In Costa Rica, organic coffee is almost nonexistent, and that is why this coffee is so significant; being honey processed and of limited quantity is what makes it so special.
Third-generation coffee farmers Dona Francisca and Don Oscar Chacon decided to be different. Their passion for coffee and strongly held belief in the preservation of the environment made inevitable their decision to get their micro-mill and farm, both named Las Lajas, certified as organic. Las Lajas is known for being among the first to produce high-quality honey and natural processed coffees in Central America.
Last year, we carried a yellow honey processed coffee from Las Lajas micro mill. We knew that we wanted to offer this very special coffee again, but we were having difficulty deciding which of these remarkable processes to carry. It was a tough decision, so we gave up — and this boxed set is the result.
This year, we’re offering all three honey processes from Las Lajas and letting our customers see for themselves what the honey process is all about.
Each of these coffees is distinctive, and the flavors range from floral and crisp to deep and fruit forward. We hope you enjoy finding the words to describe them as much as we did.
Yellow Honey: 100% mucilage left on, coffee turned hourly on the bed
Red Honey: 100% mucilage left on, coffee several times a day on the bed (less frequently than Yellow Honey)
Black Honey: 100% mucilage left on, coffee turned only once per day
Details: Farm: Las Lajas Micro Mill: Las Lajas Region: Sabanilla de Alajuela Altitude: 1450m Variety: Caturra, Catuai Processing: Yellow Honey, Red Honey, Black Honey
Background:Look closely at this tea and you will see small, round pellets resembling grains of black powder. Also called “pearl tea” or “bead tea,” Gunpowder tea has a light sheen that indicates freshness. This unique tea is achieved by withering the leaves, then steaming and tightly rolling them, before drying them over high heat to impart a distinctive smoky flavor.
Production of this tea dates back to the Tang Dynasty, but it wasn’t introduced to Taiwan until the 19th century. From there, it spread to the rest of the world — including Morocco, where it is still imported today to produce Moroccan Mint tea.
Several different Green tea varietals are used to produce Gunpowder, including Ti Kwan Yin and Jasmine Green. But the original and most common is called Pingshui Gunpowder and is characterized by larger pearls, a more vibrant color, and a particularly aromatic infusion.
Tasting Notes:This organic Chinese Green tea is sweet and silky with subtle notes of roasted chestnut and wildflower honey, an overall smoky flavor, and a minty aftertaste.
Perfect Brew:Brew at 170-185°F for 2-3 minutes to achieve the perfect balance of earthy and sweet. You can reduce the steeping time to bring out its grassy notes, or increase it for a more floral and peppery brew.
San Antonio Huista is a municipality in the Guatemalan department of Huehuetenango, an area known for its lively acidity and tropical, fruit-laced coffee. This cooperative was founded in 1960, but the civil wars that plagued Guatemala from 1961-96 took their toll on production. Restructuring commenced in 1998 and the cooperative slowly began to produce more coffee. By 2008, they started the organic certification process in order to obtain better market prices.
In addition to growing coffee, the cooperative also has an apiary and harvests honey — the coffee farm being a symbiotic environment in which the honey bees can thrive. Today, the cooperative consists of 54 members. Everyone processes the coffee in their houses with hand-powered depulpers. The coffee is then fermented (some of them have concrete fermentation tanks, others have buckets), washed, and dried — always at home. Coffee is then delivered to their San Antonio warehouse, at which point they consolidate lots into 100-pound bags of pergamino that are then delivered to the warehouse in Huehuetenango in a repurposed school bus, which they call the "coffee bus."
This coffee was brought to our attention by our friends at TG Labs in Guatemala. Josue Morales and Dan Griffin, of TG Labs, have been stopping by our roasting facility for several years now, and we have been trying to figure out a way to work more closely with them. One day, Dan stopped by with a sample of this coffee, and it was just the thing we were looking for. The cup was clean and well-structured with a tropical fruit sweetness and a juicy, tangerine-like acidity, rounded out by a brown sugar and date-like finish.
TG Labs, based in Guatemala City, is a research-and-development center seeking to establish relationships with farmers within all regions of Guatemala and work with them to refine their farming practices, add value to their work, and help to produce better coffee. Josue and his team have done a great job to help transform this coffee into a beautiful product and bring it to market. They have been working with this cooperative in San Antonio since 2011, and we have heard from Josue that there are still further plans to increase traceability and improve quality on the farm level. We are grateful for the work that TG Labs is doing in this area, and we are very lucky to be working with such passionate coffee professionals across our supply chain. As for now, we are excited and proud to bring this coffee to you. We hope you enjoy it!
