Trader: Nordic Approach
Origin: Costa Rica
Variety: Catuai, Caturra
Altitude: 1700 meters
Palmichal Comunidad is a blend of ripe cherries selected from some of the best farmers that are part of Palmichal microlot program. Palmichal is a micro mill part of Ceca, our exporter and partner in Costa Rica. They have been supplying us with micro lots from different producers in the past 3 years. They work as a communal mill and facilitate the process to different producers from the community that want to get a premium for their quality coffee but that can’t necessary afford to start their own mill. They use the best cherries selection to do a micro lots amd visit the farms they are supporting to ensure that the farms are in optimal conditions for micro lots.
Origin: Palmichal Micro Mill
Palmichal Micro-Mill is a new project that started this harvest 2015-2016 with 30 farmers. It is located in Palmichal and processes coffees from: Palmichal, Puriscal, Tarrazu, Frailes. Palmichal goal is to find famers with unique coffees, perform a flawless milling process, and deliver coffee to quality-conscious importers and micro roasters. Their model enables them to match coffees from smallholder farmers with specific quality and process requirements. All with full economic and physical traceability as well as timely services.
This project allows to process small batches by using different drying methods such as honeys and naturals. The coffees they process here come from individual small farmers and the premiums we pay goes back to the farmer. There is an overall pre-financing for yearly crop.
They have 23 solar panels for a total power of 5.0 kWp. This project is set up in a modular way in order to continue growing every year.
Palmichal Mill has the biggest nursery in one single block in the country, a total of 330,000 plants and looking to grow next year. Majority of plants are “Obata” varietal, which is very resistant to rust, has high yields and supposedly a good cup profile. The plants are sold to producers at cost, with the opportunity of financing against future crop.
Long time ago the Mill donated 42 hectares of land to re-forestation project the neighborhood (//www.nacientespalmichal.com/en/about-us ).
Costa Rica’s legislation regarding water treatment is very strict. Having everything run according by legislation doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is. All the water they “pollute” by processing have to be cleaned.
The organic residues are transported and donated to a company that makes organic fertilizers.
Local farmers take the coffee cherries from their farm to the mill in a truck. At Palmichal micro-mill they measure the coffee cherries by half fanega (Costa Rican unit of coffee measurement). At Palmichal they keep a track of every stage the coffee goes through.
During this whole process the coffee is going to be separated in different stages: the first one is the floating system. In this phase they cover the cherries with clean water. The floating system allows that the half ripe, over-ripe dried and disease cherries float and the dense, ripe and good cherries sink.
The next stage of separation happens when the depulping machine separates the skin and pulp from the beans, after this step the cherries passes through a screen called “Criba”. The machine is adjusted to process the ripe and good cherries only. The rejections or bad beans get out throughout a different way and are sold as lower grade.
For the red and black honey process, they leave as much mucilage as the machine allows them to leave in the beans. They called it red or black honey because when the coffee dries with mucilage on it turns into a red-orange or black color.
The coffee is transported through a tube by gravity to the patios, during this movement the quantity of mucilage that the parchment loses is minimum. And in the patios the coffee is moved constantly every hour and it takes about 12 days to get to the right moisture content.
Nordic Approach in Costa Rica
The most fascinating thing with Costa Rica is the awareness of lot separation and different processing and preparation methods. You’ll find great representative coffees of everything from fully washed, different levels of honeys as well as clean and complex naturals. Even if the coffees can be expensive due to cost of production we totally find it worth it.
We started a very interesting and challenging project in Costa Rica in 2015/16 along with Marianela Montero, a coffee producer and now our green coffee buyer/sourcer for Costa Rica. Marianela is 22 years old, born and raised at her family’s farm, Don Eli, and have just decided to stay in coffee and try to make a difference.
Most of the producers we are working with are small farmers (average 5 hectares per producer) all of them have been working in coffee farming for almost all of their life.
These producers own their own farms and most of them have their own washing station (micro mill). The micro-mills in Costa Rica have become a family business and are based on family work.
We would like to work together for many years with these producers if/when they have the mindset and ability to be consistent and hopefully improve year by year. The importance is to get the growers to increase the quality and to think of this partnership as a mid-long term project. We know in coffee we need to be patient and besides getting great coffees out of it, we want to help these producers to maximize the potential, get better premiums through cup quality and consistency. By adding on Marianela to the team, we believe we can work together with producers and “guide” them to get a more customized product.
One of the keys to make this project successful is to work as transparent as we can. We want our customers and everyone to know how much it actually takes to produce a great cup of coffee and how much every part of the supply chain is earning. Costa Rica is kind of a high cost country these days, and to make it sustainable we believe it’s important to pay fair and good prices to the producers as they have to make a living out of this. We need to motivate them to keep up the good work. The good thing is that the coffees can be amazingly good when grown and prepared well.