If there is a problem with Costa Rica coffee, it's the fact that it can lack distinction; it is straightforward, clean, softly acidic, mild. It has lots of "coffee flavor." The trend in Costa Rica was to create large volumes of moderately good "specialty" coffee. There was a push toward high-yield coffee shrubs that lacked the clarity in cup flavor of the older types. They also required a lot of fertilizer input to maintain their bountiful yields. The large mills mixed all the small-farm coffee cherries that were delivered, the high-grown and low-grown, the ripe fruits and the not-so-ripe. The result was mediocrity.
Providencia is a sub-region of the area called Dota. Santa Maria de Dota is one of the main towns in the Tarrazu valley proper, where many of the best coffees of Costa Rica originate. This lot combines small farmers from the Providencia micro-region, and we felt it has a classic Dota cup character. In particular, this is expressed in the ripe fruits and strong sweetness in the cup. We have bought from micro-mills in the Dota area in the past (Los Angeles for example) and from the large coop there, Coopedota. But this Providencia sample really had the cup character we want from this terroir.
Cupping against other lots from Costa Rica, this coffee really stands out. It has a wonderful aroma of tropical fruit in the dry grounds that is accentuated by a honeyed sweetness. Spiced plum, peach, mango, and tamarind, provide a "heaftyness" to the wet grounds, and a sweet, raw macadamia nut note comes up off the break. This coffee really seems to do better on the front edge of Full City, bolstering body, fruit juice flavors, and harnessing a sweet finish. At this roast level, the cup has blackberry, blood orange, and pineapple juice, and with an underlying taste of toasted pistachio nut. The combination is quite delicious and reminds me of Turkish Delight candies. This coffee is sweet all the way through to the finish, and the aftertaste reminds me of chocolate syrup and maraschino cherry.
La Candelilla is a mill that might fall into the category of a large independent "micro-mill". I know, large micro-mill seems contradictory. But like the others it is a true coffee estate, with complete control of the coffee from the plant, through the processing and drying stages. The Candelilla mill is operated by Ricardo Hernandez, and this coffee comes is designated Ave del Paraiso with coffee is planted in a range from 1500-1600 meters. Candelilla actually is a series of family farms owned by the brothers and sisters, totalling 9 small estates, all using the family mill to process their coffee. They have a very impressive beneficio, and a lot of new plantings in various cultivars, including Typica and Gesha. (As you can imagine, half of Latin America looks like it is being replanted in Gesha because of the high price it yields). This lot is a mostly Caturra, the cultivar that we feel gives a classic Costa Rica cup character, with possibly small percentages of other varietals.
This coffee works well under a wide range of roasts, with City to Full City achieving the best results. The fresh ground coffee smells of dark brown sugar and peach, and has a range of baking spaces as well. There's a slight bergamot note in the wet grounds that melds with aspects of honey and black walnut. As you can imagine, the cup is sweet, and with an effervescent acidity that cuts through. There's clove, nectarine, red berries, and orange blossom in light roasts. There's a tartness to the acidity that is like plum skin, not tightening, but pleasant. Our Full City roast had marmalade, canned peach, and a subtle note of English Breakfast tea in the background. The finish takes on the flavor of cane sugar juice and cocoa powder. The light body accentuates the delicate nature of this coffee's overall profile, and is best enjoyed as a brewed coffee rather than espresso.