||Costa Rica La Pira White Honey Typica 2021
||#SSSSS Limited Editions 2021
April brings uncertain and difficult times for all of us, but at least we can share another delicious coffee from my Super Secret Stash. With so many changes to daily life happening constantly, we’ve decided to get this coffee out to you a little early, when we had a good opportunity to roast and ship it.
Whilst we’re staying indoors, it’s natural to think of friends and family and, as I’m sure you’ve realised by now, most of the coffee we buy comes from amazing people I consider friends. It takes a certain kind of person to succeed in growing amazing coffee, especially when everyone sensible tells you it’s not worth it or won’t work. You need to take risks, experiment, have confidence in what you’re doing, be endlessly passionate in the face of challenges and to think well and truly outside the box.
There are very few people I’ve met who exemplify these qualities more than this month’s producer – Carlos Ureña Ceciliano, who is a pioneer in Costa Rican specialty coffee. The coffee is a White Honey Typica from his La Pira farm, inherited from his father. It’s near the town of Santa Maria De Dota in the Tarrazú region – an area now famous for the quality of it’s coffees. The money the coffee fetched hasn’t always reflected that and, like their neighbours, it was once sold to co-operatives at prices which eventually became unsustainable amid Costa Rica’s rising cost of living.
Before inheriting the farm, Carlos worked as a cupper at one of those Co-operatives. That gave him great insight into how to improve the quality on the farm. He was one of the first to invest in his own micro-mill when the Co-operatives began to faulter, and he was one of the first to get paid significantly more than the Commodity Price (C-price) for his coffee. What happened next, tells you a lot about Carlos as a person.
As he began to earn more money, he could have become bigger, more industrial, more efficient… but that’s not him. Instead, he kept experimenting and innovating on the farm. Every time I visit him, I know he’s going to show me something new he’s trying. And every time, he’s got such passion and energy for it – you really can’t help but share it. As he walks around the farm talking about his latest project, it’s his daughter Ana who’s always at hand to support him – whether that’s looking after guests or taking coffee to a local roaster and supervising them whilst they roast it.
So let’s talk about a few of those innovations! The plants are looked after with fertiliser he makes himself, spiked with organic material he collects from the surrounding mountains to help support nitrogen fixing bacteria and other key microflora.
On the roof of the mill are layers of corrugated sheeting. In the night time, cold water runs down these, chilling as it goes, before it hits the freshly picked coffee cherries. Chilling them before removing the pulp slows the natural fermentation processes, helping give his coffees intense white-sugar-like sweetness.
He experiments widely with the processing, using not only the usual red and yellow honeys, but also white honeys (like this one – about 25% mucilage is left on), naturals, anaerobic fermentations and others that there aren’t even names for yet!
Even when it’s processed, his attention to detail means he's still working on improving things. His store room in the mill has a false ceiling, which protects it from the heat of the sun and lets the dried coffee stay at a stable temperature and humidity level before it goes to the dry mill for packing.
Now, for every successful experiment there’s also going to be one which doesn’t go to plan. Believe it or not, your coffee is actually the result of one of those – although it’s a very delicious mistake. The varietal on your bag says Typica, which is the name for the plants which were first planted in Central America in the 18th Century, having come from the Netherlands. Nearly all the other varietals you see today are descended from Typica. But when is Typica not Typica?
When Carlos planted these coffee seeds, he wasn’t expecting Typica, he was expecting Geisha. These plants, arriving in the 1950s, have become famous in Panama for their floral flavour and light, tea-like body. The plants look about right – you’ll see many of the beans in your coffee have the slightly elongated shape of Geisha – but Carlos wasn’t convinced when he tasted it. It’s not got the Panama Geisha flavour, so he calls it Typica.
So we don’t really know what this is. If you’ve been lucky enough to try our Geishas from Licho or Arbar, you’ll have seen already that Costa Rican Geisha plants have a sweeter, less perfumed flavour than their Panama cousins. These plants spent 60 years largely ignored in Costa Rica, so there’s likely also hybrids and mutations to be found. Is this one of those? Something else? Well, Carlos calls it Typica, so I will too.
So how does all that translate in the flavour? It’s sweet with white sugar and the texture is silky and smooth. There is a definite floral edge, but with the sweetness and body it reminds me of orange blossom water. A hint of lime on the finish rounds out a well balanced and super clean cup.
Country: Costa Rica
Farm: La Pira De Dota
Producer: Carlos Ureña Ceciliano
Altitude: 1650 m.a.s.l.
Processing system: White Honey
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