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Re-Introducing Community Coffees of Costa Rica

Five Senses CoffeeJacob Ibarra 4 August 2014

At times, promoting a coffee in our hyped up, over-energised, pre-release state may appear (I would guess) to teeter on being a blatantly self-indulgent exercise. This conundrum is what I, and we at Five Senses, feel consistently as the release of this year?s Community Coffees from Costa Rica draws near. We are ecstatic about how they have landed, and the basis of the project has produced such great social yields that we cannot help but gladly — and perhaps in a slightly over-the-top fashion — announce their entry into our line-up.

For those of you who are in need of a memory jog, the Community Coffee project was an endeavour instigated by CoopeTarrazu some three years ago. CoopeTarrazu, like many co-operatives in Costa Rica, has a rich history of bringing small scale producers together. But instead of creating a massive bulk lot with little traceability other than the factor of coming from the general region of Tarrazu, the co-operative decided to listen to broader market trends and keep certain communities? coffee separate. This was great for a number of reasons.

For one, it helped to create an increased brand identity for coffee from individual communities. Producers and the people of the community now receive a personalised recognition that was unattainable previously. For example, during my last visit I met an older woman who in her 30+ years of farming had never received a single visit from a buyer or anyone on this side of the supply chain. Can you imagine that? Something as simple as putting a face to the end user of her coffee now gives a greater sense of purpose to her work. For us, of course, we gain a level of specificity and traceability that is crucial in promoting this coffee. However, the true greatness of this programme is actually something else.

A premium is inserted into the co-op?s given price for a coffee. This premium, unlike others, is kept completely separate until the harvest is finished. So not only do the farmers get paid for their cherries but, as a collective whole, they decide how the premium will be spent to benefit the entire community. What has been achieved is nothing short of tremendous. For example, the community of La Trinidad invested in road maintenance. They added weights to support certain sections of the road and developed a sewer system with clean drains. The community of Alto San Juan invested in an improved water system which creates potable water not only for their entire community, but also for many of the smaller surrounding communities. Thus the project has had huge and very real impact on the lives of the people and communities involved.

Lastly, keeping the coffee from individual communities separated means we can pick out those coffees which best fit the profiles we are looking for. This year, we have chosen coffee from four different communities. All of them are stunners ? and one that is new to the programme at large has huge potential! These coffees will be replacing the Peru Apu in the line-up. So, without further ado, I?d like to (re)introduce you to the La Trinidad, Guadalupe, Canet and San Guillermo communities.

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