Episode 630

Costa Rica Toño


Grown by the Aguilera brothers (of Finca Licho fame) in the province of Naranjo, in the volcanic Northern Cordiles corridor of the Western Valley, this coffee is cultivated at an altitude of 1,450 metres above sea level. Like on Licho, most of their coffee is of the Villa Sarchi variety, which is native to the area and excellent in the cup. Villa Sarchi is a Bourbon mutation (similar to Caturra and Pacas) originally found in Naranjo. It's a dwarf variety with short internodes and (usually) higher-yielding production.

The Aguileras are twelve brothers and sisters, all of whom are involved in coffee as inherited from their parents. The brothers work the mill and farms themselves with basically no hired labour except for pickers during the harvest. With the help of the third generation, they work the mill and drying patios, prune the coffee fields, fertilise, and so on; and they do it all year round. The Aguilera brothers understand quality at the farm and mill level, and this is why we are excited about working with them. We first met them through the Cup of Excellence competition and they’ve continued to do well in that - in fact this year they had a lot from Licho finish 11th and a lot from Toño narrowly missed out on being included (it was top of the National Jury, meaning it did super well in the first stage but was a hair's breadth short of making it into the all-important International Jury which is the second stage of the competition!).

This coffee is honey processed, which is like the pulped natural method. The fruit is removed from the seed of the coffee bush and left to dry. The main difference is that there is no water involved when the cherry is removed, so mucilage sticks to the bean. This can be dangerous, but it's necessary in these parts of Costa Rica where water is limited: water is a precious commodity in this area of Naranjo, so this method suits the location very well.

The coffee ends up clustering whilst drying because there is so much mucilage. So the coffee either needs to be turned regularly to stop this happening, or it has to be broken up. Over-fermentation can happen at this stage and you can end up with a not-so-good cup, but the Aguilera brothers are well-versed in this method and are some of the most skilled in Costa Rica.

Want to know a little more about honey processing? Here's a video you might enjoy!

There's a fruit sweetness to it which reminds me of yellow plums, but in a jammy kind of way. As it cools, there's a creamy flavour coming forward too - think of a custard cream biscuit. Then on the aftertaste is just a little shoulder of cranberry.

  • Country: Costa Rica
  • Region: Western Valley
  • Province: Alajuela
  • Nearest city: Naranjo de Alajuela
  • Farm: Toño
  • Producers: Aguilera family
  • Altitude: 1,450 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietal: Villa Sarchi
  • Processing system: Yellow Honey


Yellow plum, custard cream, cranberry

Clean cup: (1–8): 6.5
Sweetness: (1–8): 7
Acidity: (1–8): 6.5
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 6
Flavour: (1–8): 6.5
Aftertaste: (1–8): 6
Balance: (1–8): 6.5
Overall: (1–8): 6.5
Correction:(+36): +36

Total: (max. 100): 87.5

Roast Information
Medium – through first crack, slow it a little to let the sweetness develop fully, but drop it before second crack gets going.

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