Varietal: Caturra, Catuaí, Obatá, Marsellesa
Processing: Fully washed & dried in mechanical driers
Altitude: 1,200 metres above sea level
Owner: Coope Libertad
Town / City: Tibás, San Juan, San Jos
Region: Central Valley
Matinilla La Libertad - Costa Rica
This coffee was produced on Finca Higuerones, owned by the Coopelibertad, a cooperative based in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. The cooperative purchased the farm in the mid 1990’s from the Tournon Family, a well-known and historic coffee farming family from the country. At the time, there was a worry that the farm would be subsumed by urban sprawl, as it lies just outside of the city of San Jose. The coop prioritised this fertile and beautiful coffee farm, and together voted to save it.
This action is very much in keeping with Coopelibertad’s roots and ethos. The organisation was born from the cooperative movement of the 1960s and is founded on the principles of equality and democracy, as the name suggests.
In the Province of Heredia at the beginning of the 1960s, the only companies who owned any significant capital in the coffee industry were large private companies and wealthy family enterprises. Small farmers had no access to technical assistance or financing and were severely disadvantaged when it came to marketing their coffee. In the rare cases where a loan was offered, it came accompanied with asphyxiating interests. In this environment, many farmers were regularly confronted with the loss of property and their one source of income, even when experiencing the smallest bout of bad luck. The life of a small coffee farmer was precarious.
There was an urgent need to find a solution. Many in the region began to speak of the need to free themselves from a system that was at once holding back the economic, social and cultural development of small coffee producers and at the same time concentrating wealth in very few hands, widening a very dangerous social gap.
In response to these economic circumstances, the National Bank of Costa Rica established the Department of Cooperatives, whose objective was to encourage the creation of well-founded organisations, composed of small and mid-sized farmers in solidarity with a philosophy of service over immediate profit.
On April 9, 1961, a group of coffee growers from Heredia, operating with the advice of representatives of the National Bank, formed the Central Committee for the Organization of a Coffee Growers Cooperative. The group began with 267 associates. Of course, this new organisation had to be given a name, and in one of the first sessions of the Board of Directors its Vice President, Mr. Luis Omar Chavarria proposed:
"This company was born as a protest of the small coffee growers, who in turn saw in the union of their efforts, the opportunity to be free to manage their small businesses as they please and once and for all, not to be evermore subject to the whims of the wealthy, I propose that our Cooperative be named COOPE LIBERTAD RL."
The reasoning implicit in the proposal summarised exactly the feelings of the small coffee growers and their desire to have their own organisation. The name was accepted unanimously.
Today, more than five decades after its foundation, Coopelibertad has brought under its umbrella the majority of coffee producers in the Province of Heredia. Its name, backed by the quality of its product, is recognized by the most important coffee entities in the national and international market. Today, Coopelibertad represents approximately 3,500 hectares of cultivated coffee land, mostly farms of small and medium producers. The organisation has 540 full-time members and serves a similar number of independent (non-member) producers, all of whom have also selected Coopelibertad as their best option to market their coffee.
The Cooperative receives coffee cherry in several collection centres dotted throughout the province of Heredia, including one in San Jose, Moravia, where this coffee was harvested and processed. All the collection centres are located at more than 1,200 meters above sea level.
The coffee producer associated with Coopelibertad is characterized by a long tradition of cultivation, good knowledge of the agricultural work that the crop needs, and execution of good practices in soil conservation and environmental stewardship. Most farmers grow Caturra and Catuaí, though Centroamericano, Obatã and Marsellesa are increasingly common due to their resistance to coffee leaf rust.
Coopelibertad plays a huge role in agricultural extension services for their members. Soil analysis is conducted every two years, at the very least, and Icafe (the Costa Rican Coffee Consortium) advises on inputs and composition. The cooperative advises on every aspect of coffee cultivation, from improving soil Ph to organic compost recipes and applications. Chemical inputs are kept to a minimum. On Finca Higuerones, which observes model practices, Glyphosate (an herbicide) is applied just once a year, and the plan is to phase out applications altogether in exchange for organic methods, for example shade management and pruning.
All coffees processed by Coopelibertad, such as this one, are selectively hand harvested and then transported from the various collection centres to Moravia, just outside San Jose, where Beneficio Libertad (the group’s wet mill) is located, in this case less than 1 km away from the farm itself. The farm’s workforce increases from 4 people year-round to around 30 during peak season in order to ensure quality processing.
Cherries are sorted by weight using water channels. The coffee is then pulped and delivered to fermentation tanks, where it will ferment for 6 to 12 hours, depending on weather.
After fermentation, the coffee is washed through channels. In order to ensure the mucilage is fully removed, the cooperative uses a Centriflux demucilager. After this stage, the wet parchment will be moved to Berico Pre-drying machines, which use warm air and agitation to fully dry the skins. After this, the coffee is dried slowly in Guardiolas for between 12 to 20 hours.
As a Rainforest Alliance certificated organisation, environmental care is a high priority for the organisation. 15% of Finca Higuerones is under conservation, and Coopelibertad has a number of programmes across their group to protect water, rivers, soil and to prevent contamination. They are in conversation with the Costa Rican government regarding developing ecotourism projects and aim to be carbon neutral by 2021.