A couple of weeks ago, my colleague Katy and I went on a sourcing trip to Costa Rica. We both joined Ruby Coffee Roasters in 2020, so no one from the company has had the opportunity to travel internationally due to the pandemic. Although Jared, the founder of Ruby, shared some information beforehand, we didn’t know exactly what to expect. We anticipated farm tours, coffee tasting, and relationship building with farmers, but we were unsure about how the trip would unfold.
Overall, the experience left us both feeling inspired, grounded in our roles at Ruby, and even more passionate about the work we do as a company. It made us eager to share details about the farmers and their stories with those that come back to Ruby Coffee Roasters time and time again looking for a great cup of coffee… because in the end, it’s customers like you that make all of the difference. Because of you, the farmers that supply some of the best beans in the world can have a better quality of life.
Our first stop of the trip was with the Bararantes family, one of our longest farmer-direct relationships. The farm, Cerro La Cruz, is named after the mountain it’s located on and began growing coffee twenty years ago when Xinia Bararantes’s father purchased the property. When our relationship with the family started in 2017, Xinia and her husband ronaldo had just installed a micro-mill (pulping station) on their property. This allowed them to produce higher quality coffees and sell them as individual lots directly to roasters.
Prior to this, they had been working with a nearby cooperative to mill their coffee. While it was quality-oriented, the scale of the operation didn’t allow much variance for rewarding individuals who wished to improve their unique coffees and have them sold separately. The Bararantes family saw neighbors finding direct markets for their coffees and decide to take the risk, make the investment, and hope that they could see the direct financial impact of marketing their coffee as a single farm, single lot directly to roasters.
When Jared first visited the farm in 2018, our relationship with the Bararantes family was only one year old. At that time, we were the first and only roaster from the United States to visit them and buy their coffee. Now, five years later, their sons Cesar and Jason run and operate the third-generation farm. Cerro La Cruz is located among the ridges in Tarrazu, a known coffee-growing region in Costa Rica. It’s a 2.5-hour drive from San Jose on twisty roads, following the curves of the hillside. Despite being their summer, it was raining and had been raining for a few days, making the scenery even more beautiful.
As we made the corner and turned onto the gravel road to the farm, Cesar and Jason were standing outside of their micro-mill, waiting for us. It was a stunning scene with Cesar’s house to our left and the undulating landscape behind them full of freshly harvested coffee trees.
Although there was a language barrier, we could tell they were excited to have us there and enthusiastically swapped out their hats for their new Ruby merch. After introductions and a brief tour of their micro-mill, we were invited to sit at Cesar’s dining table and share a little about ourselves.
As the Business Manager, I didn’t have much to say other than “I handle general business stuff” to describe my position at Ruby. However, Katy, a coffee roaster so naturally already more interesting, had brushed up on her Spanish and had some words prepared. She told them that Cerro La Cruz was the first coffee she ever roasted when she took on that role in 2021. She shared how the flavor of their coffee lasts in the cup and stays fresh longer than some other coffees from other areas. She also told them about how our customers love their coffee and how it routinely sells out within weeks of it being released.
Cesar was emotional as he listened to Katy’s kind words and appreciation for their hard work. He expressed gratitude to Ruby for their continued support in purchasing coffee year after year. With steady business from roasters like Ruby and others, they can make valuable investments in their farm and machinery, and provide support to the three families that depend on the farm for their livelihood.
When telling us later about the fresh-water springs on their property that they pump and use for washing their coffees, Cesar said in Spanish “The micro-mill, it’s our own energy… our own effort.” It is clear that they pour their heart and soul into Cerro La Cruz which you can taste in each of their coffees.
This year, we are committed to purchasing 50 bags of green coffee from them, which is nearly 8,000 lbs of the 30,000 lbs harvested this season. The lots were delivered this week to the dry mill by Cesar himself and will be available on our website and at the Cafe by summer!