THE STORY OF LA CANDELILLA
Costa Rica began the formation of coffee cooperatives in the mid-20th century, and today it stands as one of the most well-developed systems in the world. When cooperatives are working as intended, they strengthen individual farms through education, infrastructural support and access to buyers, so that eventually the farmers can leave the co-op and operate independently and competitively. La Candelilla is a perfect example of this trajectory.
Named for its abundance of fireflies, La Candelilla is a third generation farm that we’ve been working with since 2012. It is a collection of nine smaller farms that are owned and operated by nine siblings. They all work together in every aspect of production and combine their individual harvests for processing at the micro-mill they built in 2000, giving them greater control over quality, efficiency and cost. As a micro-mill they produce 15-30 containers of coffee per season. (In comparison, our Salvadoran producers at Guadalupe and El Molino wind up with around 150 containers per season.) The coffees here are fermented in water—as opposed to the dry fermenting you typically find in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala—and they like to leave a little mucilage on the washed seeds to make a more full-bodied coffee.
It’s quite unusual to see a farm where each member of the family is directly involved in everything from picking cherry to turning coffee on the drying patios to cleaning the mill, and on his last visit to La Candelilla our Green Coffee Buyer, Dan Streetman, was invited to pick alongside them. He was pleasantly surprised to discover that the farm—positioned on the eastern slope of a mountain—receives ample shade in the afternoon hours, but this relief was short-lived as he entered a losing battle with territorial ant colonies. By the end he had picked $2 worth of coffee cherry, ⅓ the typical bounty of an expert picker.
On a happier note, he got to sample some of their Geisha and SL-28 varieties with one of the brothers, Esteban, who is the resident “mad scientist” of coffee. Esteban managed the mill for years but he has since shifted responsibilities to his brother-in-law, Hugo, and niece, Marcia, so that he can experiment with new varieties and processing techniques to discover windows of innovation, with the perpetual goal of improving cup quality. Dan reported that the Geisha tasted like Jasmine tea, while the SL-28 revealed notes of fresh peaches.
The coffee we’re presenting to you—our exclusive Costa Rican offering for 2015—is a blend of Caturra and Catuai from all nine farms and you can expect a delicate sweetness with floral notes, a dynamic flavor range encompassing strawberries & cream on toast with dark chocolate, or perhaps a refreshing frozen beverage of grapefruit and sage. That’s probably why the Irving Farm team has chosen “Candypants” as its affectionate nickname. La Candelilla is a generously complex, good-time coffee.