Coffee has been the center of the Umaña family for four generations, and in their own words, “when we decided to embark on the micro-mill project, it wasn’t a job as much as the continuity of coffee that has always been a part of our lives, and something we’re passionate about.” The family operates 3 farms above the town of San Marcos, in northern Tarrazú: El Alto, La Quebrada, and La Granadilla. The farms make a combined 12 hectares of coffee and all are centrally processed at the family’s personal wet mill.
Costa Rica has been well-known for many years for having large, stable, supportive cooperatives and an environmentally-friendly agricultural sector. Despite the benefits of cooperative farming, a “micro-mill revolution” began in Costa Rica in the early 2000s, as small-scale centralized processing sites began emerging on family estates. This local entrepreneurship and access to select farms created a brand new market for Costa Rica. Individual farms became new brands, competition increased, higher prices ensued, and a range of cup profiles that Central America hadn’t seen before suddenly renewed the roasting world’s appreciation for Costa Rica’s potential. Exclusive Coffees, the exporter of the Umaña family’s coffee, focuses solely on quality assurance, marketing, and logistics for so-called “micro-mills”, and has deep relationships throughout Tarrazú as well as the West and Central Valleys, and Chirripó.
La Roca’s 3 farms are divided by elevation and incorporate avocado trees throughout to provide consistent shade and additional farm revenue. La Quebrada was the first of the family’s farms: family patriarch (and font of coffee experience and knowledge), Don Ricardo, with the help of a small parcel inherited from his own father, managed to acquire La Quebrada 20 years ago. After working the initial parcel for a few years, the family then acquired El Alto; and finally, 7 years later La Granadilla was acquired. It wasn’t until 2013 that the family began construction on La Roca—up to that point everything the farms produced was sold as cherry to regional cooperatives with little visibility for farmers. In 2014 the Umaña family processed their first 35 quintales (about 35 bags) at the new mill, and have been able to expand capacity each year, processing more and more of their own coffee. This past harvest the family processed 300 quintales (about 300 bags). Honey processed coffees are simply depulped and immediately dried on raised screens in the sun.