COSTA RICA, MAX SALAZAR – LOS CIPRESES
Rhubarb and blueberry with flavours of chocolate brioche, balanced acidity and creamy body. A luxurious coffee.
Costa Rica is a small country but the diversity of climates and their impact on coffee production is more important that you would expect. In general, flowering was really good and homogenous last year therefore the entire volume (at one given area) was harvested within a couple of weeks. Which made it tense in terms of space and labor in the farms and mills. However, the summer (harvest time) which is normally very dry has been a little wet which has impacted a lot the harvest rounds and the process of the coffee. A drought earlier in the year has impacted the volume of the crop. But although the volume is lower this year, the quality is really nice.The West Valley is under influence of the Pacific and therefore dryer than the Central Valley. In 2015 the hurricane Nate destroyed the Pacific coast and had a lot of impact on the coffee areas as well. Max Salazar, who graduated as an industrial engineer a couple of years ago, his 2 cousins and his uncle Danilo run 2 farms for the 3rd generation, San Cristobal (10ha) and La Isabella (13ha). The farms are named after Max’ parents. And the business (farms + mill) is called Los Cipreses as another local farmer is partnering with Max’ family planting cipreses that are sold in Dec as Christmas trees. Initially the farm was mainly planted with Typica and Villa Sarchi and was smaller.
They have bought more land and have planted Villalobos, Catuai, Caturra, Geisha, Ethiopian varieties, Millennium and SL28. They are replanting/renovating parts of the farms every year. Some SL28 were in the nursery during our visit in Feb, the plants stay a year in the nursery before being moved to the farm. He also got a variety called L12-28 that works very well and gives good results. The way the farm is structured offers a huge diversity of micro climates and requires a micromanagement to adapt the production to every slope and every micro climate.
The wind is very strong in the area and they had to find solutions to decrease its impact on the coffee plants.Before this year, Max and his family used to deliver all their cherries to a neighbour mil. This year they decided to process part of their harvest themselves (most of it is processed as honeys). They installed a little mill and a greenhouse.Space is still challenging so they continue delivering most of their harvest to the neighbour mill. The processing plant, as well as the lowest part of the farm, is located at 1,680 masl. During the harvest, 30 pickers are coming to help them out. For the last 3 years, the production has been really low.
The farms and the family have been through a lot and have been hit by distinct climate challenges every year since 2017. Usual harvest would be 600-700 fanegas, this year again it was around 300 fanegas with a very small middle-harvest volume (this volume is the most important for the producers as it is usually the best quality coffee). It rained at the end of the flowering and many flowers got lost. Max doesn’t want to spray anti-rust chemicals on the coffee and prefers to improve his management of the farm to fight the coffee rust with more natural methods and a good fertilization plan, resistant varieties, etc. No herbicide is used either and mulching is done in the whole farm to control weeds. The honeys and semi-washed lots are resting in bags for a few hours first and then transferred to African beds. Yellow honeys are moved every hour and less regularly for darker honeys. It takes 12 days to dry the honey lots.
They also produce a few natural lots. Max is really involved in the Specialty/Barista scene in San Jose and he has many ideas to develop processes and quality at the mill. The family also has cattle in San Carlos (50 animals) and they share their time between the 2 production sites, but Max prefers the coffee and dedicates most of his time to it. He is looking for stable and durable relationships with a few clients rather than selling to a lot of people. We are very happy to be working with him again, especially with the difficult context this year and we hope for the same long-term relationship.