Coffee has been cultivated in Costa Rica since 1779. Currently, the regions producing the highest-quality crops are Tarrazu, West Valley, and Central Valley. Costa Rican coffee production has been threatened over the past decade due to a real-estate boom, which has converted coffee-lands into prime development properties.
In San Jose, the capital, right in the heart of Central Valley, you can find private homes adjacent to coffee farms. It’s not all bad, though, as the value of these farms have now skyrocketed.
One such farm is Don Pepe’s La Casa de Abuela.
This is a coffee you’re not going to find much of in the United States, as Case Coffee purchased this entire micro-lot of yellow-honey-processed (there’s also a fully washed lot from La Casa de Abuela that is available through Cafe Imports). So, the Table is very fortunate that we get to try some of it here today. We certainly weren’t going to get it anywhere else.
This is also a special coffee because of of its processing method: honey-process, which is most commonly found in Brazil where the practice originated—not so much Costa Rica, where this lot comes from. Honey processing is where some of the coffee cherry mucilage (10–50% for yellow honey, 50–100% for red honey) is left on while sun-drying for 2–12 days. The remaining mucilage is absorbed into the core of the bean, altering the final flavor profile.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Costa Rica Don Pepe, from Case Coffee Roasters in Ashland, Oregon. Feel free to pull up a chair.
origin: San Isidro de Leon Cortez, Costa Rica
farm: La Casa de Abuela
producer: Don Pepe
elevation: 1550 meters above sea level
process: honey process, patio dried
The aroma coming off the Costa Rica Don Pepe is inviting and luxurious. Very sweet notes of vanilla and graham cracker waft between the nose and the cup, while floral and tea aromatics of rooibos and cherry blossom flutter behind.
The first few sips have a bit of an aged oak and ginger spice thing happening (no, not THAT Ginger Spice); it seems like the coffee needs a minute or two to collect itself and firm up, so I’m going to let it cool just for a bit.
After a bit of time passes, it’s like a totally different cup. Honestly, at first I thought it was going to be a spicy/earthy affair, but in just two or three minutes this cup has become very sweet, very creamy, practically decadent. It has a very rich vanilla bean ice cream flavor, both in flavor and mouthfeel, as it lays down a creamy bed that spreads over the palate.
As it cools off even more, getting closer to room temperature, tart raspberry and blackberry dance on the center of the tongue, providing a bit of a tartness which offsets the creamy sweetness of that vanilla (which is resembling more of a frozen yogurt flavor now). I’m also getting some tropical fruit flavors towards the bottom of the cup—a bit of cantaloupe, white grape, currant, kiwi, peach, and just the slightest Florida orange acidity that swirls across the palate, leaving behind a clean finish.
What I’m really enjoying about this coffee, though, particularly towards on the tail end of it, is that I can really taste its process coming through. Those natural sugars and honey notes really come through.
Medium body; creamy mouthfeel; citrus acidity; clean finish.
the bottom line:
The Costa Rica Don Pepe, from Case Coffee Roasters, is a somewhat complex coffee that really deserves multiple tastes over multiple devices. It demands a lot of patience, and when you get it right, I think that extra bit of required patience really pays off.
I brewed it with a Hario V60 but I wanted the body to be fuller and the flavors to pop more; I knew I needed more saturation so I attempted it again with a Clever, but I lost the cleanliness and clarity. There were two devices that gave me exactly what I was looking for, though: the Aeropress and the Clever. Furthermore, I imagine that this coffee could withhold an espresso machine and be served as an SOE; it might even be structured well enough to use in capps.
Fantastic coffee from a fantastic company. Well worth looking into. And, as I mentioned earlier, you’re not going to find this honey-processed lot anywhere else, so if you’re going to give it a try, definitely be sure to do so as soon as possible—the sooner the better as I’m guessing this one is flying off Case’s shelves.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.