Big and complex: tangy red grape reminiscent of a red wine gum with a coconut-like sweet finish.
Las Lajas was one of the jewels in the sourcing trip to Costa Rica back in March and I'm excited to share this fabulous Yellow Honey from their farm Finca San Luis with you.
Francisca and Oscar Chacon own the Las Lajas micro-mill located in Sabanilla de Alajuela in the Central Valley region of Costa Rica.They inherited their farms from their grandparents, and are known for being among the first to process high-quality Honeys and Naturals in Central America.
Organic coffee in Costa Rica is almost nonexistent, and with this caliber of cup makes it one of a kind; they believe in the preservation of the environment hence their organic practices. Las Lajas processes coffee from their family farms and are fully traceable and separated by day lots. Water use is minimal, since none of the coffee is washed. During the harvest, Francisca will measure the Brix content in the coffee cherry to determine the optimal time to pick the coffee. 21–22% Brix content has been the maximum they’ve seen.
Las Lajas were the first to produce naturals in Costa Rica and are still recognised as offering some of the best honeys and naturals in the region. We were told the story of their first natural harvest in 2008 by Francisca which was borne out of necessity rather than desire. An earthquake cut-off the mills water access for several weeks and Oscar used his knowledge of Ethiopian and Brazilian practices to dry the cherries without depulping them. At that time, Andrew Miller the founder of Cafe Imports was visiting and tasted these 'naturals'. He liked what he tasted, bought it and committed to future harvests.
Oscar believes that just as the roast profile will change the flavour of a coffee, the drying curve also has an impact. He wants the drying to happen slowly, which means that production is necessarily limited but quality is high. We were encouraged to dig deep into the mounds of sticky mucilage covered coffee to see how the temperature changed. Cooler on the outside, warmer the deeper you went. This is used for specific periods in their drying tunnels after initial drying on their raised beds, to control microbial activity.
One of the unique aspects of the Las Lajas honey processing is the fact that the same de-pulping process takes place ie. the same amount of mucilage remains. The colour of the honey is determined by how the coffee is dried:
Yellow Honey: 100% mucilage left on, coffee turned hourly on the bed
Red Honey: 100% mucilage left on, coffee several times a day on the bed (less frequently than Yellow Honey)
Black Honey: 100% mucilage left on, coffee turned only once per day