The Root of a Cup of Excellence

(Lea la versión en español aquí).

The day started rainy but when we got to the city of Naranjo (Alajuela), we reached Cirrí small town and up to 1650 m altitude, the clouds were left behind at the micro mill of Oldemar and his family. Now the clouds were trapped among the trees.

Going to a coffee farm means an exciting opportunity for me. Nothing better than seeing coffee from its origin and meet those who take care of coffee trees with the dedication of a lifetime.

Oldemar Arrieta, his wife Marlene Brenes and their 3 children: Jorge Luis, Marco and Francisco Javier are a family that lives and breathes coffee. And a coffee of the best quality. Wearing the hat that characterizes him, Oldemar is a coffee grower that knows perfectly every inch of the farm he has planted along with his life.

Vista al Valle coffee is from the West Valley coffee region, whose characteristics have earned importance in recent years. Arrieta Brenes coffee is the source of premium coffee for countries such as the United States, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

“The quality of the product lies in the time we dedicate, the “terroir”, taking care of the coffee plantation and the precision,” says Marco Arrieta, the son in charge of administrative management.

Quality First

To understand the root of this quality, we move towards the micro-mill (to mill the coffee means to extract the seed from the fruit, to dry it and store it. Years before, Vista al Valle sold the fruit to other bigger mills).  Marco explains that the farm works in microlots to trace the origin of the coffee from the plant. “We measure in each of the lots the brix degrees (the level of sugars). Our process is handmade but meticulous.”

With this high level of traceability and knowing the quality of their coffee, they decided to start participating in the Cup of Excellence Costa Rica (where national and international cup tasters choose the best coffees of the year, and then these premium coffees are sell by auction). In 2013, Vista al Valle won the first place. “A sweet cup, notes of dark fruits like figs and plums, a post aromatic taste”, that was the description given to the winner microlot that the family called: Finca Don Fidel.

“Cup of Excellence means for us a kind of feedback for our work”, Marco explains. Therefore, different microlots of the farm compete every year and have always obtained high scores.

Next to where coffee crop is measured by “fanegas”, there is a machine that pulps the cherry and then prepares the grain for different processes (washed, honey and natural). “We do not compete for volume, but for quality”, assert both Oldemar and Marco.

Then, we walk through the sun drying patio and storage facility, where coffee is classified by density and size. The whole place is waiting for the next harvest. Even though during my visit the mill is not in full operation, all the rooms exhale coffee fragrance.

A Treasure in Naranjo

I tried Vista al Valle coffee a couple of years ago. It was Oldemar himself who offered me a cup during a national coffee fair. He explained to me the region it belonged to and the recognition of the Cup of Excellence they had obtained. I never forgot this coffee, because of its wonderful flavor; a balanced cup and enveloping aroma. I bought a couple of packages, knowing in my coffee heart that I had acquired a treasure.

Now at the farm and taking photos to the sacks where coffee that participates in the Cup of Excellence is delivered, Mr. Oldemar tells us: “Some time ago, some people tell us- coffee farmers of Naranjo- that our coffee tasted bitter and it could not sell it as a single origin; you have to sell it to be blended.” So the farmers sold the fruit to other mills and roasters. Now he knows that was far from the truth.

Nowadays, the quality of the West Valley region is recognized for its balanced cup (harmony among its sweet, acidity and body) and many local coffees have received national and international awards and recognitions.

The wet soil caused by the rain does not allow us to walk deep through the entire farm, but on the top of the hill, Marco mentions some of the coffee trees varieties they grow: Bourbon, SL 28, Caturra, Villasarchí, Geisha. “We always want to use the best of the best,” he assures me.

The bandolas (branches) of the plants have already formed their bouquets of cherries. I touch their leaves, it’s like if they proudly smiled at me. “We hope to harvest in the first months of the year, everything depends on the climate”, says Oldemar.

Rain has finally reached us, so refuged in the family house. There, between more than 2 cups of coffee, I met Marlene, Jorge Luis (the son in charge of agronomic issues), I just missed Francisco, who works on the mill. All this people are welcoming and with the same joy for their coffee.

Despite the fact that everyone has their role, in this family everyone supports with all their effort, everyone knows about each microlot, process, variety, and everyone has the same love for the product they work with. I had discovered then the essence of the flavor of this magnificent coffee!

Do you want to try this coffee? It is available in our online store!