Costa Rica: Aquiares Estate Centroamericano Red Honey

Black tea, violet, caramel and roasted hazelnut

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Country: Costa Rica
Region: Turrialba
Farm: Aquiares Estate
Producer: Diego Robelo
Process: Red Honey
Harvest: November-March
Altitude: 1200 meters

Aquiares farm is a case study in progressive, innovative coffee farming. Founded in 1890 by farmers looking to take advantage of Costa Rica´s railroad to the port of Limón, Aquiares would grow to become the largest coffee farm in the country with over 200 employee homes on the farm.

Under the leadership of Alfonso Robelo, the farm underwent a transformation starting in the 1990s; Alfonso created opportunities for workers to purchase their own homes on the estate, evolving the farm into a strong community. Today, the community of Aquiares has its own primary school, a youth sports program, a recycling committee, an early childhood nutrition center, and 96% of Aquiares employees own their own houses.

Alfonso's son, Diego Robelo manages the farm and oversees their Carbon Neutral and Rainforest Alliance certifications. Aquiares devotes 80% of its land to growing high quality coffee and the remaining 20% to conservation.

With over a dozen natural springs and nearly 20 kilometers in streams all protected by buffer zones, Aquiares regularly hosts researchers from around the world who conduct agricultural and environmental studies on their land. As part of Costa Rica’s Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action, Aquiares farm measures its greenhouse gas emissions and plants trees in designated plots to offset the farm's carbon footprint.

Centroamericano H1 is an F1 hybrid variety generated by crossing the Sarchimor T-5296 and a wild Rume Sudan variety. The variety was created by a consortium including French research institute CIRAD, a regional network of national coffee institutes in Central America (PROMECAFE), and a coffee genebank in Costa Rica (CATIE).

Turrialba’s climate is well suited to growing this new variety, and Aquaires is up to the challenge of meeting its complex nutritional needs. This hybrid represents the best of the farm and cupping worlds because it is high-yielding and rust-resistant, and also has a complex, elegant cup profile.

Honey processing removes the coffee pulp or cherry skin but leaves the sweet mucilage intact on the coffee bean during the drying stage.

The descriptor “red” refers to the color of the mucilage as it dries on the coffee beans. This is later hulled off with the parchment during milling, but the sugars have been absorbed into the coffee bean giving greater dimension to the final cup. Red Honey from Aquiares is dried on raised beds for 18–24 days.