This weekend I had the honor of touring Biocafe Oro Tarrazu, located just an hour and half south of San Jose. Being March, most of the coffee had already been picked, processed, dried, and stored, however, we were still able to see all of the equipment and process of how everything functioned.
The harvest season in Costa Rica is generally from December to March. Workers arrive from Nicaragua and Panama to pick the fruit, which is then sent to the processing plant via truck.
Upon arrival at the plant, the coffee is sorted, stripped of its outer layers (depending on the wash [we’ll get into that in a following post]), and dried. Cafe Doga uses mostly water, gravity, and sun to achieve these goals with a “home-made” engineered system.
The fruit is placed into these storage tanks which sorts and temporarily holds the beans until they are ready to be sent, via water, to the “de-pulper.”
After the fruit is transferred, it is stripped of its outer layer (unless it is a natural process which we will get into later) and sorted based on quality. Sitting in water, the beans that float are not yet ripe and are pushed down the line, to be collected in another section and used “Para la casa” instead of being sold or exported.
The heavier, better quality beans, fall through the small slits in a rotating drum and are collected at the bottom on a wheel barrel. The water that brought the fruit to this stage is then recycled back to the beginning to be reused on the next batch.
The coffee is then taken to be dried on African Beds or concrete flooring. African beds are an elevated lining that provides a porous underside, which allows air to flow upwards into the beans, helping prevent moulding and fermentation. On concrete flooring, the beans are also dried by the heat of the ground, however, since there is no airflow as found in African Bedding, the beans must be raked many times a day. Both concrete and African beds take just over 10 days to fully cool the beans.
Interestingly enough, upon arrival to BioCafe Oro Tarrazu, coffee beans usually have a moisture level of about 50%. By the time they are bagged and ready to be shipped, they are sitting at 10.5%. Too much moisture and the risk of mould increases, as does the amount of money the buyer pays for each bean. Too little moisture, the coffee will lose most of its flavor and the farmer will earn less per bean.
Once coffee reaches the desired level of moisture, it is stripped of any leftover casing and bagged, ready to be sold. They must be stored with extreme caution, as extra moisture in the bag could spoil the entire shipment.
Although Cafe Doga is a small, family owned coffee estate, they do provide quality coffee that is carefully processed. Compared to the other estates in the area they are relatively new, but have already made a name for themselves in Costa Rica coffee.
Also, Cafe Doga has started a quite intriguing Ponche de Cafe line. They offer a liquor filled and alcohol free version of the cold milk coffee beverage. I was pretty exhausted from the tour that I didn’t realize which one I had, but I do remember that it tasted amazing.
To the family of Cafe Doga and Biocafe Oro Tarrazu, specifically Mrs. Vargas and Ms. Madrigal, I can’t thank you guys enough for your warm hospitality and an opportunity to see a part of coffee that not many people get to experience. Look forward to running into you guys at the next coffee event!
If you’re interested in contacting Cafe Doga for more information or would like to purchase some coffee, check out their Facebook. Ask them how they came up with the name Doga! Interesting history behind it.