La Pastora Tarrazú
Farmers who contribute to this regional blend cultivate farms between 1,500 and 1,800 meters above sea level. This high altitude qualifies the blend as Strictly Hard Bean (SHB) and together with the lower temperatures, ensures that the coffee fruit matures more slowly, creating a denser bean and resulting in a more complex sweetness.
In 1960, 228 smallholder farmers in the Los Santos de Tarrazú region united to collaborate and overcome coffee production challenges and to access wider markets. More than 50 years later with over 4,000 members, CoopeTarrazú is now the largest cooperative in Tarrazú.
In 2006, the cooperative established the Coffee Culture Quality of Life Sustainability Plan. Through this plan, the cooperative aims to track their environmental impact, implement better practices and create a culture of environmental awareness. As part of their strategy to increase productivity, CoopeTarrazú offers various training programs for its members and engineering visits to farms.
Through the Quality of Life Sustainability Plan, CoopeTarrazú provides free soil-analysis to members. These customized soil-analysis show farmers the impact of the surrounding ecosystems on their soil. In turn, coffee growers learn to adjust their practices according to their specific soil needs.
CoopeTarrazú has also invested in organic fertilizer to supply to the cooperative’s producers. Erosion has greatly affected productivity and their organic fertilizer helps restore soil health. Additionally, CoopeTarrazú is collaborating with various partners to trial new varieties that can offer higher productivity, disease resistance, and in particular, quality cup scores.
Tarrazú is probably the most famous coffee region in central Costa Rica. The nearby Pirris river provides water to the highland region, making it perfect for coffee production and other types of agriculture. The mountains are part of the Talamanca Sierra, which runs through Costa Rica and Panama.
The region is fueled by coffee production and export. During harvest season, the Tarrazú region sees its population grow threefold with the influx of seasonal workers. Many people’s income largely depends on coffee production.
Strictly Hard Bean (SHB)
Strictly Hard Bean (SHB) specifies the altitude at which the coffee was grown. Coffee must be grown at 1,200 meters above sea level or higher to be considered SHB. The higher altitude and lower temperatures mean that the coffee fruit matures more slowly, creating a denser bean.
European Preparation (EP)
EP stands for European Preparation. It means that green beans are sorted to check for defective beans or foreign material.
Coffee in Costa Rica
Thanks to tireless innovations, the sheer number of coffee varieties, extensive technical knowledge, and attention to coffee production, Costa Rica is one of the most advanced coffee-producing countries in Central America.
The climatic conditions in the country also play a role in the high quality of coffee produced. There are eight coffee regions: Guanacaste, West Valley, Turrialba, Valle Central (Central Valley), Tres Rios, Brunca, Orosi, and Tarrazú, a specific part of Valle Central.
Costa Rica has also become a world leader in traceability and sustainability in coffee production. Ninety percent of the country’s 50,000 coffee farmers are smallholders, and today, many deliver their cherry to boutique micro-mills that often process cherries according to producer specs to retain single-lot or single-farm qualities.
The rise of micro-mill processing, in itself, is a relatively recent development. Prior to the early 2000s it was common for smaller producers to deliver their cherry to cooperative-owned mills. As lucrative specialty markets developed, more and more farmers began establishing mills on their own farms, giving them increased control over processing and more assurance of the ‘traceability story’ so important to the growing market segment. Mills with excess capacity would then offer their services to neighboring farmers, offering a range of processing methods for small lots along with full traceability for roasters and importers. The system has enabled Costa Rica’s small to mid-sized coffee farmers to offer a wide range of differentiated products. Today, specialty lots from Costa Rica are almost as likely to bear the name of the micro-mill where they were processed as that of the producing farm.
The typically uncertain and dry weather patterns in Costa Rica make coffee farming more difficult. Long dry seasons and unpredictable weather patterns have virtually eliminated the possibility of organic farming. Nonetheless, both the government and farmers have taken active steps to protect the environment. Some of these restrictions also inform the processing methods for which Costa Rican coffee has become known.