La Pastora Micro Beneficio
For over three generations the Montero family has been producing coffee in the stunning mountains of Tarrazú, Costa Rica. Sitting at an altitude of 1,800m above sea level, the “La Pastora” micro region is rich in volcanic soil and known to produce some of the best Costa Rican coffee.
Don Eli, the grandfather of his coffee producing family, has spent his entire life since childhood farming coffee -- and so too does his son, Carlos Montero. Though this is a very real necessity for the livelihoods, their passion for coffee runs strong. It was impossible to ignore the hardships in the family coffee business, and as Carlos watched his father struggle, he set out to create opportunities for himself and ultimately, took over primary operations of Don's farm. And today, Carlos and his entire family (his children Marianela, Jacob and Mariajose) are all deeply involved at Don Eli Coffee farm and micro mill.
The harvest year of 2014-15, Carlos and his family took a huge risk: It was to be their first year as specialty coffee producers.
But, Carlos explains, they knew this move would help improve their coffee, and their business, by focusing on innovative processing methods, and above all put in place stringent quality control.
Subsequent to the success of that first specialty harvest, they have left the mass-production mindset in their past. Carlos is forward-looking, and is always working to achieve sustainability and scalabilty. Certifications for his farms, like NAMA Café, are underway, he understands the importance of preserving terroir and soil quality, he shirks the use of chemicals and pesticides in production.
A Diary From Ocean College
Don Eli is a beacon as to what a nano lot can achieve. Don Eli Coffee is aiming on delivering the best of what Costa Rican soils have to offer, and is now developing a nano-lot named “Chamaco”, as an experiment focused on unique Costa Rican terroir for the future.
Carlos Montero is “El Jefe”. From properly treating the farm’s soil, to overseeing coffee pickers, to ensuring the best coffee cherries get delivered to the mill, Carlos is the boss while Lucia, his wife, fuels to the coffee family. From preparing her famous empanadas and tomato soup to running the household, Lucia doesn’t know the definition of rest and embodies “mi casa es su casa.” work in the family business too.
Mariajose is 17 years old, no one toughs it out like Maria does in the harvest season. She oversees the African drying beds, which call for extreme attention to detail inside greenhouse-like tents. In addition to measuring the moisture, she also battles the elements, and rakes the beans every hour. The drying process is one of the steps that heavily impact the coffee quality. Good thing Maria can handle the pressure, as she hopes to become a pilot one-day.
Carlos started this year to be more aware and to pay more attention to his picker’s and the cherry sorting. He makes sure the pickers have sorted and separated the unripe cherries they picked and put them in a different bag before he measures the coffee by cajuelas,. Carlos and his son Jacob are a team when they process the coffee. After Carlos measures the coffee for he’s pickers, usually in the afternoon, he takes the cherries to his mill, where Jacob is waiting for him to start to process the coffee.
They move the coffee cherries from the truck to a big pile and throw some clean water on the pile to wash the cherries and to help move the cherries to continue their way to the the depulping machine that separates the pulp and skin from the beans. After this the beans are moved to the machines that washes the coffee. At the end of this step the coffee is moved through a tube by the water pressure to a big tank. By the time the coffee gets to the big tank the mucilage has been almost completely removed, however the beans still keep a little amount of mucilage, and that’s why Carlos called the process white honey.
After the coffee is moved to the big tank, they move the coffee in buckets to the African beds inside an open greenhouse. Mariajose, Carlos daughter, and another worker are in charge of the drying phase. They move the coffee every hour evenly and keep a track of every coffee that comes inside the greenhouse to dry. The coffee takes around 10-12 days to get to the right moisture content 10%-10,5%. This year Carlos implement different levels so he could dry the coffee slower and it also helps him to have more space to dry coffee.