In 2012, Felipe decided to work with his wife’s family and plant a new farm on the border between Llano Bonito and Zarcero at a very healthy altitude of 1800 m. In the West Valley area, this is one of the highest altitudes for growing coffee. He decided to plant the reliable and high quality caturra variety and, in 2014, the farm enjoyed its first harvest. Normally, when a coffee tree is in its first year of production, the resulting cup quality ranges from mediocre to decent, so I was very pleasantly surprised when I cupped the first harvest of the Rola farm and found the coffee floral, exotic, yet quite elegant. A true rarity for brand new coffee trees. The second year of production was 2015 and, as expected, I noticed a slight improvement in the cup profile as the trees continue to strengthen and mature.
I met with Felipe late in 2012, and discussed purchasing coffee from the Rola farm for future harvests. In December of 2013, we sat down again but this time with a specific plan on how to work together. The plan was simple: pay their pickers more than normal for our lots and in return, demand near perfect picking. As a result, we paid a premium and hoped that it would result in an improved cup. The coffee would only show its true potential, however, if the processing was done well, making this a hot topic during my seven visits to Costa Rica from 2013 through 2015. The results have been incredible, and I think you will agree!
A bit more about Helsar: Helsar is arguably the best coffee mill in Costa Rica, and is owned and operated by one of the nicest people we have ever met: Ricardo Perez. We’ve been working with Ricardo since 2010, every year strengthening our friendship. In 2013, we first worked with Ricardo to implement new drying protocols at Helsar aimed at improving quality and shelf life. These experiments proved very successful, and in 2014 and 2015 we worked with Ricardo to improve the drying even more. The 2014 experiments extended drying by 66% and then another 30% in 2015. The coffee has cupped extremely well at every stage of its journey, and thanks also to our green freezing program, this coffee has retained all of its glory even one year post harvest.