San Lorenzo is one of the highest altitude districts in Tarrazu, the main coffee producing region of Costa Rica. It produces some of the highest scoring, most beautiful coffees t...
San Lorenzo is one of the highest altitude districts in Tarrazu, the main coffee producing region of Costa Rica. It produces some of the highest scoring, most beautiful coffees to be found on any cupping table in the world.
Our Historic Links
Atkinsons and Costa Rica go back a long, long way, perhaps even to the dawn of the Victorian Age. Just as we were founded in 1837 so coffee from Costa Rica started coming in to British waters, in the early 1840's. The trade routes that opened up made Costa Rican coffee one of the most popular origins on the dining tables (and presumably the cafés?) of Britain. For the next century, up until 1945 and the end of the Second World War more coffee from Costa Rica made its way to Britain than any other consuming nation.
An Old Favourite
So, it is more than likely that some of that coffee landed here at St George's Quay, when Lancaster was a major West-facing port. We have found some very old Atkinsons coffee lists with Costa Rica featured on them. I know that it was the favourite coffee of my predecessor, Eric. He worked here for more than 50 years and that will have resulted in a lot of personal recommendations! I can see in the old ledgers, that Lillian, who worked here for a very happy 67 years, only bought the best available at that time. It was always from Tarrazu, and usually San Marco or San Paulo.
I carried on that tradition when we took over in 2005. When the Community Lots were introduced to us by D R Wakefield in 2011 we quickly joined the programme which provided us with traceable coffee, that also supported the local community in Tarrazu.
A Genuine Relationship
I immediately cleared my diary when the chance came to visit the region. Who wouldn't prioritise a trip to paradise?! Landing there on Valentine's Day, I witnessed a country so steeped in coffee that there is evidence of it everywhere you look. Needless to say I fell in love with the place!
That the economy and the culture of the country should be so intertwined with coffee is not surprising when you consider that the first trees were planted there in the 1780's. Some families have been working in coffee for many generations and I had always been keen to connect with this origin and with Coope Tarrazu that we have been buying from for all these years. We share some common ground as multi-generational family coffee businesses.
San Lorenzo itself was founded as a Co-op in 1923 and is just 3.5km form San Marcos de Tarrazu. So, I feel we have now walked those very slopes where the antecedents of today's farmers will have picked the coffee for us.
Waves of Beautiful Coffee
In the cupping room we supped and slurped our way through wave after wave of equally beautiful coffee, until we reached a point of excellence blindness! At this juncture it's always good practice to, either walk out of the room and walk back in again, to reset the senses, or listen to the consensus. Hearing everyone's comments on what characteristics stood out in which coffee there was one name that kept cropping up. San Lorenzo.
Highest Altitude. Highest Quality.
There's a certain vertigo rush that comes with hitting the heights of the coffee highlands up a dirt track in the back of a pick-up truck that is the pinnacle of any sourcing trip. (Think I've just written my epitaph!) Then seeing full sacks of freshly-picked, fully ripe red cherry by the roadside is just the cherry on the icing of the coffee cake!
The guest Nicaraguan pickers are here harvesting these trees late in the season. This is due partly to their altitude, as the working pattern is from the lower levels climbing up to the highest. The air is clearer and cleaner up here and the trees take longer to grow. They absorb a deeper, richer range of nutrients to give greater complexity to the yield.
The Flavours Revealed
In the cup we pick up refreshing acidity with notes of blackcurrant and floral hop aromas. The accents of spiced rum can be traced back to the natural process and contrast nicely with the syrupy sweetness of the mouthfeel. When cold, the body becomes more rounded and soft fruits appear like peach and papaya. The coffee leaves a good lasting impression in the region of hibiscus, plum and raspberry.