In the Cup: Tangerine, dates, brown sugar, tropical sweetness, good structure
Details: Farm/Cooperative: Cooperativa de Desarrollo Integral San Antonio Huista, R.L Region: San Antonio Huista, Huehuetenango Altitude: 900-1650 meters Harvest. November-March Variety: Caturra, Typica, Pache, Bourbon, Anacafe14, Castilla Processing: Fully Washed and Patio Dried in small lots on the farm level, Consolidated, sorted and graded at the Cooperative Certification: USDA Organic Year Started: 1960 Members: 54
METAD grows and processes green Arabica coffee for export to specialty importers/roasters in North America, Europe, and Asia. The company is a third-generation, family-owned business currently led by Aman Adinew, who was also one of the founding executives and COO of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX).
METADcurrently owns and operates the first and only private, state-of-the-art, SCAA-certified coffee quality-control lab on the African continent. The laboratory is being used to train both domestic and international coffee professionals. The company has sustainable farming and processing operations in “Hambela,” Guji Zone, Oromia Regional State; and a processing site in “Gedeb,” Gedeo Zone (Yirgacheffe), Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Regions (SNNPR) Regional State, respectively. It also has socially responsible operations where, currently, more than 70% of our Hambela Farm and Gedeb site workers are women — a percentage we hope to continually increase. A portion of all METADprofits are reinvested in the community. In addition, more than 650 elementary school students in Hambela are sponsored to ensure that they receive a world-class education.
The Hambela Farm is located in the fertile Oromia regional State, in Guji zone, between the two districts of Gedeb and Hambela, approximately 477 km (~297 miles) south of Addis Ababa (the capital of Ethiopia), and 20 km (~12.5 miles) east of Dimtu Town (the capital of Hambela). The farm is 200 hectares. METAD has also implemented an “Out Growers Program,”in which the surrounding farmers work closely with the company (our agronomists, processing experts, etc.) to produce high-quality coffees. This is Hambela’s second harvesting season. During the first harvest in 2013/14, it produced only Natural (sun-dried) coffees. During the 2014/15 season, it implemented the Penagos Eco-Pulping machines and, for the first time, produced washed coffees. This is also the first harvest of certified organic coffee from this farm.
We have been tasting coffee from METAD for the past several years. Each year the coffee has continued to improve, and each year we discussed working with Michael and Aman Adinew to bring their coffee to Groundwork. Unfortunately, in years past, the coffee was not certified organic, so bringing it on was not an option for us. So we came up with a plan to work together to attain organic certification for the farm and hoped that the coffee and production worked out in everyone’s favor. The truth is, we really wanted to work with this group; their social and community impact echoes our own sentiments, both Michael and Aman are amazing people with a great story and history in coffee, and their product is a truly beautiful representation of Ethiopian coffee. This year, all of the collaboration, feedback, and effort paid off. We are happy to bring you the first harvest of certified organic Ethiopian coffee from the Hambela Farm produced by METAD. This is possibly the best coffee that has graced our cupping table this year, and we are really excited to share it with you.
In the cup: Floral, pineapple, red grape, Meyer lemon, juicy
Details: Farm/Cooperative: Hambela Farm Region: Oromia State, Guji Zone Altitude: 1900-2200 meters Harvest: November-January Variety: Heirloom Varieties Processing: Fully Washed with Penagos’ Eco-Pulper, Sun Dried on raised bed Certification: USDA Organic
Background: This coffee grows in Oromia, which is one of Ethiopia’s largest regions. The farm is located in the Guji zone, the southern part of Oromia that borders on the Sidama and Gedeo zones. The farm started to produce organic coffees in 2001 and works closely with medium-sized outgrowers who are specialized in this highland forest coffee.
The enterprise has 640 hectares, with its own nursery sites to grow coffee seedlings. There are currently 12 permanent qualified staff members, with more than ten years’ practical experience in coffee production, processing, clearing, and marketing. In addition to the permanent staff, they employ three highly qualified consultants and temporary workers. During harvest, they have more than 300 coffee pickers harvesting coffee. About 150 of them supply coffee individually to the wet mill.
There are many gold mines in the area, so the coffee fields are literally full of holes where people have been digging for gold. This makes walking between the coffee trees risky! As a result, the biggest challenge these days is to find employees to maintain the plantation and pick cherries.
This coffee was brought to our attention by our friends and partners at Trabocca. We have been working with them for a couple of years now to help Groundwork source some of the best Ethiopian coffees. They sent this over for us to try, believing that it was a perfect fit with what we are trying to express with our Ethiopia offerings. We also like the way that Trabocca is working in this area, having stepped into Shakisso five years ago to co-monitor operations and logistics, and donated a cupping lab in an effort to upgrade the farm’s quality and quantity.
This cup is floral and juicy with notes of lime, honeysuckle, and a citrusy sweetness.