Origin: Costa Rica
Estate: Hacienda Sonora
Owner: Alberto Guardia and his son Diego Guardia
Region: Central Valley
Altitude: 1200 masl
Varietal: Red Catuai
Cupping Notes: Vanilla, citrus, lively acidity, rich body, well balanced, tropical fruit, toffee, caramel. Very sweet as it cools. Outstanding quality.
Costa Rica - Hacienda Sonora Coffee
Costa Rica is nestled in the heart of Central America, and is as diverse as it is beautiful. This little country has it all – from mountains and volcanoes to rainforests that buzz with life and coastlines with great beaches and surf. With such an impressive landscape, combined with it’s stable government and relative safety compared to it’s Central American neighbours, Costa Rica is a well established tourist destination, especially for U.S. travellers, and around 1.5 million visitors are drawn to its shores, forests and mountains each year.
The nation’s stability and forward thinking governance means Costa Rica has a much higher standard of living than its neighbours, making it a much more expensive country to visit or do business in. The coffee industry is well regulated by the national body Icafe. Under Icafe’s watchful eye, farm workers are monitored and protected with minimum living standards and widely enforced minimum wages for all employees. This regulation has had two distinct impacts on the quality and type of coffee being produced in Costa Rica:
1. Quality has improved as the cost of production is estimated to be close to $2/lb – almost 25% higher than their Latin American counterparts. No longer able to compete on price with the high cost of land, living and employee wages, has forced producers to improve quality.
2. Costa Rica has become a boutique origin producing value-added coffees through experimental processing. No other origin we work in produces the diversity and quality of processing methods as Costa Rica. The quality of their naturals in particular is extraordinary, with a clarity and complexity that few of the worlds producers can match.
Whilst Costa Rica’s total production volume is in decline, as ‘volume growers’ struggle to compete with producers from neighbouring countries on price, the future of the country’s coffee production seems to be in specialty microlots lots that benefit from inventive and interesting processing methods. Leading the way in this regard are the regions of Tarrazu, the Central Valley, the West Valley and Tres Rios.
Hacienda Sonora is located in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, at the foot of the world renowned Poas Volcano. The farm’s covers approximately 100 hectares, 45 of which lie under heavy and diverse shade. In addition to coffee, farm is also composed of 35 hectares of wild forest reserve and 20 hectares of sugar cane. The average altitude is 1,200 metres above sea level, and the five different varieties of coffee grown by the Guardias is fostered in an environment surrounded by exotic trees and other vegetation, providing great conditions for quality as well as improving the chemistry of the already naturally rich volcanic soil. Thanks to the farm’s diverse ecosystem, many different species of birds and animals seek refuge in the land.
The farm’s micro coffee mill is built in the heart of Hacienda Sonora next to a traditional 150 year-old sugar cane mill that is preserved intact. All of the machines in the mill are tuned to perform in the best and most efficient manner, using the energy harvested within the farm. All of the energy consumed by the farm is 100% renewable energy harvested on the farm itself. This energy supplies power to the coffee mill and provides a portion of free electricity for some of the people who live and work at the farm. The green energy is harvested from a natural water stream with a special turbine, known as a Pelton Wheel.
The farm’s employees are a crucial piece of Hacienda Sonora’s success. Through their energy, consistency and local insights the farm has been able to build and maintain the farm. Their well-being is essential for the owners and for the tranquillity of the farm.
One of the many things that make Hacienda Sonora so different from other farms is the fact that free accommodation is provided for all workers and their families within the bounds of the farm. For each house, Hacienda Sonora covers for the cost of water, trash collection and a portion of their electricity. Every employee fully enjoys the benefits of the Costa Rica Health Insurance system.
All coffee on the farm is processed using the honey and natural methods. Both of these methods require a lot more work and care than the traditional fully washed. However, it all makes sense when you taste the results in the cup. By experimenting with different techniques, the farm has been able to perfect both methods so as to obtain distinct sweetness, with cocoa and fruit notes, and without a trace of over-ferment.
Another important advantage is that the farm is able save great amounts of water by using the honey and the natural processes. Using the honey method saves more than 3 gallons of water per pound of coffee. Natural processed coffee doesn’t need any water at all.