Ditta Artigianale’s journey around the world continues with El Diamante coffee from Costa Rica
Costa Rica is the new stage of the journey around the world of specialty coffee, in order to discover the most sought-after varieties, grown by producers who, together with the team of experts of Ditta Artigianale roasting under the guidance of Francesco Sanapo, built a direct relationship of trust.
The protagonist of the month is “El Diamante” from Finca El Cerro in Costa Rica run by the Fernández Morera family with agronomist Esteban Villalobos Corrales, pioneer of the anaerobic fermentation process.
Finca El Cerro extends over 14 hectares of land at San Rafael de San Ramón, in the province of Alajuela, Costa Rica. The owner Carlos Fernández Morera manages the lands and all the post-production steps together with his family and in close collaboration with the agronomist Esteban Villalobos Corrales, who calibrates the fermentation phase. Morera is a member of Café de Altura de San Ramón Especial SA (Café de Altura), an association founded in 2004 which currently has more than 3500 members, who receive technical support to increase the quality and productivity of their coffee.
Finca El cerro’s coffee has an exotic, sweet and spicy taste that has reached high levels of quality over the years and scored 90 SCA points, reaching the eighth position at the Cup of Excellence in 2018. “El Diamante” variety is an example of how innovation and research can bring enormous benefits to all small producers. What makes this quality unique is the particular processing that takes place through a careful anaerobic method: the coffee, after being de-pulped, is put to ferment covered by its own mucilage in an airtight tank. Temperature, Brix, PH, time and pressure are carefully controlled to enhance the flavours. After 24 hours of fermentation, it is transported to greenhouses for drying, exposed to the sun for 4 days and then in the shade, on african raised beds, for 18-22 days. As a last step, it is left to rest hermetically sealed for three months. Villalobos’ method spread rapidly all over the world and was taken up by many producers.
Says Esteban Villalobos Corrales: “The idea was realised during the 2013/2014 season, with the production of the first batch processed anaerobically. A project made of passion, ambition and inspiration. Knowing today that the process has spread all over the world makes me really happy because it shows that the technique improves quality in a positive way, adding value to the final product.
“I agree that other countries or companies carry out the process,” he continues, “it is a question of ‘supply and demand’; we have great coffee and customers who request it. Our profile remains very distinctive even if other people make anaerobic coffees; there are many differences due to the factors involved such as origin, country, temperature, variety, ripeness and other variables.
“There has been a huge shift in demand and interest in our coffee since we started. Coffee has gained popularity in the country and around the world. Many Barista champions have used El Diamante for national and international competitions (WBC and Brewers Cup), obtaining excellent results and always placing themselves in excellent positions.”
On the meeting with Ditta Artigianale, Corrales says: “Victor, a friend who worked for ICAFE (Costa Rica’s Coffee Institue), went to Honduras. The goal of the trip was to discuss and share news and culture about coffee and he asked me for an anaerobic sample to take with him to have a cupping during the meeting. Francesco was one of the people who would attend and when he tasted it he really liked it. The result was an excellent feedback and the contact with Ditta Artigianale. From that moment our collaboration began and every year El Diamante reaches Italy.”
On the world of innovation, he adds: “The aspects to discover are still many on the coffee world, innovation has no limits: what has been demonstrated so far is only the tip of the iceberg. We are really proud of our work but repeating the same thing over many years is not going to turn you into a pro. Constancy, perseverance, discipline and passion can make the difference and let always be one or two steps ahead. The Specialty Coffee industry must break paradigms and expand to new processing techniques, encouraging producers to innovate not only in the way coffees are processed, but also in precision agriculture with which they could be more efficient (in traceability, quality, yields) and much more competitive.”
Life inside the farm begins early and ends only late in the evening; with the arrival of Covid-19 it was not always easy to manage the supply chain in the best possible way: “I usually get up at 7:00. Once I arrive at the office, I greet my colleagues and of course I make a Chemex or a V60 to start the day with energy, then the batch checks and checks at the mill start up into the night — the hard part of the pandemic was taking care of the visitors; it is an aspect we particularly care about and that we have continued to do with all our commitment. It is not taken for granted in this period.”
On new projects, he reveals: “Among the projects I’m working on is a new anaerobic fermentation with different varieties such as SL28, Geisha, Hybrids H1, H17 and Milenium, yellow Catuai, Bourbon. The idea is to have different, very exclusive and unique profiles. I already have my own batch of anaerobic H17, grown, collected and processed by myself. I’m so proud: I can’t wait to keep growing in terms of production and quality every year”.
Costa Rica El Diamante is available on the online store www.dittaartigianale.it and at the coffee shops in Florence.