweet, so balanced; it's a coffee I could drink all day long. The dry fragrance has berry fruit to it, toasted granola, and dark corn syrup sweetness. Adding the hot water, the wet aromatics sweeten exponentially, the boysenberry syrup sweetness fully fleshed out, spicey accents of clove and cinnamon. The cup needs some time to cool down for the flavors to really open up. It strikes me as extremely balanced in the body initially, and amber malt in it's sweetness. The berry fruit flavors bgean to peek out, this time as a blackberry note. The roast flavors are more nut-based in tonality, between a very mild roasted peanut and hazelnut. And more than anything, the cup is sweet. I keep thinking of amber malt syrup, hence the fact that maltose must be present in this coffee. The degree to which you convert those sugars in roasting will determine a lot of your flavor here. My favorite stradled the divide between City+ and Full City. This dense, Bourbon cultivar is a bit tough to read, in terms of degree-of-roast. Erring on the lighter side will yield better results.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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The best coffee logo, ever! The bean head guy wears a traditional Tico coffee picker's hat.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Tarrazu Valley
Processing: Wet-Process Style Demucilaged
Arrival Date: Late June 2008 Arrival (Vac Pa
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Excellent berry aromatics and sweetness
Roast: City+ to FC had the maximum berry fruits and amber malt sweetness.
Compare to: A very balanced body and dark berry fruits. This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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Costa Rica Cup of Excellence -Santa Lucia

Santa Lucia is one of the farms that contributes coffee to the Helsar del Zarcero mill in the West Valley region of Costa Rica. Helsar de Zarcero represents the combined efforts of Ricardo Perez Barrantes and Rodriguez Villalobos, and it's a name you see a lot around here; they have great altitude (1725 meters) and produce classic, bright Costa Rica coffees. Their farms are on a high ridge in the are of Alajuela, in the coffee areas of both Zarcero and Naranjo. They grow Typica, Caturra and Villa Sarchi cultivars. They have an excellent MicroMill and dry most of their top grade coffees on raised beds/screens in a covered tent (to increase heat and prevent rain damage). The dry fragrance has toasted almond and vanilla scents, with Dutch cocoa suggestions. It is a very balanced-yet-attractive smell. I was surprised how much this tracked through the wet aroma, and in the cup flavors. The body is impressive, creamy, and underscores the balanced cup. The lightest roast I did (City) has great Golden Delicious apple and refined honey sweetness, with very lively acidity. It's more delicate than the C+ and FC roasts, but I like it the most on the cupping table ...We call it a cupper's roast, a level too light for many consumers but great for tasting the coffee without obscuring it with roast notes. At this level, the coffee appears very wrinkly and variegated in color, stopped promptly as 1st crack ends. Interestingly, after a few days of rest (well 48 hours), and with normal brewing, I liked the slightly darker roasts more. City+ had some star fruit, and FC+ starts to develop a really nice, creamy chocolate roast flavor with anise accents. I have awarded an extra cupper's point for this classic cup profile and excellent balance.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Zarcero, West Valley
Processing: Wet process, sun-dried on screens
Arrival Date: September 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Typica mix
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Apple fruit notes
Roast: See the notes above. In cupping the lightest City roast is best, but later a bit more roast seemed more enjoyable in brewing.
Compare to: Bright, Lively cup at City to City+, balanced with creamy chocolate at FC to FC+. Classic Costa Rica profile. As a CoE lot, this qualifies as part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing tranparency program.
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Costa Rica Tarrazu -Montes de Oro

