The Canet sub-region of Tarrazú is picturesque, nestled in a land filled with wonderful coffee. It’s exactly what you imagine when you think of a tropical coffee growing region. Until a few years ago, nearly all the coffee producers from the area delivered coffee cherries to the nearby co-op: CoopeTarrazú. Oscar Solis was one of these producers who spent most of his farming life selling fruit. In early 2014, his sons Alejandro and Horacio convinced Oscar to open their own micro-mill, which they went on to name after their father: “Don Oscar”. Since then, their coffee has continued to improve and impress us immensely.
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I first met Alejandro, Horacio and Don Oscar in December of 2014, just as they had finished setting up their mill for the coming harvest. I spent most of my time with Alejandro and was instantly impressed by his humility and realistic approach towards running his mill. As he walked me through the various parts of the mill, Alejandro kept apologizing that it was not up to his standard, that he knew it had to improve, but since it was their first year, they couldn’t do it all at once. Contrary to how Alejandro was feeling, my first impression of the mill was very positive. There were of course things that could be improved, but for a first year operation it was remarkably well set up. It was Alejandro’s desire to improve, to be the best, to recognize his shortcomings that left me with such a good impression after that first meeting. During that same visit, I explained our emphasis on proper drying, and Alejandro agreed to build a set of shaded, raised drying beds specifically to dry our coffee.
I visited Alejandro, Horacio and Don Oscar for a third time in February of 2016 and noticed several improvements at the mill. They upgraded their demucilager to a higher capacity unit with better cherry sorting. They increased their raised bed drying capacity by three times and they improved the storage conditions in their warehouse. I also had an opportunity to visit one of the farms we buy from called “La Vuelta”, which incidentally placed 11th in the 2014 Costa Rica Cup of Excellence.
Sadly, in 2016 Don Oscar became ill and passed away. Losing the patriarch of the family was not easy on the sons, but they have a newfound resolve to ensure that the Don Oscar mill is true to the name. This past harvest I spent time with Alejandro and Horacio and they walked me through their latest improvement: they installed their own dry mill and put into place their high standards. This year’s coffee was really solid, it’s from one of their higher elevation farms called “El Coyote”. I was impressed by the balance in the coffee – fruit up front, but sweet nougat and oat-like flavours round out the cup. This lot was processed leaving all of the mucilage on the coffee upon de-pulping, resulting in parchment that looks bright red, hence its name “Red Honey”.
This green coffee was frozen immediately on arrival in Calgary, to preserve freshness.