In My Mug

Episode 489 on Monday the 26th of March, 2018. Costa Rica Finca La Pira Red Honey Caturra

March 24, 2018
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La Pira is located in the high altitude Dota valley of the Tarrazu region: an area that was known for producing great coffees. This relatively young estate is only 50 years old and is owned by the founder’s son, Carlos Urena Ceciliano. He has worked the farm for eighteen years; however, he has worked in coffee all his life.

We first found this coffee in the Cup of Excellence in 2009, and we were pleased to be reunited with it only recently after a lot of effort and hard work. Two years ago it proved tricky to secure, stretching both my pocket and patience, but it was well worth it. Thankfully last year and this year things were a little less stretchy and stretchy!

After inheriting the family farm, Carlos worked for many years as a certified organic coffee producer, but he realised doing so was just not possible on this farm. Organic coffee is good, but not possible for everyone. The yield was very, very affected. So Carlos looked for alternatives, while still holding the organic principles very close to his heart. For instance, instead of using chemicals to control the weeds, sheep roam freely amongst the coffee plants and eat the weeds (and strangely leave the coffee plants alone). They work as automatic and mobile 'fertilisation units' (nature’s a wonderful thing). This has eliminated the need for herbicides. This is the kind of thinking Carlos has about coffee.

When I last visited the farm, Carlos told me about how he wakes up in the middle of the night with an idea of how he can improve production, change the way the coffee is harvested and processed, and how systems can be improved upon. I too suffer from this type of sleep deprivation relating to ideas popping into the head, so I can empathise about this.

During one of these late night bursts of inspiration, Carlos thought that using the coldest water he could would be the best way of processing the cherry. During the night the Dota valley gets a really sharp, cold breeze, and it runs through the whole farm. He had noticed the way the water on the mill roof, which sprinkled from processing, was almost frosting up. So he created a sprinkling system and a zinc ramp that the water runs across before hitting the cherries in the fermentation tank.

I am convinced that these little details are what makes this coffee so very very special, and you can taste it in the cup. I don't think it’s the processing so much, but Carlos' care and attention to the very smallest detail.

We have chased this coffee ever since we first had it many years ago from the Cup of Excellence program. It's been tough to get our hands on due to its low yield, but I pestered the exporter we partner with in Costa Rica so much that I got my wonderful and wicked way! In every Skype call and every email I begged them to sort this one out. Even after visiting it wasn't easy, and what is here is a really small lot, but I think you will love it.

In the cup expect candied lemon peel, with a white sugar sweetness that's super clean and finishes with what I can only describe as a toffee stickiness.

  • Country: Costa Rica
  • Region: Tarrazú
  • City: Santa María de Dota
  • Farm: Finca La Pira
  • Farmer: Carlos Ureña Ceciliano
  • Farm size: 7 hectares
  • Altitude: 1,650 m.a.s.l.
  • Variety: Caturra
  • Processing system: Red Honey


Candied lemon peel, white sugar, clean, toffee.

Clean cup: (1–8): 8
Sweetness: (1–8): 7
Acidity: (1–8): 6.5
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 6
Flavour: (1–8): 7
Aftertaste: (1–8): 6
Balance: (1–8): 6.5
Overall: (1–8): 7
Correction: (+36): +36

Total: (max. 100): 90

Roasting Information
Medium – through the gap between cracks but drop before second crack begins.

"Quick Look" Guide
Candied lemon peel, white sugar, clean, toffee.