Coffee and conservation in Monteverde
Guillermo Vargas uncurled his fingers. Inside his palm he held a collection of multi-colored berries; waxy, lime-green and cherry-red fruit containing the precious beans that Guillermo and four generations of his family have labored to produce. Though the profession is the same, a lot has changed since 1917 when Guillermo's great grandfather first came to Monteverde and planted coffee.
Monteverde Coffee Farm is a full-scale modern, working coffee farm that also grows vegetables; raises chickens, pigs and goats; makes its own compost and fungicides; and produces its own methane gas. As tourism has blossomed in Monteverde, Guillermo began tours of the farm to provide extra income and educate visitors about coffee production, fair trade, conservation and sustainability.
On the farm
The farm tour starts with an overview of how the farm came to be and its work with the Santa Elena Cooperative. Afterwards, Guillermo walks visitors through the coffee fields, shares his knowledge of the coffee plants and passes around a handful of berries. Along the way, he discusses the farm's transition to becoming fully sustainable demonstrating how the compost is made using leftover matter from the coffee plants. Nothing is wasted on the farm, even the pig waste is used to fertilize the fields and make methane gas for kitchen.
Coffee roasting lab
Guillermo belongs to one of ten families who owns and works the 42-acre farm. In 1989, the farm joined the Santa Elena Cooperative; a fair-trade-certified organization that exports coffee to the U.S. and roasts its own brand of coffee to sell on the farm and in Monteverde. The cooperative built its own roasting lab where specialty coffee roasters find a recipe to bring out the unique flavors of the harvest.
The coffee roasting process begins with small test batches. Roasters experiment with different temperatures, times, and quantities to find the perfect roast.
As they roast, the sugar in the beans caramelizes, the caffeine oil heats up and expands the beans; giving each batch a different flavor. Once they select the best tasting batch, the technicians roast with the optimal conditions a larger batch to sell in the Santa Elena town.
Guillermo's coffee has its own brand too, Cafe Monteverde, a Vienna roast specially chosen to bring out unique flavors of the most recent harvest from the Monteverde Coffee Farm.