In a country known for small-batch honey processing, excellent producers can raise the stakes with meticulously managed natural-process coffees. However, natural processing presents more risk to the farmers. Controlling fermentation and delivering a clean cup profile is far more difficult to achieve with naturals. Naturals present greater likelihood of over-fermentation and mold growth if the coffee is not kept clean, dry, and mobile.
At Stone Creek Coffee, we only buy natural coffees that are very clean and fresh from origin. We hold a high bar, but the team at Sonora has exceeded it each of the past two years. The Father & Son team at Sonora, Alberto & Diego Guardia, built a team and processes to manage the abundant risks, and their work is paying off.
Not only is this special lot a natural process, it is also of the Gesha variety. Gesha coffee, also known as “Geisha,” is a type of coffee bean that is highly regarded for its unique flavor profile. It is named after the Gesha district in the southwest region of Ethiopia where it was first discovered, but it is now primarily grown in Panama.
Gesha coffee plants are difficult to cultivate as they are quite susceptible to diseases. Even when healthy, a Gesha plant does not yield much coffee compared to other common varieties in Costa Rica like Caturra or Catuai. Given these factors, Gesha coffees are very expensive to produce.
The Gesha coffee plant is known for its elongated cherries and thin, elongated leaves. The beans themselves carry a distinctive floral aroma and complex, nuanced flavor. Gesha coffee is often described as having notes of jasmine, tropical fruit, and floral orange, with a light, tea-like body. Uber coffee-geeks, maybe like the Stone Creek Coffee green buying team, tend to have a massive appreciation for the unique cup profile delivered by a well-cultivated and processed Gesha coffee. This particular lot from Sonora delivers on the floral and tropical notes, while the natural processing brings some ripe, juicy berries to the party.
More about Sonora: Hacienda Sonora is a coffee farm located in the West Valley region of Costa Rica, near the city of Alajuela. It is a family-owned and operated farm that has been producing coffee since the 19th century. Today, Hacienda Sonora is known for its commitment to sustainable coffee production and its high-quality specialty coffee beans.
Sonora utilizes a particularly unique process in their drying of coffee cherries. They keep large, cleared grass fields for drying coffee on permeable tarps. They call these fields “grass patios.” Usually coffee is dried in raised, aerated beds, on concrete patios, or in large, cylindrical mechanical dryers. Sonora is the only place we’ve seen where they’ve chosen to maintain green space (for both aesthetic and environmental reasons) and have adapted their processes accordingly.
The farm is blessed with a natural spring that flows down from the mountain above. This clean and sustainable water source provides irrigation for the coffee plants, keeping them healthy and resistant to disease. The farm is situated at an altitude of around 1,200 to 1,500 meters above sea level, which allows for the slow and even ripening of the coffee cherries.
The view from the farm, looking down into Costa Rica’s central valley is truly jaw-dropping. When traveling to origin we will frequently say “Coffee grows in beautiful places.” There aren’t many places where that statement is more true than at Hacienda Sonora.