12 oz. Handcrafted Rainforest Alliance Certified Coffee
La Minita means “the small mine.” Traditionally, local legend has it that pre-Columbian indigenous people came to look for gold on the land that is now the farm.
La Minita is located about one and a half hours drive south of San Jose, in the coffee producing area called “Los Santos.” The zone known as Los Santos includes a series of small villages and towns that begin in the north with San Juan Norte and end in the south with Santa Maria de Dota. The farm is located within the region from which fruit coffee is received by the Tarrazú coffee mills. The coffee from our farm is considered a Tarrazú coffee, but we believe the geography and microclimate of the farm produces a much more balanced and flavorful coffee than other Tarrazú coffees.
The plantation consists of a total of 1,200 acres of land of which 800 acres are currently in production. Of the remaining 400 acres, there are 200 acres of natural forest preserve located on the south side of the farm that will never be brought into coffee production.
The land lays on an east-west axis, bordered by the Tarrazú river to the south and the Candelaria river to the north. These two rivers converge at the western base of the mountain spur upon which the farm is situated. The soil is a pale clay, tan to light red.
Although there is a section of the farm that approaches 6,000 feet in altitude, the central block lies between 3,750 feet and 5,000 feet. The main house is located at an altitude of 4,850 feet. Despite the considerable altitude differences, the mean temperature variance is minimized by the cooling effect of the large river flow that borders the farm. Importantly, the farm faces the west, which allows for gradual warming in the morning and slow cooling in the evening.
There are approximately 680 acres of coffee in production. They have four varieties of trees under cultivation: Caturra, Catuai red, Catuai yellow, and Hibrido Tico. After many years of experimentation, statistical analysis, and cup quality testing, they have decided to stay principally with the Caturra and to continue to maintain a small amount of the old Hibrido.
They plant approximately 2,500 trees per acre on the farm depending upon the geography of the area being planted and the variety of tree used. This results in a total of about 1,700,000 trees on the farm.
They employ a selective pruning system to maintain the health and productivity of the coffee trees. Highly skilled employees monitor the coffee trees and as necessary, approximately every five years, the tree is pruned. This will encourage the tree to begin new growth. One year after this cutting, the tree is shaped maximize its continued growth. All this work is performed using hand tools. Each year approximately 350,000 trees are pruned.
After fifteen to twenty years, the trees become exhausted and are replaced with trees from our nursery. This nursery is located on a small, protected area of the farm. The nursery trees are nurtured on this farm for one year prior to being transplanted to the main farm. In a typical year, we transplant about 150,000 trees.
They use the fast growing, broad-leafed “poro” as our shade tree. These trees are planted on a grid of varying density depending on the light requirements and need for temperature control in each individual section of the farm.
They produce one crop of coffee each year. For them, the cycle begins with the first rains of the year. These rains normally occur sometime between the end of March and the beginning of May. The timing of the first rain is essential, for it is the rain that signals the tree to begin flowering.
Approximately ten days after the initial rains, small honeysuckle-like flowers form on the trees. Millions of flowers are produced in a spectacular display. The entire farm looks like it is covered in freshly fallen snow. It is a fleeting event, for a few days after they appear, the flowers whither and fall off the trees. The flowering is of critical importance to the coffee crop, for the node where each flower formed will produce a single coffee cherry, and within this cherry are the coffee seeds which will become the coffee bean. If the flowering is adversely affected by the weather, pollination will not occur, no cherry will form and there will be no coffee.
From the onset of the initial rains, we enter the seven-month rainy season. During the rainy season, there will typically be four to six hours of rainfall every day. These rains nurture the trees and encourage the growth and development of the green coffee cherries. The rains also have the potential to create huge problems of road and soil erosion. You will notice that all the coffee is planted on terraces interspersed with complex water drainage channels. Thousands of man hours are required during the rainy season to control erosion and maintain the road system of the farm.
The rains also encourage the growth of weeds among the coffee trees. They do not use herbicides to control the weeds at La Minita, but instead hire contract labor who use machetes to clear the weeds by hand. They do not believe in introducing unnecessary chemical influences on the farm, it is their home and the wellbeing of its plants, animals and people is important. Each year, every acre of the farm is weeded three times.
All sections of the farm are soil tested every year, and they base our fertilization formulas on the results of these tests. They are careful to use the minimum amount of product necessary to achieve production, and they apply it to the base of each tree three times. This is done for both economic and environmental reasons. Additionally, a spray of minor elements (zinc, boron, copper, etc.) is applied to the underside of the leaves. This spray nourishes the plant and protects it from diseases.
Insecticides are not used on the farm. Fortunately, the geographic advantages of the farm’s climate and altitude limits the number of insect pests. Most importantly, through our careful cultivation and weeding techniques we produce coffee trees which are strong and healthy. The few pests that we have do not significantly affect the trees.
With the end of the rainy season comes the ripening of the coffee cherries. The large green cherries begin to turn either red or yellow and fill with the sweet miel (honey) that surrounds the seeds. Unlike the flowering, the ripening of the fruit is slow and uneven. Because of this, harvesting the fruit must be performed carefully. Only the ripe fruit is picked, leaving the still unripe fruit for subsequent pickings. We pick each tree on the farm up to five times to harvest the fruit.
The crop cycle of the farm ends with the “repela”, or the final picking of the trees. This usually occurs at the end of February, and during this pass, all the coffee cherries, both ripe and unripe, are removed from the trees, preparing the trees for the next year’s cycle.
The terrain of the farm is very difficult, and they move a great deal of weight in coffee fruit. To aid in the transport of the coffee and to provide access to all areas of the farm, there are a total of about 30 kilometers of internal road system. As well as the office and storage buildings, there are 23 housing units within the farm. There is also a camp with showers, indoor plumbing, and cooking facilities for pickers who live too far away to travel every day. All the water used in these facilities is fed by springs and is perfectly safe to drink.
They have a core of 80 full time employees. This includes managers, farm workers, clerical staff, drivers, and maintenance personnel. Full time employees have access to on site housing for themselves and their families on the farm when available for as long as they need it. This core of people is augmented by approximately 150 contracted laborers to perform weed control and over 600 pickers during the harvest. It is their policy to assist their workers by actively supporting them in their lives outside of working hours. They contribute matching funds to the workers’ association savings plans. This money is used for retirement savings or to fund large purchases such as appliances or furniture. Each year the association organizes a bus trip to Golfito in Southern Costa Rica where large tax-free purchases can be made.
The association encourages and funds sports programs. There is a soccer team for the adult men, as well as a junior team.
They have set up an at cost commissary on the farm for the workers. Bulk purchasing power is used to supply inexpensive goods to cover the workers’ basic needs. Additionally, there are 3,000 citrus trees (oranges, grapefruits, and limes) as well as avocados and mangoes throughout the farm.
Their own medical clinic is located on the farm near the administration building. A doctor staffs this clinic two days a week to administer to the needs of the workers and their families. They also have a dentist at the farm three days a week to attend to the dental needs of the farm community. The goal of this clinic is to provide preventative care. Detailed records of the medical histories of every person on the farm are kept for future reference. Private hospital care for more serious illnesses is also available.
In San Jose, they have eight people who handle the accounting, quality control, mill management and exportation of all the coffee that we ship. They supervise the preparation of the coffee at the mills and coordinate subsequent shipping. Not one bean of coffee is shipped without prior quality testing and approval at this office.