Next: Hacienda La Candelaria

Trip Start Jan 24, 2012
Trip End Jan 28, 2012

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Alajuela,
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Winding through the hills, chatting with our bus mates in true Starbucks fashion, we next disembarked at Hacienda Candelaria, a medium-size family farm owned and operated by German descendants, born and raised in Costa Rica. Beautiful and tidy landscaping surrounded the farm buildings tucked into the hillside amidst tropical foliage.  Here, as at every location, our trip leaders followed good manners: formal welcomes and thank you honoring the host farm, small token gifts presented to the farmers in front of the group.   Then, a hearty meal shared all together prepared us for the work ahead of us:  planting and naming our own coffee trees!  

This 150 acre hacienda is both rainforest certified and Starbucks CAFÉ practices certified.  However, the farm owner, Otto Kloeti, tells us it is not immune to tired soils, lower yields, costs of renovating, global warming, and urban development encroaching upon farm areas forcing farmers to produce more on less land.  Younger generations are also leaving farming to find cool jobs in the city while coffee picking is done by migrant workers from Nicaragua and Panama who can pick 8 bushels a day at $2 a bushel.  So, people asked, why do these farmers do it?  Kloeti answered, three reasons: he enjoys working outside of an office, working with different people during the seasons, and witnessing the pruning and blooming of each plant is rewarding. He even left Costa Rica in his youth to get his agronomy degree at a university in the United States to find better ways to take care of his farm.  

Hacienda Candelaria also has its own wet mill and dry mill on site.   For those reading this who work at Starbucks: you know the training videos we see on coffee processing? Here we were able to see, touch, feel, and smell the beans in water chutes, fermentation tanks, drying patios, and shaking separation tables first hand.  Overall, I was impressed with how meticulously clean and very well organized this farm is.  Still the question remained:  How can we help? 

"Sell more coffee!" 

A final hurrah for the day, we stopped by an artisan workshop, renowned for woodworking, for gifts and dinner.   And here, as we drive back to San Jose, I leave you with food for thought on the complexity of our coffee business from the field to the cup. 

This origin trip is an informal meeting of minds from every level of our company.  Dafne explains drip and whole bean coffee is 1% of her business in Argentina stores, people prefer espresso beverages.  Sara talks about the coffee tastings they do every single day at her store in Florida and their leading whole bean sales.  Justin tells us of chaff catching fire in his Sandy Hill roasters and batches of 500 lbs of coffee ruined each time, which becomes more appalling to him after seeing the detail and complexity on the farms.  Yet, they could roast 24/7 and still not keep up with demand from Costco.  Marino talks about family farms in Colombia that wash and dry their own coffee harvests on patios at home.  Dub tells us of a coffee cooperative in Brazil, the largest in the world, that takes a plane 10 minutes to pass over.  Bruno has his work cut out for him, they're opening 500 new stores in Brazil by 2015.  Paul describes the petite packaging and popularity of "short" drinks in Japan.  Alfonso laughs that the high school and college kids he hires as baristas for his store in Guatemala City park their Mercedes Benz and BMW's next to his dilapidated car.  Chris is assisting with opening a new Starbucks Farmer Support Center in Colombia and Yunnan, China, while plans for the Ethiopian center are dormant because the Ethiopian government keeps changing coffee export laws.  
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