Imperio Rojo, Chirripo
The mountain with the highest altitude in Costa Rica is Chirripo at 3820 meters, sitting in the Chirripo National Park. Supposedly, you can see the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean from the peak. On one of these visits we'll save some time for the hike, because I'm told I can't miss it every time I'm on my way to see Jose Alvarado.
This year we had a nice long visit spanning nearly the full day. Jose's going through a tough time in his personal life and I'm going to leave the overall details out due to respect for our relationship - though we spent a chunk of time, as friends, discussing his issues.
We arrived to Imperio Rojo around 9:00am after staying the night in a nearby town called San Isidro de Perez Zeldon. His house is built on the same piece of land as the micro-mill, so we started our day there. As we were walking around the drying beds and saw the last bits of this season's coffee drying there, I asked what the date was, after examining a certain bed. Jose responded, "February 19th. It's my birthday." After I smiled and wished him a happy birthday, he fetched a few beers and we had a cheers for him. *Note, yes it was 9:30am when we had this beer.
We spent an hour or so touring the drying beds, drinking this beer and catching up. Then proceeded down the road to see the farm Los Higuerones, which spans about 1600-2050m and is planted mostly with Catuai and Caturra. Normally, we do this ascent in the back of an old pick up truck. But this time, Jose had a new Hilux which meant I got a real seat and didn't need to sit in the hitch. I was a pretty happy camper.
The coffee trees looked fantastic. They were healthy, their leaves were a deep green colour and they had loads of visible preparation for next season's harvest. The issue he was having at the moment was consistent workers... There were still cherries on the tree that need to be harvested, but a chunk of his workers had decided there wasn't enough cherries for them to make good money that late in the season. So, he's had to pay even more then he did two weeks ago to sustain their employment as harvesting Higuerones himself is well out of his reach. To put it in perspective, he has about 50 workers at the farm to handle the harvest.
We stopped at the peak of the farm, the 2050m portion, as we've done every year we've visited. *This is our fifth year purchasing from Jose and his fifth year of operations. It was interesting to see the plants toward the top of the farm as they've had difficulty with growth, which Jose said had a lot to do with the temperature change, as you climb up the mountain. They produced sweet and plump cherries, but they're stature was rather short. I thought it was interesting.
We usually have lunch with Jose during our visit at this spot on the farm, but we ate at his house instead. Fransisco Jose mentioned to Jose that I came 5th in the World Barista Championships, so they had me brew a few cups of coffee for us to share. Which was fun. It extended our visit, which I enjoyed.
We purchase about 35% of Jose's overall production, so this relationship is really important for us at Rosso. I was grateful for the length of time we got to spend together, for him sharing the personal issues he's facing and the consistency he's able to maintain with his coffee. If you've tried our Two Wheel Espresso, this has been a mainstay component of it for the last four years.
Overall, it was a really positive visit with Jose. We’ll cup lots of samples on Wednesday and see which lots of his we’ll make out with this season. Stoked!