Grand Reserve Costa Rica from the Coffee Company

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

Honey processing yields a wonderful cup

Our Roaster’s Pick this month is a great complexly flavored cup from Central America that’s a result of one of the most rewarding of our long-term “relationship coffees.” We’ve been working with the Gurdian family in Costa Rica for nearly 10 years now and the coffee continues to just get better and better! I’ve been sipping it consistently for the last couple weeks—in synch with the way every friend I’ve had who visits describes Costa Rica when they return to the U.S., it’s calm, complex, and beautiful. When the world feels exceedingly turbulent and in turmoil to me, the Grand Reserve from Costa Rica at the Coffee Company strikes me as peaceful and a wonderfully positive experience.

Neither Costa Rica nor its coffee were always this way. In 1719, Costa Rica was described by one of Spain’s colonial governors as “the poorest and most miserable Spanish colony in all America.” Three centuries later it’s a total turnaround—from a socio-economic standpoint, Costa Rica is probably the most “successful” of all the former Spanish colonies. Costa Rica, which became an independent republic in 1847, rather anarchistically, eliminated its army in 1949, and at times is referred to as the “Switzerland of Central America.” Oscar Arias, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of Costa Rica said, “Mine is an unarmed people, whose children have never seen a fighter or a tank or a warship.” They have, though, grown some great coffee!

Coffee first came to Costa Rica in 1779, brought over from another Spanish colony, Cuba. The volcanic soil and the consistent temperatures turned out to offer nearly ideal growing conditions. Nearly a century and a half after coffee originally arrived, in 1917, the matriarch of the Gurdian family, Lucila Duval de Morales quietly began the work to create what is now Hacienda Miramonte. The farm is in the north-central part of the country, about an hour’s drive to the northwest of the country’s capital of San Jose. Back when she got things started, Signora de Morales was breaking some serious social norms—the idea of a Costa Rican woman buying her own land and planting coffee bushes was unheard of then. Today, the farm is managed by her great-grandson Ricardo. He and his daughter Viviana have been here to Ann Arbor regularly to teach and taste many times. Steve Mangigian, managing partner at the Coffee Company, says of the relationship:

This Grand Reserve Costa Rica is a project we embarked on many years ago. One of the larger benefits is the trust it creates between the roaster and the producer. We made the long-term commitment to buy from the Hacienda Miramonte over the long term. Which means we get to discover different ways of harvesting and processing each year.

The idea of the project is to work with the Hacienda Miramonte annually to bring forward something super special from each year’s harvest. This year, Steve and the Coffee Company crew decided to make the Special Reserve using a “honey process”—it’s a method in which the coffee cherry (fruit) is left intact (with the “bean” inside) and allowed to dry some in the sun. Steve shared, “The coffee has a very sweet taste with a lovely hint of acidity. It’s medium-bodied, with nice cocoa and fruit notes. The fruit and the sweetness are enhanced by both the honey and natural process.” To my taste, the Costa Rica Grand Reserve is like a really rich, hot cocoa, with a bit of an undertone that reminds me of a good Oloroso sherry. Super delicious, delicate, and delightfully superb.