Nereo Ramirez is a small coffee producer from the picturesque region of Llano Bonito de Naranjo in the West Valley of Costa Rica. In his one-and-a-half-hectare farm, Nereo grows Caturra, Catuaí and Villa Sarchi. Like many of his neighbours, Nereo has partnered with famed micro-mill Helsar de Zarcero for all his coffee processing. Helsar is arguably the most progressive coffee mill in Costa Rica, and is owned and operated by one of the nicest and most genuine people we have ever met: Ricardo Perez. We’ve been working with Ricardo since 2010 and every year we have strengthened our friendship. Nereo is consistently one of Helsar’s top coffee producers year after year.
Drying is perhaps the most important and neglected step in the coffee processing chain. It has historically served as a functional aspect of processing coffee. The moisture of the bean must be dried to less than 12% moisture to prevent noticeable damage in transport. While it’s true that the farmer should dry the coffee to a certain moisture level, exactly how the producer dries the coffee to that moisture will determine the green coffee’s shelf life. Nearly all coffee producers are unaware that this seemingly simple step is largely responsible for determining the coffee’s longevity. At Helsar, drying is done in a very standard way for medium sized mills in Costa Rica: one day on a concrete patio, then 30-35 hours in a mechanical dryer called “guardiola”.
Guardiolas get a bad reputation in coffee, but that’s because they are not used properly. In the right conditions, guardiolas can do an amazing and consistent job of drying coffee. So, one of our main projects at Helsar was aimed at improving drying with the use of the guardiola. As part of the project, we first conducted experiments with Ricardo to introduce resting periods for the coffee in the drying process. Our theory was that the life span of coffee is decreased because the coffee is improperly dried, causing it to suffer from premature embryo death and microbial activity due to available water for bacterial growth.
We first set out to test this theory in 2013, and our first step was to extend the drying time by 66%. We were thrilled by the results of these experiments, and from 2014 to 2017 we extended the drying time by another 20% in each of these years. The coffee has not disappointed. It cupped extremely well at every stage of its journey, from its first cupping in Costa Rica to when it arrived in Calgary. This green coffee was frozen immediately upon arrival to Calgary, to further ensure that it stays vibrant and fresh.
PRODUCER: Nereo Ramirez
FARM: Ramirez, 1.5 Hectares
REGION: Llano Bonito, West Valley
ELEVATION: 1650 m
MILL: Helsar de Zarcero
MILL MANAGERS: Ricardo Perez & Marvin Rodriguez
HARVEST DATE: February, 2017
PROCESSING: White Honey
DRYING: Slow Dried in Guardiola
TRANSPORT: Refrigerated Container
STORAGE: Green coffee frozen to preserve freshness