Oscar and Francisca Chacón are third-generation coffee producers, but the coffee is more than just in their family heritage: It’s in their hearts and souls as well. The couple is committed to quality and innovation, and are among the very first farmers in Costa Rica to produce Honey and Natural process specialty coffee.
In 2005, after years of delivering their cherry to a cooperative for the going market price, they decided to join the brand-new “micromill revolution” and buy their own depulper to have more control over the quality and the price they received for their lots. “At first, we didn’t know what we were doing,” Oscar explains. “We were just experimenting.” That experimentation led to some of the most exciting new flavor profiles we have ever tasted: Now, the Chacons produce a wide range of Honey process coffees, modulating the drying time in order to create different effects in the cup.
Necessity bred more innovation for the family when an earthquake in 2008 wiped out electricity and water to their area during the harvest. Unable to run the depulpers or to wash the mucilage off to produce Washed lots, Francisca took inspiration from her knowledge of African coffee production and quickly built raised beds on the property.
This is a quality cup in and out. Lots of cool tones to play with in the roaster. A bit higher acidity with a strong floral aspect, balanced with a full bodied nutty and chocolaty undertone. Slightly fruit forward but not a fruit bomb. The black honey processing really leave a crazy complex cup with tones ranging from lemongrass to red fruit to nutty/chocolaty and smoky undertones. Super light roasts lean the cup to lemony/floral and will be loaded with more citric lighter tones, not very balanced but very punchy and clean. Darker roasts lean it towards nutty/chocolaty more stout like features with fruity highlights. In the middle, one gets layers of all the lovely flavors in the cup. Crisp and clean lemony floral balanced with sweet and smooth chocolaty undertones than linger on the nuttier side. Hints of fruit will pop out but not hit you over the head.
A fun cup to play with. High chaff and a little uneven roasting, but still pretty easy to roast being tasty from light to dark. If you are not a floral/citric/fruity fan, make sure to get at least a medium roast or somewhere around second crack. New wave coffee fans will love this cup on the lighter side, just slightly past first crack, to still hearing a couple pops will make light roast fans very happy. Setup on this bean is critical to see the depth of flavor, 2-3 days was a sweet spot but depending on personal taste or if used for espresso, the 4-9 day window might be worth the wait.
A glowing example of coffee’s potential in Costa Rica is Finca Calle Lilies in Poas de Alajuela; in the mountains to the north of the country’s capital of San Jose. As little as six years ago there was nothing where Las Lajas now produces exceptional micro-lots. “We’re a family of six siblings, including myself. We wanted a family business that would do just that; keep business in the family. We set out to create jobs for each other and now we almost have more work than we can handle!” – Donna Chacon
Las Lajas’ reputation for quality precedes it; the care with which the Chacon family manages their mill and processing has put their Honey and Natural coffees in steep demand. Doña Francisca proudly showcased the Red and Yellow Honeys – their two favorite lots drying on African beds and the different methods for drying Naturals, some of which are dried in deep layers under plastic and others that are dried on stacked beds. Doña Francisca’s husband, Don Oscar, puts it this way: “We play with processing curves the same way roasters play with roast curves: adjusting the variables of time and temperature to see what characteristics appear in the cup.”
This curiosity and willingness to experiment and find a new level of excellence is apparent in the final product: explosively fruity coffees with complex acidity and a bright finish.