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 13 years (gosh I feel old now) and Licho has become a firm favourite with both customers and our little Hasbean team - the arrival of coffees from Finca Licho is greatly anticipated every year. I really feel that this coffee showcases our development as a roaster over the years as we've moved from buying via an importer to buying directly from the farm ourselves.
5 years ago I visited the farm and made a deal with the brothers for a European exclusive on these coffees, and this year we continue that. You'll not see these coffees anywhere else in Europe - they're so tasty we wanted them all for ourselves! I love the fact that I simply walked onto the farm after cupping a particular lot in the exporter's office, had a chat about how much money they wanted, and then we shook hands. We got back into the 4x4 and drove away with a very happy Steve!
The farm is owned and run by Los Hermanos Aguilera - often translated as "The Aguilera Bros", but everyone is involved, not just the boys! The family of 12 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 etc, all themselves, 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 1500 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 it's excellent coffee production. The majority of the coffee grown at Finca Licho is the Villa Sarchi variety with a smidge of Caturra too (about 65% and 25% of production respectively) and the remainder is made up of a mixture of more unusual varieties, some of which we've been able to snag this year now that they're established enough to provide a crop.
This coffee is honey processed, which is similar to the pulped natural method. The outer skin and fruit pulp is removed from the seed (bean) of the coffee inside, and it's left to dry. The main difference between this and a pulped natural is that there is less water used when the cherry is removed, so mucilage sticks to the surface of the bean. There are a spectrum of varying honey processes depending on how much of the fruity material is left intact - these range from white honey (least mucilage / closest to a washed coffee) to black honey (most mucilage / closest to a natural coffee). Lighter honeying methods tend to be used on coffee from higher altitudes, and darker honeying for lower altitudes. This is based on the producers' understanding of which crops will benefit most from the different attributes that honey processing brings to the cup, as the sugar content of the fruit alters fermentation and increases the perception of sweetness in the final coffee.
This method can present some risks during processing but water is a precious commodity in this area of Naranjo, so this method suits the location very well. The beans end up clinging together whilst drying because of their sticky layer of mucilage (hence the name "honey" processing) so the coffee needs to be turned regularly to break apart these clusters of beans. Over-fermentation can happen at this stage and you can end up with undesirable flavours developing, but the Aguileras 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!
This starts with fresh raspberry and a sweetness of white sugar. On the aftertaste that sweetness is joined by almond, making me think of frangipane - it's a Bakewell Tart in coffee form!