Finca Licho, Yellow Honey Gesha, Costa Rica 2018
Flavour description: This is a very sweet cup, with medium body and a silky mouthfeel. Notes of passionfruit, papaya and sweet lemon, with a hint of milk chocolate and orange blossom.
Colour: Russet Orange
Producer: Aguilera Family
Location: Western Valley area, in the Alajuela province. Nearest city: Naranjo de Alajuela
Harvest: Late January to March 2018, Gesha is the last varietal to mature at Finca Licho
Farm Size: 28.00 Hectares
Coffee growing area: 9.10 Hectares
Elevation: 1500 masl
Processing: Yellow Honey
Roast: Light to medium to present the natural characteristics of the coffee, and the extra sweetness from the honey processing.
This is the first year we have bought coffee from the Aguilera siblings, and the second variety we are roasting from their farm Finca Licho. These twelve siblings hold a lot of knowledge about producing coffee and they use their knowledge very well. They are doing everything on the farm themselves, and only hire help for the harvest. You can taste how much hard work they have put into this coffee. A complex cup of milk chocolate covered passionfruit!
Visiting Finca Licho
Drop Coffee has visited Finca Licho twice and are currently making our third visit!
The first time was in 2017 after cupping the coffee at our Costa Rica coffee exporters lab. Arriving there, driving up the driveway, we were met by almost all of the 12 siblings running the farm. It was a lot of Spanish speaking and everyone spoke and described the farm. The first thing that struck me was that there were a lot of motorcycles. The second thing was the football field at a flat bit in the slopes of the farm. During the busy seasons there is no time for playing and the field is covered by drying tables for the coffee. Besides mopeds, the football field and motorcycles I was very impressed by the coffee plant nursery at Licho. We dove into discussions about climate change and resistant varietals and cup quality. Where the Villa Sarchi varietal is a good combination of both at Finca Licho.
The second time we visited, in January 2018, it had been raining all day but just as we arrived at the farm there was a massive rainbow over the farm, it was magical.
We dove straight out to the farm and looked at the built up drying beds and the different trees. I have had a lot of “not so special Gesha”- experiences, but chewing one of the Gesha cherries off of their tree made me fall off my feet for how good it was.
About the producers - the Aguilera siblings
The Aguileras are 12 brothers and sisters, all of whom are involved in coffee as inherited from their parents. The siblings work the mill and farms themselves with basically no hired labour, other than pickers during the harvest. With the help of the third generation, they work the mill and drying patios, prune the coffee fields, fertilize, etc, year-round. The Aguilera siblings understand quality at the farm and mill level, and this is why we are excited about working with them.
The Gesha varietal
This coffee is of the Gesha varietal, which is a bit of a controversial varietal when found in Central America. It used to be extremely rare but is starting to crop up in a few more places. It was made famous by Panama Hacienda La Esmeralda and the Best of Panama Auction, which is held by the Specialty Coffee Association of Panama.
It was a little known varietal and was originally introduced to Central America in Costa Rica in1953. Originally the varietal is from the south-western Ethiopian town of Gesha, it's an heirloom varietal that's low yielding and has thin and spindly branches open to strong winds, and is as pest friendly as they come (although it is resistant to coffee rust!). The leaves are quite thin and long, and the trees grow very tall.
Yellow Honey Processing
This coffee is honey processed, which is also known as the pulped natural method, so the skin of the fruit is removed from coffee seed and is 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 for these parts of Costa Rica where water is limited: in this area of Naranjo water is a precious commodity, so this method suits the location very well and in general it suits the cup profile from Costa Rica.
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 siblings are well-versed in this method and are some of the most skilled we have met in Costa Rica.
The "Yellow" is describing how much of the mucilage is left on the bean while drying. If 15-50% is left, the colour of the beans are going towards yellow as it dries.
About Costa Rica as a coffee producing country
In Costa Rica 93 percent of the children go to school and the country has no army. The supply chain of coffee in the country is more profitable than in many other countries we visit, generally speaking.
The Typica beans arrived to Costa Rica in the 1700, properly cultivated since 1779. Between 1800 to 1950 this was the main source of income for the country, but went down after the 1980s. Today the main income is tourism, followed by technology, medical appliance, other agriculture and then coffee at 8th place, turning over about 450 million USD in 2017.
Currently, the regions producing the best quality are Tarrazu, West Valley, and Central Valley. Coffee production has been threatened the past decade due to a real-estate boom converting coffee-lands into prime development properties. San Jose, the capital, is right in the heart of Central Valley, where you will find private houses next to coffee farms. The value of these farms have now skyrocketed.