Recently, one of our customers, Ubaldo Lopez, contacted us with a special request: “Hey, I’m headed to Costa Rica. Can I visit one of the farms you purchase coffee from?”
At CREMA, we believe providing quality coffee is about being connected to the people who produce it; that relationship is what makes it exceptional. So, needless to say, we were delighted that Ubaldo wanted to learn more about the process for himself. After he returned, we caught up with Ubaldo to hear how his coffee pilgrimage went.
CREMA: Tell us about your trip! What were you headed to Costa Rica for? Why did you want to make it a point to visit coffee producers during your time there?
UBALDO: The trip was dual-purpose; my wife and I were taking a week of vacation, and I was also there to do some work for my employer the week after. I've been fascinated with coffee for years and really like the fruitful coffees that Costa Rica produces, so it was a must that I visit a true coffee plantation while I was there. I had recently purchased a bag from CREMA that came from Don Mayo Mill in Costa Rica, and I loved it, so it was an easy decision to make this my stop.
CREMA: Have you always had interest in coffee and how it is produced?
UBALDO: I really got into coffee the first time I visited CREMA a few years ago while I was working at Asurion. Before then, my idea of coffee was an orange mocha frappuccino from Starbucks (I'm half joking). After a few visits to CREMA and engulfing a few Cubans, I tried a pour over recommended by Raleigh, who worked there at the time, and that set my world on fire. Until then, I didn't know that you could have just black coffee and it could still be amazing. Soon after, I bought a Chemex and a French press and started doing my own pour overs after asking Raleigh about the ratios to use. He explained some things and pointed me to the online guides to help me on my journey.
CREMA: What are some of the most interesting things you learned about the farms or mills?
UBALDO: I had no idea that coffee was like wine; the altitude at which a coffee plant is grown will determine how fruitful the bean is and if it will be a dark or medium type of bean. It was also very impressive to see how carefully Don Mayo selects their beans, manually picking out the bad beans and only keeping the best for roasting or for shipments to coffee shops which roast locally. They take great pride in the quality of their beans.
CREMA: What would you want your friends and our readers to know about coffee production?
UBALDO: I also found out some plantations will just mass produce beans and combine them with other plantations to make massive amounts of coffee to ship out. Single origin coffee is worth it because you know where it's coming from. You're only getting one plantation's beans instead of three to four, so it may cost a little more to get a bag from a place like CREMA, but that's because you're getting higher quality beans and a specialty roast.
CREMA: How did this trip change the way you think about or experience coffee?
UBALDO: It was very special to see how coffee is produced in a country like Costa Rica, where it's such a big social event. We got to sit with the Bonilla family, who own the Don Mayo Mill, and drink coffee with them as they talked about their plantation and how the mill began. Coffee drinking is a family event, where pastries are made and the family sits and enjoys coffee together as a social gathering at home. It's very special.
CREMA: What one thing most surprised you about the production of coffee?
UBALDO: In addition to getting to visit Don Mayo, I was able to visit with Exclusive Coffee in San Jose. That's where a lot of the mills send their coffee to be shipped and roasted. This helps cut the cost of shipping and roasting for the smaller mills. Exclusive will then roast according to what the customer wants or just ship unroasted beans to coffee shops. You can get a very exclusive bean or a mixture from here, depending on who's ordering the beans.
CREMA: Last question: What’s your daily coffee ritual?
UBALDO: That depends on how much time I have in the morning! I have a traveling French press that I use when I'm in a hurry; I just grind the beans, put them in the press and later use the hot water I have at work. It's heated to 205 degrees, so I let it cool a bit before I pour it into the press. Most mornings, I use my Chemex at home. I make a double batch to enjoy some as I eat breakfast and then take some to work with me. In the summers, I use the Japanese Method, making sure I make enough for the morning and after lunch.