This is our ninth year buying coffee from Leo Rojas. After my first visit with Leo post harvest in 2012, I was so impressed with his approach and care that I have committed to buying Leo’s coffee every year since. Leo enjoys amazing growing conditions at his farm, which extend cherry maturation time to produce superb sweetness. As it happens, Leo’s farm is neighbours with 2013 Cup of Excellence winner (and consistent performer), Finca Fidel. We have bought coffee from Finca Fidel before but we believe that Leo’s quality surpasses the CoE winner, especially with Helsar’s new cutting-edge drying techniques.
Drying is perhaps the most important step in the coffee processing chain. It has historically served as a functional aspect of processing coffee. The moisture of the bean must be dried to less than 12% moisture to prevent noticeable damage in transport. While it’s true that the farmer should dry the coffee to a certain moisture level, exactly how the farmer dries the coffee to that moisture will determine the green coffee’s shelf life. Almost every producer in the world dries coffee completely unaware that this seemingly simple step is largely responsible for determining the product’s shelf life. At Helsar, drying is done in a very standard way for Costa Rica: one day on a concrete patio and 30 hours in a mechanical dryer called a “guardiola.”
One of our main projects at Helsar was aimed at improving drying with the use of the guardiola. As part of the project, we conducted experiments with Ricardo to introduce resting periods for the coffee in the drying process. Our theory was that the life span of the cofee was decreased because the coffee was improperly dried, causing it to suffer from microbial activity. This activity was leading to accelerated degradation. We first set out to test this theory in 2013, and our first step was to extend the drying time by 66%. We were thrilled by the results of these experiments, and from 2014 to 2016 we extended the drying time by another 30%. Due to the success of these initiatives, the coffee has not disappointed. It has cupped extremely well at every stage of its journey, from its first cupping in Costa Rica to when it arrived in Calgary, and still tastes vibrant and fresh. This green coffee was frozen immediately upon arrival to Calgary to ensure freshness.