The communities of San Vito and Sabalito are located next to one another in the far south of Costa Rica, less than a mile from the Panama border. Coffee was first cultivated here in 1950 by Italian colonialists who, together with indigenous Costa Ricans, established the first plantations. The production has grown since then, along with the area’s population, due to the favorable climate conditions, however coffee here is still not as established as in Costa Rica’s more prominent producing areas, due to lower levels of producer investment.
Beneficio FJ Orlich La Amistad is a young centralized wet mill operation, established in only 2021, by FJ Orlich & Hermanos Limitada, a long-standing local company who for the past 5 years has worked directly with small coffee producers in farm management and renovation, the planting of productive arabica hybrids, and harvest financing. The mill services 150 local farms with an average size of 4 hectares apiece. The goal, being a remote operation for underserved small farms, is to support business and environmental sustainability in their area. In addition to processing and marketing coffee, the group has established Casa de la Alegría, a community space to care for children of farmworkers during harvest, where they can be engaged and fed throughout their parents’ workday.
Harvest on contributing farms is carried out entirely by hand: picking occurs from morning to mid-day and cherry is delivered until the end of the afternoon. Once delivered cherry is immediately transferred by siphon to begin depulping and fermentation, which takes 12 hours to complete. The following morning the fermented parchment is scrubbed clean of residual mucilage and transferred to a combination of vertical and drum-operated mechanical dryers for drying. Dry milling takes place at Beneficio Cafex, located in Cartago, near San José, to be prepared for export.