BV - Los Manzanos
Melon, honey, blackberry jam and milk chocolate with hazelnut.
Situated in the heart of the lush Tarrazú region, one finds the quaint yet bustling farm of Los Manzanos, owned and expertly managed by the diligent Familia Jiménez Chacón - Arleen and María Jiménez Chacón. The family's journey into the realm of coffee cultivation began over four decades ago, when their father, Mario Jiménez Gamboa, transitioned from rearing livestock and cultivating cabuya to fulfilling his lifelong ambition of nurturing his very own coffee plantations. He first acquired a modest farm called Los Bajos, but it was the procurement of Finca Los Manzanos, 31 years ago, that truly realised his dreams.
Los Manzanos, named after the near-mythical rose apple trees that embellish the landscape with their aromatic fruits, is a microcosm of life, an ecosystem teeming with flora and fauna. Two hectares of verdant earth, resting at an altitude of 1600 metres, houses a vibrant community of coffee plants, carefully nurtured to deliver a distinct flavour in every cup. It is here that 80% of the farm's export-grade coffee is born, with additional smaller micro-lots being cultivated, yet to be exported.
Management of this meticulous operation is often handled by a single individual, with a second hand joining during peak periods, and a team of eight skilled harvesters is brought in during the season. These dedicated individuals meticulously care for each plant, ensuring it flourishes under the ideal conditions for yield and taste. The cultivation of coffee on Los Manzanos is an intricate ballet of tradition, intuition, and precision. The coffee plants, mainly of the Caturra and Catuaí Rojo varieties, are planted in rows with a separation of one metre between each plant and a two-metre width for each row. After every harvest, selective pruning is undertaken, ensuring the continued health and productivity of the coffee trees. The farm’s soil is enriched with fertilisers applied three times a year, along with three foliar sprays of organic fertilisers and pest controls. Once every two years, lime is added to balance the soil's pH level, promoting the plant's nutrient absorption.
The journey from coffee cherry to export-ready green bean is an intensive process, executed with precision and care. Once the cherries reach perfect ripeness, they are carefully hand-picked and taken to the wet mill. Here, a combination of depulping and floatation processes ensures that only the prime cherries move forward, while unripe or defective ones are discarded. The beans then undergo a 100% Black Honey process, during which the beans, still covered with a layer of sticky mucilage (or 'honey'), are left to sun-dry on raised beds, regularly turned for uniform drying. Moisture content is monitored meticulously until the ideal level is reached. Each step is diligently recorded in a logbook, ensuring traceability and quality control.
The storage and preparation for export is equally meticulous. Once the coffee has been dried to the optimal humidity, it is stored in jute or plastic sacks, each labelled with the lot's name and securely sewn shut. The sacks are then stored in a secure warehouse at the family home, stacked on wooden pallets and kept away from walls to prevent moisture build-up. The coffee remains in storage for around three months before it is taken to Cartago for hulling, the final step before export.
In terms of their environmental responsibility, the Jiménez Chacón family is striving to attain the ecological Blue Flag certification, demonstrating their commitment to sustainable farming practices. They are also eager to enhance the socio-economic status of their workers by providing them with fair wages and decent housing, equipped with essential facilities. Los Manzanos, however, does not just thrive on coffee. The fertile soil also nourishes an assortment of other crops, such as avocados, bananas, yucca, sweet mandarins, lemons, and jocotes, mostly for family consumption. Moreover, the family also maintains a greenhouse where coffee husk is used to grow vegetables for their own use. Despite the rich harvest and well-established processes, the road has not been entirely smooth. Climate change and a variety of pests, particularly coffee rust, pose significant challenges, affecting yield and causing significant strain on the coffee trees and the soil. Regardless, the family remains undeterred, planning to invest in rust-resistant varieties and new farming techniques, alongside updating the plastic coverings for their drying beds and exploring opportunities to purchase new machinery. Should the operation expand, they hope to offer employment to more people from their community, fulfilling their commitment to improving local socio-economic conditions.