White sugar, passionfruit, fresh blueberries, sherry, papaya
La Pira is located in the high altitude Dota Valley of the Tarrazu region, which is an area that's known for producing great coffees. This relatively young estate is only just over 50 years old and is owned by the founder’s son, Carlos Urena Ceciliano. He has worked on this farm for almost 20 years, but he has worked in coffee all his life.
Coffee from La Pira first hit our radar back in 2009 thanks to the Cup of Excellence, and we were pleased to be reunited with the farm only recently after a lot of effort and hard work. A few years ago it was really rather tricky to get, stretching both Steve's pocket and patience, but it was well worth it. Thankfully all years after that it's been a little less stretchy!
After inheriting the family farm, Carlos worked for many years as a certified organic coffee producer, but he realised doing so was just not possible on this farm. Organic coffee is good, but it's not possible for everyone. The yield was very, very affected. So Carlos looked for alternatives, while still holding organic principles very close to his heart. For instance, instead of using chemicals to control the weeds, sheep roam freely amongst the coffee plants and eat the weeds (and strangely leave the coffee plants alone). They work as automatic and mobile 'fertilisation units' (nature’s a wonderful thing). This has eliminated the need for herbicides. This is the kind of thinking Carlos has about coffee.
When Steve last visited La Pira, Carlos told him about how he wakes up in the middle of the night with an idea of how he can improve production, change the way the coffee is harvested and processed, or how systems can be improved upon. Steve also isn't the best sleeper and often suffers from this type of sleep deprivation relating to ideas popping into his head, so it was something that he could really empathise about.
During one of these late-night bursts of inspiration, Carlos thought that using the coldest water he could would be the best way of processing the cherry. During the night the Dota Valley gets a really sharp, cold breeze, and it runs through the whole farm. He had noticed the way the water on the mill roof, which sprinkled from processing, was almost frosting up. So he created a sprinkling system and a zinc ramp that the water runs across before hitting the cherries in the fermentation tank.
We've chased coffee from La Pira ever since we first had it all those years ago in 2009. Some years it's been super tough to get our hands on due to low yields and some other things, but we've always managed to get our way by pestering the exporter we partner with in Costa Rica!
You might have already noticed that we've got a different varietal and processing method combo from La Pira this year. In the past we've always had red honey processed Caturra, but for 2019 we've got a white honey processed Catuai.
Carlos does a really wide range of processes and a range of different varietals. During our last Hasvisit to Costa Rica, we cupped quite a few lots from the mill. This particular lot really stood out in blind cupping as being especially elegant, complex and super delicious (and scored a point or so higher than the other lots we cupped). It just so happened that it was this white honey Catuai rather than the usual red honey Caturra. This was one of the many reasons for going all the way to Costa Rica each year!😊
Expect an intensely sweet coffee, jam-packed full of fruit and white sugar. It's super complex, with hints of passion fruit and fresh blueberries alongside a delicate sherry note. This really shines on the aftertaste because it just keeps on going and going, and papaya joins in. Overall, this is wonderfully balanced and one that you'll get something different from each sip.
Country: Costa Rica
City: Santa María de Dota
Farm: Finca La Pira
Farmer: Carlos Ureña Ceciliano
Farm size: 7 hectares
Altitude: 1,650 m.a.s.l.
Processing system: White Honey
White sugar, passion fruit, fresh blueberries, sherry, papaya