Costa Rica Aquiares Estate Microlot


Region: Turrialba
Altitude: 1,200 - 1,400 m.a.s.l.
Variety: Centroamericano
Processing: natural
Tasting Notes: berries, juicy sweetness, creamy mouthfeel

This is a very limited “Don Alfonso” microlot from the famous Aquiares Estate. Named after Don Alfonso Robelo, patriarch of one of the three families who own the farm, this coffee is the result of a collaboration between our importer, Mercanta, and Diego Robelo, Don Alfonso’s son, deputy general manager of the estate. The Estate is one of Costa Rica’s largest and most historic coffee farms. Aquiares is known across the specialty industry as a producer of excellent specialty coffee so we’re very excited to be roasting their coffee. 

It’s been a few years since we’ve offered a Costa Rican coffee, so when this one arrived on our sample cupping table it was a no-brainer. It’s a distinctly unique microlot with heady, slightly boozy fruit: definite blueberries along with ripe banana, strawberry and melon. Like the best naturally processed coffee the acidity in this one is super complex and clean. And the sweetness and body don’t disappoint either - it’s got a well-structured creamy mouthfeel and bags of juicy sweetness. Steampunk bought just four 30kg boxes out of the total of 15 produced—and we would have bought more if they’d been available!

This particular lot is part of an experiment in alternative processing methods. Though Costa Rican farmers are famous for developing the method of honey processing, Aquiares Estate is in a particularly rainy, humid part of the country—not ideal for natural and honey processing. ​​According to Diego Robelo, “Everyone told us we were crazy. You are never going to make honeys and naturals in Turrialba. We decided to prove them wrong.” 

This microlot was picked by a special team of skilled harvesters who are paid well above the daily rate for their exceptional skill in picking the ripest cherries at each pass. The pickers do seven passes of the trees to be sure they get every cherry. From there the cherries are rinsed and sun-dried on a ceramic patio for two days before moving to a specially built climate controlled greenhouse where they’re dried for 10 more days. The last drying step is one day in a mechanical dryer to reach the ideal moisture content. The coffee is milled and then kept in dry parchment until the final dry milling just before export. 

Aquiares Estate sits high on the fertile slopes of Turrialba Volcano. Established by British farmers in 1890, Aquiares was one of the first estates to produce and export Costa Rican coffee. In 1971, the farm was purchased by its current owners—three families who have worked together with the farm’s staff and community to implement a modern model of sustainable agriculture. The farm manages the entire coffee production chain, from seedling production to plant cultivation, harvesting and milling. Environmental stewardship, including planting shade trees, using natural fertilisers to boost soil health, and, in 2012 becoming the first farm in Costa Rica to fulfil the requirements of the Rainforest Alliance Climate Module.

The modern focus on the social welfare of the farm workers and the wider community is a main priority of the Robelos and their co-owners and is in contrast to the Estate’s colonial roots. Originally, the farm owned the houses where employees lived, but in 1992, under Don Alfonso’s management, the farm started a project to enable people to own their own houses. Each worker was given a bonus for his or her years of service, lots were priced at a fraction of the local rate, and assistance was given to apply for a government house fund. Today, around 15% of Aquiares residents work on the farm (many have gone on to become school teachers, doctors, etc) and 96% of these own their own home, giving them the option to take a path for their future that they, themselves, choose. The town has its own school, youth sports program, recycling committee, early childhood nutrition center, and a church built in 1925, which is a National Architectural Historic Monument. Their website states, “The coffee farm and the community are one in Aquiares, both are dependent on each other.”

Find our more about the estate here:

Read more about our packaging HERE.

Are you storing your coffee correctly? Read more about this important topic HERE.

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