Carrizal is the name of the finca (farm) and Montes de Oro is the name of the Micro Mill that has produced this great lot. It's the work of Emilio Gamboa and his family,and a they have a beautiful farm in the Tarrazu region, overlooking San Pablo de León Cortés. The altitude is 1650 -1700 meters and they have an incredibly clean, well-organized Micro Mill, with a majority of the coffee dried on raised beds, the rest on patio. As you may already know, "Miel" means honey, and refers to the fact that much of the fruit from the coffee cherry is left on the parchment (pergamino) seed to dry. This creates a coffee with heightened body, lower acidity, chocolate and fruited hints. The sweetest roasts in the dry fragrance evaluation was the very light City roast, just at the conclusion of 1st crack. It was very caramelly and honey-like. The coffee turns to chocolate as it passes to C+ and FC roast levels, but retains a milky sweetness too. The coffee opens up and reveals multifaceted fruits in the wet aroma, especially at the lightest (C) and darkest (FC+) roasts we tested. The range is from peach, tamarind and guayaba/guava ... and in the darker roast plum, prune and berry. These aromatics are to be expected in the best coffees that undergo the "Miel" type process. (I have tasted a lot of mediocre Miel coffees in the past 2 years, so I do not take these qualities for granted - you can ruin a coffee with this method, and it takes an experienced farmer and miller to get the sweetness out of this cup while retaining a clean character overall). What strikes me with Emilio's coffee is the fact it works at all roast levels, a versatile coffee that can be "interpreted" by the person roasting it in several ways. The light roast has a honey graham cracker character, accented by lemon with a touch of rind in the finish. There is a grainy taste and mouthfeel that disappears with a little more roast, City+, where caramel and apple flavors are dominant, with Toblerone toffee-chocolate flavors. At Full City and Full City+ spice accents give dimension to the more bittersweet chocolate roast taste, with the fruited secondary flavors I mentioned earlier. I really like this cup at FC+, a few snaps into 2nd crack. It reminds one of both classic Costa Rica character, balanced, but with the body lacking in wet-process coffees, and with that thick chocolatey body. It falls into the category of "great drinking coffee", something you want to brew up all the time, and share with others.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Emilio at his Micro Mill from my trip last year
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: San Pablo de León Cortés, Tarrazu
Processing: Miel (Pulp Natural)
Arrival Date: July 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Great sweetness and body, versatile coffee
Roast: See the notes above. It works on a very wide range of roasts, City roast - just through 1st crack to FC+ and beyond. But it produces very different cup character at each level, always with sweetness. FC+ ended up seducing me ...
Compare to: Again, great drinking coffee, meaning something you will brew up morning, noon and night - classic character with increased body and sweetness. This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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Costa Rica La Candelilla Tarrazu "Miel"

La Candelilla is one of the larger farms in the "Micro-Mill" category, but like the others it is a true coffee estate, with complete control of the coffee from the plant, through the processing and preparation for export. It is operated by Victor Mata, and this coffee comes from a high spot called La Guaca (1500 meters). They have a very impressive mill, and a lot of new plantings in various cultivars, such as Gesha. (As you can imagine, half of Latin America looks like it is being replanted in Gesha). But what we have here is a classic cup. It's a little unclear whether this is Mundo Novo, a Bourbon hybrid, or old Bourbon itself. In either case, a lot of the character in this cup, the more moderate acidity, increased body, rich chocolate roast flavor and fruit, is not a result of cultivar; it's because this is a "Miel" coffee, a pulp natural process. The dry fragrance is sweet, and as the name suggests, very honey-like. It has considerable sweet fruit to it, raisin and dried plum. Add hot water and a soft milk-chocolate emerges, laced with the raisin mentioned previously. I focused on the slightly darker Full City roast that I preferred, because the cup flavors had such an attractive, tangy chocolate character. There are dark, dried fruits behind the chocolate notes, Monukka raisin, prune, dried hibiscus. The finish is interesting; brief, bittersweet, austere, and with a caramelized sugar after-effect.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Ricardo at the Candelilla bodega.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Guadalupe de San Marcos
Processing: Miel (Pulp Natural)
Arrival Date: Aug 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Mundo Novo, Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Incredibly clean, bright, citric and floral
Roast: City+ for the bright, intense cup I describe. But this coffee makes an outstanding FC+ roast too. It's an especially roast-sensitive coffee so expect to see flavor shifts with each batch.
Compare to: Classic bright Central American coffee with excellent structure. It's an easy coffee to "drink" rather than "taste". Slow down and pay attention to it's subtle charm! Note - this is great as a vacuum brewed coffee! This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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Costa Rica Gillio Francesa - Finca Guadelupe

Gillio Francesa Ferraro is a character. He has aristocratic airs, and a bit of impatience that goes with his advanced years. While he isn't the youngest among the Costa Rica small farmers who have embrace the Micro-Mill movement, he certainly keeps pace with them (he was the elder statesman on their whirlwind tour of coffee roasteries this past August). And his coffees are top notch as well, Caturra cultivar planted at 1800 meters in the West Valley area of Zarcero. They have classic Costa Rica character, with nut-to-chocolate roast taste and laced with ripe, clean fruited notes. This coffee really stood out for me at a cupping we did in San Jose, Costa Rica last March. I found really sweet aromatics, balanced and very attractive. Keeping the roast around City+, the almondy nut aromatic was perfectly matched in the cup, while Full City to Full City+ lent itself to great milk chocolate flavors. These finish with a tangy and dry bittersweet, but in between there is an intermittent fruited quality, clean and sweeter than the roast flavors. It strikes me as a blend of red apple, pear and the tannic quality of grape. In the finish, the lighter roast has the pleasant drying effect of almond skins. To call this a "balanced, classic" Central America cup belies the fact it really has such a distinct and attractive flavor profile. It's a shame to lump it under such a broad rubric, and perhaps it's just my lack of imagination, because this cup is great "daily drinking" coffee, as well as one I would quickly share with friends and relatives.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Gillio at a cupping event here at Sweet Maria's.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Zarcero, West Valley
Processing: Wet-Process
Arrival Date: Late June 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Classic CR nut-chocolate roast taste
Roast: City+ for the nutty version, FC+ for milk chocolate.
Compare to: A great drinking coffee, classic and clean Central cup character with nice, ripe fruit note as well. This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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Costa Rica Monte Crisol WP Decaf

