Chirripo + Imperio Rojo
Dave and I have a younger sister, Stella, who turns 7 today. Last year on her birthday we phoned her from Tarrazu. We left Tarrazu first thing this morning, bound for Chirripo. It's funny to be in the same place exactly one year apart to the day. Nice memories.
We hit the road after another one of Cecilia's great breakfasts. We made our coffee, packed our bags back up and jumped in the van. We had something like a two hour drive. I'm not sure what distance that truly covers, because the roads climb up and down mountains like snakes. We gained over a thousand meters and came back down about the same. Quite the spectacular drive as far as views go.
We're in a pretty big van, and a lot of the roads in the rural areas aren't paved or grated nicely. So at one point, we turned off the highway, met up with Jose and followed him down a pretty steep hill. We had to stop for 15+ minutes to let the brakes on the van cool down, because they were used in such excess. We decided to actually leave the sucker behind and loaded up into Jose's pick up truck. We were now Dave, Francisco Jose, Jose, our three new Aussie friends from the night prior, and myself. That's a busy pick up truck on bumpy roads.
We arrived safely at Jose's mill, Imperio Rojo, and were toured around by him and his wife Annie. Their mill isn't huge, but it's also not small. They have a nice amount of drying beds for the peak of the harvest, which weren't full when we were there today. Another harvest was planned for next week, they're just waiting for the cherries to get to that nice red/purple colour.
Our group of 6, plus Jose and Annie, loaded back up in the pickup and proceeded to the farm to see their trees. It's seriously such an unbelievable place. Chirripo, isn't truly a coffee growing region, or at least not historically. The tallest mountain in Costa Rica is named Chirripo and this sub-region, named after that mountain, has been growing coffee for about 8 years. It technically falls in a region called Brunca, which is one of Costa Rica's eight producing regions. But Chirripo should get its own little bracket, because it's amazing.
Annie packed our group a picnic for when we arrived at the top of the farm, Hijeron, which sits at 2000 meters. We had the same experience last year, and it was just as unbelievable this year. We checked out his trees, he pointed to where his 19 hectares of land start and finish, and showed us where he plans to grow some new exotic varieties. It was a very inspiring experience that gets us excited for the future, working together with José.
After lunch, we all hopped into his hitch, headed back to his micro-mill and organized some samples for us to taste tomorrow. We said our goodbyes and thanks, shared a bag of his coffee (which we brought from home) and made our way. Similar to yesterday, we hopped around to a few different mills, now back in our van, picked up samples, shook hands and toured practices and procedures.
Once we made our way out of Chirripo, hitting 5 of the 8 current mills there, we were in the town of San Isidro. We stopped for a quick coffee at Specialty Coffee, a little shop in town, and jumped in the van bound for San Jose. Three and a half hours away.
Francisco Jose threw a little curve ball our way and took us to a beach town called Haco for dinner. We had all made comments about how many sourcing trips we'd been on, and how we'd never touched a beach. Personally, this is my seventh visit to a producing country and not even a second on a beach or in a body of water. We ate dinner on the beach and followed dinner with a swim under a full moon and star studded sky. The water was warm like a bath, and it was honestly the perfect way to wrap up a day spent in the hitch of a pick up.
Tomorrow, we're back at the lab in San Jose to cup coffees, finalize our purchases and wrap up our 2017 Costa Rica trip.