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Licho's is a coffee that I feel shows our development as a roaster over the years. We first bought this coffee in the Cup of Excellence program (a great way to meet a grower). Back then we bought it from an import broker; they helped us bring in this coffee because we are a small coffee buyer. Now we buy directly from the farm!
Four years ago, I went out to the farm and did the deal then and there with the brothers. I love the fact that I simply walked onto the farm after cupping a particular lot in the exporter's office, asked how much they wanted, and there was a short conference. They came back and told me how much they wanted, and then we shook hands. Then we got back into the 4x4 and drove away. That year we agreed a European-exclusive deal with them for this coffee, and this year we continue the close work we have been doing with them.
Grown by the Aguilera brothers in the province of Naranjo, in the volcanic Northern Cordiles corridor of the Western Valley, this coffee is cultivated at an altitude of 1,500 metres above sea level. 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.
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!
In the cup this has loads of fruity sweetness. It's apricot and raspberry mashed up, but with a lovely syrupy texture that makes this as much a crowd-pleaser this year as it is every year.