The Chacon family have been growing coffee high on the slopes of the Poas Volcano in Costa Rica’s Central Valley for three generations. Finca Las Lajas, their beautiful organic farm is well protected from the all-consuming midday sun by the shade of the Flame Trees that tease your eye with their blaze of floral orange.
Oscar Chacon and his wife Francisa, who run the farm, faced their difficult yet defining moment in 1995, when Oscar’s father died of cancer. Deeply suspicious that various agrichemicals stored below the living quarters and widely used on the farm at the time were responsible for Mr Chacon’s cancer, Oscar and Francisca responded by banning the use of such chemicals from Las Lajas. Transitioning to eco-friendly and sustainable organic practices was the only way forward and it took five years to rehabilitate the soil and change around the whole complex and intertwined system of agricultural practices. In 2000, Finca Las Lajas became the first coffee estate in Costa Rica to be certified organic.
Since then, Francisca who has taken charge of processing the organic Caturra and Catuai coffees, through her own curiosity, creativity and entrepreneurship has developed what can truly be described as unique hand-crafted, artisan coffees. With a systematic use of a Brix sugar-meter and through rigorous experimentation she crafted the drying processes that bring about different levels and types of sweetness in the coffee while it dries in its mucilage on raised African style beds.
This work gave birth to now famous ‘Red Honey’ coffee that is ripe melon super-sweet with a big mouth feel and the farm’s most famous product, the ‘Black Pearl’ or ‘Perla Negra’. Perla Negra is a natural processed dried-in-the-fruit coffee, processed using the most complex of Francisca’s profiles. The hand-picked cherries are first carefully sundried on raised beds then further dried under a black shroud to create warmth that serves as a catalyst to develop even more natural sugars. The cherries turn black and emanate a heady aroma akin to that of a Christmas cake mixture with its rich fruits, soft brown sugar and a splash of fine sherry. The final product is an organic coffee of true distinction that is sweet, syrupy and dominant with the bouquet of ripe fruit flavours.
To us, Oscar and Fransica's determination, that led to these spectacular results, is a shining example of what can be achieved when creative souls, warm hearts and calculating minds work together to give us a spectacular coffee that is better for us, better for the Earth and better for those who grow it.