Farm: Las Lajas Organic Farm
Varietal: Caturra, Catuaí
Processing: Red Honey
Altitude: 1,300 to 1,500 metres above sea level
Owner: Chacón Solano Family
Town / City: Los Angeles, Sabanillas de Alajuela
Region: Central Valley
Las Lajas Red Honey – Organic - Costa Rica
The Chacón Solano Family has been growing coffee at Las Lajas for over 80 years and for three generations. The current generation, headed by Oscar and Francisca Chacón, began farming organically around 30 years ago and in 2000 became one of only a handful of farms in Costa Rica to be officially certified organic. The family strives not only to farm in an environmentally and socially responsible way, but also to produce coffee of the highest quality. They are innovative with regards to processing and were one of the early innovators in Costa Rica with regards to perfecting different honey and natural methods of processing.
Las Lajas is located at 1,300 to 1,500m in the foothills of the Poás volcano, in prime specialty coffee country in the Sabanilla de Alajuela region of Costa Rica’s Central Valley. This lush, fertile area is characterised by heavy and regular rainfall of around 3,000mm for 150 days of the year.
The farm produces 100% Arabica coffee, Caturra and Catuaí varietals, which is grown in the shade of native trees. Organic composts are produced on site using vermiculture (worm composting), and the production process is entirely free of chemicals and agro-toxins.
The harvest starts in December and runs until February. The cherries are selectively handpicked, to ensure that only fully ripe and good quality cherries are collected. These are then processed at the farm’s state-of-the-art micromill, where the cherries are pulped using an ecological ‘dry’ pulper, saving thousands of litres of water in the process. The bean is then processed according to the Red Honey method (see below). All of the left-over coffee pulp is recycled and used as fertiliser on the farm.
This coffee has been processed according to the Red Honey method at the Chacón Solano Family’s Las Lajas micromill, which in addition to processing all of the Las Lajas coffees also processes coffees from the surrounding region. In fact, in 2008, the mill contributed to Francisca Cubillo Salas’ Cup of Excellence win!
‘Honey’ processing is a form of pulped natural process that is common across Costa Rica. Different designations of white, yellow, red and black honey are commonly used among Central and South American farmers and commonly refer to differences in:
- the amount of mucilage left on the bean after pulping;
- how the beans are dried (i.e. direct sunlight or shaded conditions);
- the length of time and conditions under which the beans are dried.
Loosely, the following guidelines are followed when categorising a honey:
- 80-90% of the mucilage is removed
- Beans are dried on raised beds in direct sun
- Beans dry quickly in the intense heat and the parchment becomes white in colour
- 50% of the mucilage is removed
- Beans are dried in conditions of low wind and medium sunlight
- Beans are raked 3 to 4 times a day and dry for up to a week
- 80-90% of the mucilage remains on the bean
- Beans are dried on raised beds in overcast or shaded conditions
- Beans are raked on the first morning and then only once or twice in the afternoon
- Mucilage is left as close to intact as possible
- Beans are dried on raised bed in fully shaded conditions
- Beans are not moved at all on the first day and are then raked once a day; drying time can take up to three weeks.