Sweet Maria's Home Coffee Roasting

Costa Rica - Naranjo, Tarrazu, Dota

a short but sweet trip to visit cooperatives in dota, tarrazu and naranjo regions of costa rica . click on a little picture to see a bigger one.

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saving the best for first. this is the best thing i saw on the whole trip.
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and this is where i went, on a plane loaded with tourists of all types. costa rica, be prepared to be the s. florida of the new millenium. watch out coffee drinkers, farms are turning into subdivisions.
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our first stop, cupping a few rounds at cafecoop outside san jose. here are town cuppers from the lovely west oakland Jeri (royal coffees top sales associate) and myself, and we both looked stumped. why? i will explain later.
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our host at cafecoop, who refers to himself as "seabass" which is french for sebastien. how does a guy from bordeaux end up in costa rica? well, marriage is one good reason. and they don't grow coffee in bordeaux.
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roasting samples all day long. this is a brand new (like 1 week old) 2 barrel proabt sample roaster. good machine, right?
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to get this probat to costa rica, and set it up, a mere 12,000 bucks. but (the theory is) this roaster ruined all the samples. Well, not ruined, but there was a definite lack of sweetness in the coffees, and a sharp roast flavor. why?
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the ambient thermometer (it's cooling). anyway, the problem might have been the combination of propane (of dubious quality too) and solid drums. it might have been anti-scorching, or basically the inside of the bean roasting more than the exterior due to too much conductive heat.
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gear drives on the drums. anyway, a simple fix would have been to roast larger batches, which would help dissipate all the heat stored in the drum metal.
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but we figured out too late. we cupped our way through all 50 samples of microlot coffees, picked out the best and culled out the worst, keeping in mind that under different conditions the coffees might be better. Now we will cup them all on our roaster in the US to pick the true gems.
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and it didn't help the roast much to have this document by the machine; the "starbucks roast curve". I think this might be part of their "cafe practices" manual to instruct producers how to roast samples for cupping. really, it's a pretty standard 13 minute drum roast curve, from initial temp of around 330, to just over 400. those are bean temp measurements. interesting they recommend some 2nd crack, and oils (aciete) on the surface of the bean.
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our first stop, a tour of the dota cooperative mill in the town of santa maria de dota.
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founded by this guy, who seems so natural and easy-going with that "come hither" smile.
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one of the mill brands, actually their best brand. pooling coffee and offering the mixed lots as brands is a costa rican tradition, not the worst method, but not exactly micro-lot coffee milling.
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the beautiful town of santa maria de dota, looking down at it throught the coffee trees. most of the coffee is caturra and catuai. the valley forms a bowl, and is very high altitude, the highest for costa rica coffee (1500 meters to 1900 meters).
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and the excellent coffee they produce. actually lot 299 is always bad, it's just a bad number. i am a numerologist and a cupper. by the way sample no. 44 is always good.
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the cathedral of santa maria - seriously la cancha de futbol appeared to be in the center of town. or maybe i was confused. in cr their are intense small town futbol rivalries, as well as major ones. everyone in dota loves the team Saprissa.
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founding the mill with 116,000 colones, which would be about $58 bucks at todays exchange rate. I think you can spend 29,000 colones on appetizers these days.
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educational poster at the coopedota office.
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super-sackin' . alot of coffee is stored in parchment in supersacks. a 20 bag lot can fit in one supersack, so this is good for the micro-lots.
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the mill has a wide vision, looking for other products. one idea is to make the shade trees they intercrop with coffee pay, a second harvest. in this case it is a bean/seed, heguerilla, that has a high oil content and can be used for fuel oil. they also have an ethanol project from coffee pulp in the works.
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how you create tread on a step with your stick welder.
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bulk parchment coffee in its reposo, resting, 4 weeks or more, before final milling.
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a bunch of losers from the US. okay, not really. but there's a certain moody and dejected look in this picture.
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here is coopedota's innovation: their new micro coffee mill or micro-beneficio, to process small lots of coffee from individual coop members. this is why i came down.
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and here is part of their big mill, a huge beast, more like a refinery in appearance than a coffee mill.
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17 pulpers are installed to remove the skin from the cherry ... that is huge folks. a small farm mill has one or two. but the mill is in great shape, and is very good at what it does.
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parchment, dried coffee husk, and a mix of both. the mix is burned in their special john gordon (british-made) coffee furnace, and so no wood or other fuels are needed ... a fantastic system and the same they have at Rio Tarrazu mill (La Minita).
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hullers for removing the parchment layer, the start of the dry milling procedure. coopedota does it all, and loads coffee into containers on site.
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here is the receiving station, and you can see it is just one big trough. it makes for their great mill brands (hermosa) but here all the producers cherry are mixed. the new micro-mill is the alternative, and a much more fitting one for sweet maria's interest in coffee.
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there's a spot where you look down on the dota valley from one side, and walk over across the road and see this, san marcos de tarrazu. this is the tarrazu valley (the town is in the center, background.

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