27 Jul Coffee Collaboration With Sacred Grounds
We recently attended an inspiring talk by the Scottish snowboarder Lesley McKenna. Lesley competed in the Winter Olympic Games in 2002, 2006 and 2010 and is now the Team Manager for the GB Park and Pipe Team. She described what makes her tick at work as ‘getting the stoke on.’ According to Lesley to get the stoke on you need four key elements: passion for what you do, progression, a sense of fun and a collaborative spirit.
This week we are literally getting the stoke on with our fellow Scottish coffee roasters Sacred Grounds. We have visited each other’s roasteries to fire up our respective machines and trial roast a new collaboration coffee that we have cupped and sourced together from the Aquiares Estate in Costa Rica. The fruits of many months of planning this Marsellesa & Obatá Red Honey micro lot is the only bag produced by Aquiares which makes it a world exclusive.
It is the collaborative nature of this project that is getting us most excited. To our knowledge this is the first time that two Scottish roasters have worked so closely together on a single coffee. Inspired by co-operation between micro-breweries we hope the synergy and learning that is coming out of this partnership will lead to similar joint ventures and help foster a spirit of co-operation amongst speciality roasters.
We are hugely grateful to Mercanta coffee importers who have worked closely with the Aquiares Estate to produce the ‘Don Alfonso’ line of top quality beans from their harvest. Great care has been taken in the picking and processing of these micro-lots and the Marsellesa & Obatá Red Honey micro lot jumped out for both us and Sacred Grounds on the cupping table.
A special thanks also to the farm owners and Diego Robelo in particular. Diego visited us in person back in February with his coffees and gave a fascinating talk on his work developing new, more climate change resistant varieties of coffee. He took Scotland’s best pastimes, hill walking and whisky drinking, with gusto and left a good friend. Diego and his father Alfonso are beacons for innovative social and environmental practices in Costa Rican coffee farming – we hope our roasting does their amazing coffee and ethos justice.
So far we have found our Aquiares exclusive to be beautifully balanced with rich stone fruits notes, lovely sweetness and a delicate acidity. This exceptional Costa Rican coffee will be available from both Glen Lyon Coffee and Sacred Grounds from next week. Just goes to show what you can achieve when you get the stoke on!
Aquiares Coffee: Don Alfonso Marsellesa & Obatá Red Honey
Established by British farmers in 1890, Aquiares was one of the first estates to produce and export Costa Rican coffee. The farm in the region Turrialba was bought in 1971 by three families who have since worked together with the farm´s staff and community to implement a modern model of sustainable agriculture. Today the Estate is the largest continuous coffee farm in Costa Rica, covering 924 hectares, 80% of which is planted under shade-grown Arabica.
Aquiares means ‘land between rivers’ in Costa Rica’s Huetar indigenous language. Coffee plots grow high on the fertile slopes of Turrialba Volcano. The numerous rivers and streams that run through the plantation are protected by forested buffer zones. In addition over 50,000 shade trees have been planted in recent years to improve the quality of the coffee and provide a canopy for insects and birds. The farm’s innovative environmental management was recognized in 2002 with Rainforest Alliance Certification.
Don Alfonso Robelo took over farm management in 1992 and made the social welfare of farm workers and the wider community one of his main priorities. As a result 96% of the workers on the farm now own their own houses. His son Diego is now furthering the farm’s development by experimenting with new varietals that are more resistant to climate change. He is also pioneering research in Costa Rica in reducing the carbon costs from coffee production.
Although Aquiares produces a great deal of coffee annually, the ‘Don Alfonso’ is a unique line of speciality coffees for. This lot is a mix of the Marsellesa & Obatá varieties, both sought after for their superior cup quality and resistance to leaf rust. Experiments made by Aquiares have shown that these two varieties have similar cup profiles, which is why they have been mixed in processing.
The farm produces fully washed coffees, honey processed coffees and naturals. This Red Honey lot was produced by leaving approximately 80-90% of the mucilage (sticky membrane) attached after pulping. After this, the coffee is delivered to the mill’s covered greenhouses to pre-dry on concrete patios for two days before being moved to the mill’s extensive African beds to dry for an additional 12-16 days, depending on weather conditions at the time. This process conserves water and brings out richer, fruitier notes than fully washed coffees.