The Los Angeles “micro-mill”, located just outside Santa María de Dota, the epicenter of the famous Dota coffee district, practically needs no introduction. The extended Calderón-Castillo family operates 70 hectares of coffee, a stylish local roastery and café, and, oh yes, they took first place in Costa Rica’s Cup of Excellence competition in 2020, fetching the highest-ever price in Cup of Excellence history up to that point: $300.09 per pound, for their honey process gesha variety. The family produces a wide variety of microlots each harvest from across their properties, including more and more experimental varieties, like the now historic gesha. This lot is a fully-washed Catuaí and Caturra blend.
Together the family’s cultivation consists of 15 unique parcels of land, averaging 4.6 hectares apiece. Luis Ricardo Calderón Madrigal, the family patriarch, began working with coffee at 20 years old, believing coffee would give a certain stability to his future family. The family processing site was constructed in 2009, and, as foreseen by Don Ricardo, the family continues to innovate and grow the business together to this day. The combination of their local brand, global fame, and ongoing development as a family business has given them great pride and focus. Says Don Ricardo, “everyone produces coffee, but we create coffee, we create an experience, an emotion!” How lovely.
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 Los Angeles’ 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.
New coffee plants typically take 4 years to produce an adequate harvest in Los Angeles’ climate. The Calderón-Castillo family is constantly seeking out and introducing new varieties onto their property, in addition to saving seeds annually from established plants. During harvest, cherry is entirely hand-picked by a team of 200. Once picked it is depulped and mechanically de-mucilaged, then washed and fully dried on raised beds in the sun. The family occasionally processes naturals and honeys as well, at a smaller scale.
In addition to coffee the family produces avocados, arracacha (a traditional Andean root vegetable), citrus, Peruvian guava, chirimoya, beans and corn, all of which is both sold locally and consumed by the family.