We took a trip to Costa Rica a few weeks back to cup coffees from Don Mayo, Luis and Oscar Monge, and Fransico Mena—all producers we know through Exclusive Coffees, a local organization that works to connect buyers and farmers and elevate the quality and experience of coffee for everyone. A few of our team members came along and got to visit coffee farms and see the beginning of coffee’s story first hand.

Sean Woestehoff (barista and musician extraordinaire) shares some thoughts on:

cupping in a building surrounded by coffee-plant-laden hills, the anaerobic process, the many fruits he’s never tasted before, and the impact of passion, dedication, and curiosity.


What was your favorite experience on the trip?
My favorite part of the trip was cupping at the Don Mayo mill. The coffees there were some of the most flavorful coffees I've ever tasted--I'm assuming it's because they were so fresh--the flavors just jumped out of the cup. They were all explosive, vibrant, and nuanced. Also, being in a cute little building between drying beds with views of coffee farm covered mountains on every side didn't hurt.

What is the most beautiful thing you saw? 
Definitely the most beautiful part of the whole trip was seeing the view from Bella Vista. Steep mountainsides, a sea of ever moving clouds below, the bright sun illuminating the deep green of coffee leaves. The deep red dirt of the road covering the pickup truck and our clothes. All paired with a little bit of adrenaline as the road narrowed and became more and more treacherous. I don't think I'll ever forget that.


What is something you learned? 
I think the most striking things I learned were sensory. The dry and brittle sound a white honey coffee sounds as you move it through your fingers. The way a natural process coffee smells as it dries. The stickiness of a red honey. The bright sweet tropical flavor of a coffee cherry. Yum! Those things, as well as seeing the detail of just how many times the coffee is sorted. For ripeness, size, density, color, to remove defects, ect.

Is there anything you see or think about differently now? 
I definitely have a greater respect for the coffee I'm drinking. Seeing so many people passionately striving to create a good cup, their knowledge and hard work making sure nothing goes wrong all the way up the chain—and there really are so many ways it can go wrong. That, as well as the immense amount of labor required to tend to the plants, and hand pick each cherry all the way up the mountainside.


What was your favorite food or drink?
The fresh fruit was always amazing. I often times didn't know what I was eating, but it was always exciting and delicious. Like those little fruits that looked like tomatoes, but tasted sweet like a raspberry, or the many different citrus fruits. I was always tasting something I'd never experienced before

What do you want consumers to know about coffee? 
There are real people behind the coffee before it’s roasted. In the states, we rarely think beyond the barista’s contribution to the coffee quality. Some may think about the roaster, but we really are all just the final step in a long journey from plant to cup. 


Describe your experience of coffee in Costa Rica.
People in Costa Rica are very proud of their coffee, and they should be. There was coffee everywhere we went, and it was always sweet and smooth. For the people we interacted with, coffee was in their every thought—it was passion and life. Drinking and cupping with them was inspiring because of that passion as well as of their advanced palates and expansive knowledge of everything they tasted.

Anything else? 
It was really interesting to see trends in coffee processing—specifically anaerobic fermentation. I loved hearing the debates on its future, as well as the experiments to try and gain a deeper understanding of how the process works and what it could make possible. I think it's great to have strong opinions, healthy speculation, and a simple curiosity that can lead to innovation.

You can find Sean behind the bar at Crema downtown, or playing songs as Sean West.

He believes in the creative act of coffee in an inspiring way and we’re happy to have him on our team.

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