On the side of the highway going towards the Costa Rican Pacific beaches (my favorites by the way) and behind the curvy mountains that suddenly appear on the road, is Monteverde. The north american and european tourists like to go all the way to Monteverde to walk in its very special cloud forest, observe its biodiversity and get some adrenaline running with its many adventure options.
Monteverde is known for tourism. As well as milk and cheese from the Monteverde Restaurant located on Route 1, the one people go to for breakfast or to have an ice cream. But Monteverde also has a word to say about coffee.
“Coffee has always been cultivated here, what happens is that we are more known for tourism and a lot of people (the locals) have dedicated themselves to that”, says Mauricio Serrano. We are El Trapiche farm. I decided to go to Monteverde for the first time after trying one of the coffee samples that Mauricio had sent to me. Its flavors caught my attention because of the following:
So, after a few hours of curves, some gravel roads and a green beautiful landscape, I find myself in this small town where everything is more relaxed and one feels like the stress from the capital city is left behind.
To know the coffee from its beginning this is the best time: they are in the harvest season and the coffee plants wave to us with their branches bearing their bright red cherries. They are so beautiful! Mauricio, who is an experienced barista who has competed at national level, guides us through the coffee farm. We are at 1350 meters above sea level. Which is quite clear because from here we can see it: look up and in the distance we can see the Gulf of Nicoya, its beaches and breeze.
Mauricio knows and shows us the character of this region’s coffee. The farm is not a huge plantation, but it has a lot of tradition. Mauricio tells me that the family who owns the farm has grown coffee since the very beginning in 1948. Besides coffee, they also plant sugar cane and from that comes their name: El Trapiche (small sugar mill). The story is interrupted by a visitor: “Look up!” points Mauricio; a toucan with its bright yellow beak flies freely among the trees.
“The harvest this year is giving us very interesting coffees”, explains Mauricio while he lets us taste two of his coffees: one is full washed and the other is natural process, when we arrived to the cupping room. The natural process coffee has a delicious fragrance that reminds me of raisins, the full washed leaves a surrounding acidity but not poignant. My comforting coffee quota was more than fulfilled for the morning.
Like a lot of coffee growers, the farm was selling the coffee cherries to other buyers. But in 2006, they started a micro-mill where they have labored ever since working to perfect their coffee. At the mill, Mauricio explains to us how they prepare the coffee after being collected to be full washed or to do the Honey or Natural process. The whole system allows the classification of the beans by first, second and third quality (for that matter they use machines (zarandas) that sort them by density and by bean size and shape).
The result: coffees that are taken to cupping by a taster Q grader and obtain more than 80 points (from 100) in the quality scale. A coffee above the 80 points is considered specialty coffee. Mauricio is in charge of said quality all the way to the roasting. The visiting tourists consume the fresh roasted coffee. Also national and international buyers take this golden grain from Monteverde to their coffee shops.
On our way to see the drying area, Mauricio gives us a coffee cherry to try. Have you ever tried one? Its juice is sweet and because it’s ripe, just by barely squeezing it you’ll get two coffee beans wrapped in their mucilage (the “honey” that covers them).
Depending on the variety of the plant, the coffee flavor can change. While walking around we see the coffee plants from the Geisha variety rising taller than the others. We tried some. “This coffee gives floral hints, to jasmine, bergamot”, indicates Mauricio. Our taste buds confirm it. We went on trying caturra and catimor plants until we got to the drying area that is actually more like a greenhouse; that’s where they work the honey process.
Under the dome, which concentrates the heat, elevated beds or African beds contain the grains that have been left with some percentage of mucilage. Mauricio invites us to try the “honey” from one “yellow honey” bean and another one from “black honey”. This last one, the flavor is sweet. In the yellow one, Mauricio warns us that there’s a change; there is an acidity that stands out. It tastes like a fruit, like a tamarindo! In coffee, yes, indeed.
To get to know the coffee with people who live it, from its origin, sharpens ones senses. That was my experience at El Trapiche. “Our goal is to offer high quality, different processes, to announce this region’s coffee”, says Mauricio.
Monteverde, is not only a very special place, it also has excellent coffee. We know it on our way home, we see the bright green mountains waving goodbye, while we drive down with a sense of tranquility and a very, very good taste left in our mouths.