Can a coffee be too perfect, too balanced, so all you can say about it is ," Hmm ... it has coffee flavor."' That's the criticism that used to be leveled at the coffees from Costa Rica - too balanced, too clean, too mild. We categorize this type of coffee as the "classic cup," the traditional balanced coffee that has no defects or taints. Coffee cuppers call it "clean" and it's not the same thing as "boring." Yet many Costa Ricas from the large farms and mills are exactly that; middle-of-the-road arabicas. But there's can be more to a Costa Rican coffee than neutrality. They are prized for their high notes: bright citrus or berry-like flavors in theacidity, with distinct nut-to-chocolate roasty flavors.
For me, the main issue with Costa Rica had been the model of coffee production, big mills creating brands, not small farms with their own tree-to-bag processing. Since we are small and can handle small lots in a way that is not economical for a larger coffee company, we changed the way we sourced Costa Rican coffees in 2008 and had some spectacular micro-lot offerings.
This new quality initiative is coming from Micro-Mills, tiny low-volume farm-specific coffee producers who now keep their lots separate, mill it themselves, gaining total control of the process, and tuning it to yield the best possible flavors (and the best price!) This revolution in processing is possible due to new environmentally friendly small milling equipment, and the disatisfaction of small producers who sell coffee at market prices, only to see it blended with average, carelessly harvested lots. With an independent Micro-Mill, a farmer can become a true "coffee craftsperson," maximize the cup quality of their coffee, dividing lots by elevation or cultivar, and receiving the highest prices for their Micro-Lot coffees. In turn, we get unique and diverse Micro-Lots, and a transparent, long-term relationship with the small farmer. Some call it Direct Trade, but we call it our Farm Gate coffee, where we can be assured of exactly what the farmer received. And in these cases they yield 40%-100%+ more than Fair Trade prices.
The range of flavors that result from Costa Rican coffees has expanded without limit due to the new relationships we are forming, ranging from traditional wet-processed lots with vivid brightness, floral and clean fruit notes, to ... well, radically different dry-processed coffees in the style of Ethiopia Harar. And there is everything inbetween too, so please read our descriptions and enjoy the new diversity of flavors. It's a moment to rejoice: farmers paid well, their coffee elevated from obscurity in "pooled lots" and mill marks, the satisfaction we get from offering so many unique flavor profiles, and for the home roaster, stepping that much closer to the source, to a small farmer tuning their Penagos depulperjust like you tune your home roast machine, both seeking to reveal the possibilites locked in the green coffee bean!