Do you ever have those moments when there is no doubt in your mind that you are in the right industry? I had one of those moments this week, upon the arrival of an excellent new coffee from a small farm in Costa Rica. My excitement was akin to that of a kid on Christmas morning, ascending the stairs in rapid motion to piles of presents and cookies. I think the delivery driver was wondering why I was pacing back and forth in front of the door while he loaded up the bags.
The coffee is called Costa Rica Alma Negra (Black Soul) and it is grown and processed by Oscar and Francisca Chacon in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. I am excited about this coffee for many reasons; it is incredibly unique from seed to cup. The Chacons are known for being one of the first to produce high-quality organic and naturally processed coffee in Costa Rica. They inherited the farm from Oscar’s grandparents’ and it is steeped with family history. One of the main reasons that the Chacons decided to take the leap and only produce organic coffee is a tragic one. Oscar lost his father to a battle with cancer and it is suspected to have been due to his frequent encounters with pesticides. Other reasons included environmental and quality benefits.
Not only did the Chacons take an expensive chance at getting organic certification, they built their own mill, known as Las Lajas. This is exceptional for a variety of reasons. When a farmer sends their coffee off to a mill, they have no control over what happens next. The coffee could be blended with other coffees or processed in a way that may not benefit the flavor of the coffee in the best way. With owning their own mill, the Chacons take great care in using a wide range of processing methods to find optimum flavor profiles. In turn, this makes the coffee highly traceable, even down to the day it was harvested. The Chacons use mostly natural (dry) processes, using much less water than a standard farm.
After taking copious amounts of pictures of the beautiful bags, I opened one and the fresh, green coffee smells so much like chocolate, you would have thought it had been stored in a Hershey’s warehouse. No time was wasted in getting the coffee into the roaster. The flavors of the brewed coffee are complex, ranging from mandarin oranges to cocoa nibs. The acidity is exciting and lively and the mouthfeel is silky smooth. We will have this coffee for only a short amount of time and I invite everyone to come down to our café and try a cup. You may end up loving it as much as I do!
Wondering where all of your spent coffee grounds go?…
We met up with Beth, Joan, & Phillip at our partner farm, the Peace Garden, to get an official tour of where all of our used coffee grounds go! The Peace Garden is located in between the 15 & the 805 freeways in an urban, repurposed area. This group partners with a local church, Adams Avenue bike shop, and nearby schools to create this beautiful community space.One of our Bean Brain fans, Joan, approached Steve & Laurie about using our spent grounds for the community garden compost about a year ago. She said that she previously was picking up from local coffee shop, Twiggs, but that she wished to collect organic grounds only so she made the switch to Virtuoso. And we sure are happy she did! We divert about 30 gallons of used coffee ground waste from our landfill and this beautiful garden is able to use them to make tasty, nutritious soil.Virtuoso Staffers, Vanessa & Amanda, visited the farm as they are our staff experts on the subject of farming and all things sustainable. These girls had a blast learning about the garden’s permiculture, no till garden boxes, composting technique, heirloom varieties of crops, and tons more.Vanessa sits underneath a shady fortress that Philip built out of used bicycle rims, provided by Adams Ave Bike Shop. Here, cucuzzas grow up these recycled trellises and provide a shady space for groups of kids to learn in the garden on a hot day. Beth tells us about her vision for the long term plans for the garden – a bigger worm composting faciliity, adding chickens to the mix, and an outdoor kitchen for community members to share garden grown meals. She also invites bean brains and the rest of the community to join her on the first Friday of every month for a potluck with garden volunteers.Our coffee grounds go into this hot heap! THe grounds are mixed in with other organic materials to make a potion of nitrogen & carbon, steamed at a high of 120 degrees to create a nutrient rich soil additive. All natural!Thanks Peace Garden!
Visit them at 3850 Westgate Place, San Diego, CA 92105 or at their website here.
October is Fair Trade Month and we would like to celebrate by honoring our farmers from which we buy fair trade coffee! Please look to the coffees with the Fair Trade symbol on our bags and support fair trade all month, and all year round!
Fair Trade means buying commodities at a slightly higher rate per unit in order to provide a livable wage to producers. In our case, this means paying more per pound of coffee beans to our fabulous farmers who work so hard to grow organically, harvested-with-love coffee beans.
Your dollars are going to these countries…Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Peru, Brazil, Ethiopia, & Indonesia. The extra money goes to creating schools, building hospitals, sponsoring new sustainable farming tools and techniques, etc. Virtuoso purchased 75% of its beans this year through Fair Trade channels and hopes to continue the sustainability trend!