In 2013 the Calderón-Martínez family began processing their own coffee for the first time. It had been only a dream to Omar until that point. Costa Rica has been well-known for large, stable, supportive cooperatives and an environmentally-friendly agricultural sector. Despite the benefits of cooperative farming, a “micro-mill revolution” occurred in Costa Rica in the early 2000s. This was a wave of small community processors that created not just a brand new single-farm market, but a range of cup profiles that Central America hadn’t seen before. Eventually, thanks to the insistence of his wife and four daughters, Omar Calderón-Martínez finally decided to begin himself, and the micro-mill known as “Granitos de Altura” was born. Already managing 8 (!) individual coffee farms at that point, all of which are between 1700-2100 meters of elevation, the family began to use its own equipment to differentiate their coffee, processing individually by parcel and variety.
Taking ownership over their processing has brought various rewards to the family. Beyond the gratifying and profitable work done together—it has given them a chance to deeply understand their coffees by matching processing styles to each one, so that they all express their best. The family produces naturals, a spectrum of honey processing, using a mechanical demucilager to control the amount of mucilage left intact after depulping, as well as fully washed coffees. Omar’s daughters Joice and Johana are the primary processing managers, matching style to each variety and micro-terroir.
“Ortíz 1900” is a very literal farm name, “Ortíz” being a family name, and “1900” being the lower elevation cutoff for the farm. Ortíz 1900 is 4.5 hectares in total and was originally inherited by Omar from his parents. Coffee was first planted here 20 years ago. The plant struggles at such an altitude in most parts of the world and central Costa Rica is no exception: coffee, naturally a sensitive species that thrives in protected, biodiverse areas, is often exposed to dangerously cold or freezing temperatures at high elevations that can compromise entire crops, and generally leads to much lower production than in warmer zones. But of course the complications have their rewards in the right hands. High altitudes improve cup complexity and sugar development, as well as shelf life. This year’s coffee from Ortíz 1900 is clean and articulate with layered fruit and complex sugars.
Picking at Ortíz 1900 is managed by a team of 40 people. Cherry comes in from the field to the micro-mill where processing decisions are made on the spot depending on the cherry quality. In the washed process, cherry is depulped and mechanically washed to strip the mucilage from the parchment. After being fully washed, the clean parchment is patio-dried for 10 days in the sun, and then bulk-stored in plastic bins for 2-3 months to stabilize. All 8 farms are harvested between the months of January and March, and this particular lot was picked entirely in the month of February.