Monte Crisol has never been a coffee that I loved as a regular non-decaf offering. It's a basic coffee, and you will see it offered at some ho-hum sources. So I wasn't jumping up and down at the offer of a decaf version, but somehow I think this is actually a better cup that any non decaf lot I have tasted. Is it possible that decaffeination can improve a coffee? Naw. But this cup does offer some support to that argument, if I ever cared to make it. It's a coffee from the Macro Mill (joke) called Coop Palmeras in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, who produce about 50,000 bags a year of coffee. Compare it to our Micro Mill sources, some of whom produce 100 bags, some 200, some 50. It's a whole different world. But the dry fragrance here is nice: nutty and fruited. There's a little molasses sweetness and mild chocolate as well as macademia nut in the wet aroma. The cup is moderately bright, with soft "chocolate fudgesicle" flavor, while there are malt and vanilla flavors in the mid-range. To maximize these qualities, I recommend keeping the roast light. City + is plenty for this coffee, and retains a bright, lively character, and that twist-of-lemon accent.





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Tom doing a few hours work harvesting coffee in Costa Rica, a couple years back.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Central Valley
Processing: Wet-Process, then WP Decaf
Arrival Date: October 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Mixed
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity /Clean cup, nuts and a bit of fudgesicle!
Roast: City+ for the cup I describe. I notice more roast oil comes to the surface on this coffee than others.
Compare to: A nice, sweet, clean, mild decaf.
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Costa Rica Helsar "Typica Villalobos"

We are big fans of Helsar, and are offering several lots this year from this excellent West Valley mill. Helsar de Zarcero represents the combined efforts of Ricardo Perez Barrantes and Rodriguez Villalobos. Their farms are on a high ridge in the are of Alajuela, in the coffee areas of both Zarcero and Naranjo. They grow Typica and Caturra cultivars primarily, but this is an interesting type called Villa Sarchi. So in the above name, Helsar de Zarcero is the mill mark, and Typica is the cultivar, called Typica Villalobos. (It's a unique type, which originates on farms of the Rodrigues Villalobos family. Not every coffee grower has a cultivar named after them! Villalobos = "town of the wolves"?) This is an elogated bean form with large cherries, and is known for great balance in the cup. They have an excellent MicroMill and dry most of their top grade coffees on raised beds/screens in a covered tent (to increase heat and prevent rain damage). This is not the brightest, most acidic Costa Rica (many Costa Ricas are Caturra or Catuai), and I think we are tasting a lot of the Typica influence in the cup. Like the Typicas of Oaxaca Mexico, they have great body and balance, with less citrus acidity. The dry fragrance has soft chocolate notes with additional caramelly sweet hues. The wet aroma is toffee-like, actually, it reminds me of Bit-O-Honey candy! The lighter roasts have a red apple fruited quality, with refreshing, mild brightness. The aftertaste has tangy roast bittersweet, but fades to coffee cherry fruit flavor. Later, I get that same red apple again. It's a great, balanced, mild cup. In fact, since we have had trouble finding really good coffees from Oaxaca, this Typica might be a good alternative. Comparing it side by side with the Helsar Villa Sarchi cultivar, it has a deeper tonality, and lower level of acidity, with a distinctly different fruit note. Oddly, they come to the same score total but attain it in different ways. This was a lot we offered earlier this year, but had set aside a portion in vacuum bags for later in the season...



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Villalobos Typica coffee cherries on the tree at Helsar - a picture from my trip during late harvest time last season.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Llano Bonito of Naranjo, West Valley
Processing: Wet process, sun-dried on screens
Arrival Date: August 2008 Arrival (Vac Bagged)
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Typica Villalobos
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Apple fruit notes.
Roast: Full City: I think this coffee has best balance of fruit and chocolate at FC roast.
Compare to: Has some similarities to the Typica coffees of Oaxaca. This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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