Buying coffee is simple, right? A farmer has coffee, you have money...easy! Well, not so much. One of the realities of coffee farming is unscrupulous coffee buyers turning up, promising the world and then not honouring their promises. For this reason, we never ask too much of the producers we work with for the first few years - you have to earn trust. Eventually, they trust us to be reliable and keep coming back. In the case of the Aguileras...well, it took them 8 years or so to warm to us. That’s just how it goes sometimes.
Here at Hasbean, we love to celebrate the awesome things that happen when strong relationships are built between roasters and producers, and Finca Licho is a shining example of that ethos. We first bought from this farm way back in 2007 when it was awarded 4th place in the Cup of Excellence. Fast forward thirteen years (gosh I feel old now), and Licho has become a firm favourite – both with customers and our little Hasbean team. The arrival of coffees from Finca Licho is greatly anticipated every year.
The farm is owned and run by Los Hermanos Aguilera. It's often translated as 'The Aguilera Brothers', but everyone is involved, not just the boys! The family of twelve brothers and sisters inherited the business from their parents, who started their coffee-growing career over 50 years ago. With the help of the third generation, the family work the farm with basically no hired labour except for during the harvest. They manage the mill and drying patios, fertilise, prune the coffee trees, and so on. They do it all themselves, and all year round. The Aguileras have a reputation for their deep understanding of quality at the farm and mill level, and this is why we are excited about working with them.
Situated 1,500 metres above sea level in the region of Naranjo, the farm is located in the volcanic Northern Cordiles corridor of the Western Valley, which is an area famous for its excellent coffee production. The majority of the coffee grown at Finca Licho is Villa Sarchi variety, but there's a smidge of Caturra too (they're about 65% and 25% of production respectively). The remainder of coffee production is made up of a mixture of more unusual varieties, some of which (this Geisha lot!) we've been able to snag this year now that they're established enough to provide a crop.
This coffee is yellow honey processed, which is just 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.
We’ve loved the Licho Villa Sarchi Yellow Honey since we first tried it, but this year we’ve got loads of other coffees from the Hermanos Aguileras! Two naturals from Licho, Villa Sarchi from Finca Toño, Pacamara and this, their Geisha. We’re super proud that we pay fair prices for all our coffees, but it isn’t just about a price per kilogram - it’s about how much you buy. Because we’re buying loads of coffee from them, it makes a bigger difference than if we just wanted to buy the Geisha on it’s own. With less coffee they’ll have to risk selling elsewhere (and not sure how much they’ll get for it), they’re doing better, so they share that back to us too with a little discount on this spectacular coffee - and we in turn pass that on to you.
P.s. did I mention, it was a lot from Licho which finished 11th in this year’s Cup of Excellence competition in Costa Rica? :)
Geisha is a varietal that has attracted lots of attention among coffee buyers and farmers, with some super high prices being paid for tiny lots. The name comes from the Gesha village in Ethiopia, where it’s said to have come from. I say 'said to' because it’s believed that coffee stock from this region made its way to Costa Rica (and then on to Panama) in the 1950s, but didn’t find much favour in its new home.
As with other experimental varietals that didn’t do particularly well, the plants were largely ignored or forgotten. Some grew wild or mixed into difficult-to-reach corners of farms. That means it’s difficult to be sure how close what we now call 'Geisha' is to those seeds from Ethiopia many years ago. Regardless, Geisha’s reputation suddenly hit the big time around 2004 as it attracted praise (and high prices) in the Taste of Panama competition, and it became a must-try for all you coffee geeks out there.
There has been talk of the name – Geisha vs Gesha – and we like to listen to the people that grew the coffee. It says 'Geisha' on our bags from the farm, so we're going with 'Geisha'.
This coffee is super sweet with big juicy mango. A lime acidity balances that and there's a floral edge to it all which adds an interesting complexity. On the finish I get yellow plums, moving in to orange on the aftertaste.