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Our Trip to Costa Rica and the Coffee of the Santa Elena Estate


This past spring Susan and I were able to take a few weeks off to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Our destination of choice? Costa Rica. We rented a 4x4 with tent topper and camping set up for water, cooking, and relaxing. This gave us the flexibility to drive around the amazing country and camp out around other wonderful people enjoying the country in a similar way. 

It was so beautiful. We forded a few rivers, camped in the wild watching amazing birds and reptiles while listening to howler monkeys call to one another. One morning we woke up watching the sunrise with a volcano silhouetted in the forefront. At one campsite we took a stroll though a Eucalyptus forest (after being warned to be back by sunset because of the jaguars…gulp!).


One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to the Santa Elena Estate, a farm that we have been purchasing coffee from since Cascadia first started. It was astounding. We met owner, Luzma Molina, a most gracious host and a most wonderful person. Our tour began with meeting Luzma, her husband, Bill, all of the staff in the small offices on the farm. As we enjoyed cups of coffee, we exchanged stories of how each of us were drawn into the world of coffee. We learned of Luzma growing up on coffee farms in Colombia, how she and Bill met (he was a coffee buyer and she a coffee sales rep), and how she came to become the proud owner of the Santa Elena Estate. 


At one point during our visit, she pointed to an old coffin telephone still hanging on the wall, sharing with us that this farm was one of the original sites of the Costa Rican revolution (1940’s) and that phone was used to coordinating the revolutions activities against the government. It was so enlightening and so much fun. 


 After our meet and greet we all piled into the back of a pick up truck lined with cushions to tour a portion of the 300 acre farm. It was breathtaking. Unlike low elevation Robusta coffee grown on flat fields that's harvested by machines, the arabica coffee grown on the Santa Elena Estate is grown in the shade of the jungle and on the steep hillsides of the ravine walls surrounding the office and washing station area.

Our truck wound around the side of the ravine and our stomachs lurched every time we peered downhill as Luzma gave us the history of the farm, the laborers and the different flora and fauna we were observing. Knowing that specialty coffee is hand harvested multiple times during the single harvest season, we asked how the coffee was harvested on the steep hillside. Luz chuckled and explained that during the harvest, the pickers have to rope in with mountain climbing gear to harvest from most of the hilly areas. It was enthralling to hear the stories of the care of the workers who pick only the ripest coffee cherries at the peak of their individual readiness and come back to each tree 2 to 3 times to harvest all of the berries at harvest. 


As Luz shared story after story of the work it takes to grow coffee, we were impressed with her passion for the people who work the farm. Only a small handful of workers work year round on the farm, the majority of workers are seasonal pickers that come only during the harvest season. What impressed us was her descriptions that for the most part, generations of the same families have worked the Santa Elena Farm.


More than one story was of workers who were born at the farm and grew up working the Santa Elena Farm. To these families Santa Elena is a home away from home. Luz explained that with their culture has a strong sense of “family” - 3 generations are present at Santa Elena during harvest. The workers travel as families and children learn to work side by side with their parents (or run off being kids under the watchful eye of the grandparents who are attending to the families needs when all come in after a long day). She talked of the importance and privilege each family holds for keeping their family together through the harvest. The Santa Elena Estate provides housing, food and care for the families while they are there. The respect and feeling of family was described to us as the way every person is treated on the farm.  

Our visit solidified our appreciation of our partnership with Luzma. At Cascadia we hold a similar value on every person being treated with dignity and respect- not just the customers who walk through out door, but the employees who keep Cascadia going. We were impressed with Luzma’s passion for the people she works along side. 

This year we have committed to bringing in our favorite coffee from the Santa Elena Estate, we call it Costa Rica Miel. Miel is the word for “honey” and refers to the honey process used for the coffee we purchase. This process refers to an extended fermentation period where the juices of the coffee beans turn a golden molasses “honey” appearance that is left in contact with the beans imparting more flavor and sweetness to the coffee beans. After the extended fermentation period, the beans are then dried and processed for shipment. This year, the Costa Rica Miel has received the highest score in the past 5 years. 


The Costa Rica Miel is coming here soon for you get your taste of this wonderful coffee from wonderful people. 


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