Macho has always been in charge of the fields and the trees have always looked amazing. Over the past four years, Kevin has been dialing in the processing and the quality has reached new heights - over the past couple of years the coffee has been amazing. Here’s more on the backstory.
The Santa Rosa region of Tarrazu is brimming with great coffee potential. The farm elevations are high, the weather promotes slow maturation, even drying and most of the farms have young, healthy trees. The tricky part is converting this potential into a consistently good coffee. This is where Gelbert Naranjo and his father Efrain aka “Macho” separated themselves from the pack.
Twelve years ago, before the father and son duo started their own processing, Gelbert knew that the farm had incredible potential, but he couldn’t convince his father to invest in mounting their own mill. So, Gelbert used his own savings to purchase all of the processing equipment without Macho’s knowledge and presented it to him, saying, “Here dad, now there is no risk. Let’s do this”. So, in 2011, Macho and Gelbert processed their own coffee for the first time.
I first visited Macho & Gelbert in December of 2012, and I left inspired and full of optimism. Gelbert cups all of his coffee, looking for indications as to what is working at the farm and the mill. He is relentless about improving; a quality that we look hard to find in a producer.
Gelbert and I worked together in the first six years of their operation to dry this coffee in the shade, extending the drying time from the typical 7 days to the 20 days mentioned above.
In 2019, much to my disappointment and sadness, Gelbert decided to leave the farm to pursue other interests. His brother Kevin took over and is now trying to fill his massive shoes and is working alongside his dad.
Gelbert and Macho introduced a great picking system in 2015 – which is a great example of their innovative approach. Most good producers pay a small premium on the nationally imposed minimum wage. They implemented a system where they pay 35% more than minimum wage and they offer a weekly prize to the cherry picker who picks the lots with the least number of defects. This program has resulted in a great improvement in overall coffee quality and job satisfaction among the pickers.
This particular lot comes from Finca Macho, the family’s best farm. The coffee was rested in cherry form for about 24 hours, then it was fully de-mucilaged, then soaked under water for 24 hours, then washed, and finally dried on shaded raised beds for nearly 20 days. Drying this style of coffee in the sun can result in extensive damage to the parchment, which will inevitably result in poor and uneven drying for the coffee. Ultimately, poor drying affects the shelf life of the green coffee.
The first year that Kevin took over for Gelbert, I felt the quality dip a bit. After all, Gelbert had a huge impact on their execution of quality. The past two years, though, were a massive surprise to me. I felt the quality at Santa Rosa was the best it has been in recent times. Their coffees had the classic acidity of their best years, but also showed lots of complexity, with tea notes and great sweet aftertaste. I was so happy to experience that, and I mentioned it to Kevin. Kevin has been tightening the protocols, both at the farm and at the mill, and was extremely happy to hear my feedback. It’s always a nice happy ending when a farmer makes an effort, and that effort is reflected in the cup. I savour this moment because it doesn’t always work out that way!
As always, this green coffee was frozen immediately on arrival in Calgary, to preserve freshness.