Friday, April 13, 2012

La Milagrosa Coffee Farm

Wednesday we took a tour of Finca la Milagrosa coffee farm.  It was excellent.  Dare I say better than a vineyard?  We had a great guide named Nilsan and he kept us (and our kids) engaged the whole time.  The farm was started by Mr. Tito (great name) almost 30 years ago on the site of a former cattle ranch.  Since then he has covered the property in coffee trees, fruit trees and big shady wind-blocking trees.  He grows eight different kinds of beans, including Gesha, the second most expensive coffee in the world.  We also learned about the most expensive coffee grown in Indonesia called Kopi Luwak.  Those beans are actually harvested from the feces of a mammal called a civet.  After the civets eat the beans and poop them out, pickers harvest them and process the coffee. Our kids thought this was very funny.
Mr Tito is an impressive and innovative guy.  He bought the property knowing nothing about farming or coffee and then built much of the machinery on his farm from other existing machines- the drum for coffee roaster comes from an old washing machine.  Another smaller roaster uses a headlight encasement from an old car.  He struck us as one of those genius types, living alone with his inventions, a bit quirky but great once you get him talking.
The coffee beans grow within red berries along the branches of the coffee plants.  Scattered around the property are banana trees and raspberry and blackberry bushes to entice the birds away from the coffee berries.  Chickens and geese roam freely helping to make compost and aerate the ground.
Guard geese
Drying beans, almost ready to roast
Some coffee plants are tall...
And some are short.  The depth of green in their leaves and the red of their berries differ, too.
Once the berries are hand picked they are sorted by size and condition in a long trough of water.  The berries are first fermented and then the beans are removed from the fruit.  Next the beans are moved to a covered greenhouse to dry for about 2 weeks.  Once dried the beans lose their second skin layer called parchment.  This is done with a machine made by Mr. Tito run by the engine of an old car!  After that the beans are ready to be roasted.
Harper and Cal marvel at the complexities of decomposition in progress
Parchment skins
Turn that old washing machine into your very own coffee roaster!
Italian roast, French roast and light roast (the difference is just minutes longer in the roaster)
Mr. Tito roasted a sample for us in his small-scale roaster and we all tasted the three different kinds.  Danny and I favored the French roast and Harper’s favorite was Italian (I can’t believe we had our kids eating coffee beans!  You can be sure no one napped that afternoon!)  The light roast was kind of bitter still, the medium roast was very good (it had something of a caramel flavor to it) and the darkest roast was really strong.
Once the paint has dried the bags are ready for beans
Cal perched up on Mr. Tito's shoulders to get a better view of the roasting
Harper samples the roasted coffee beans
Nilsan and the kids finish up the tour
At the end Mr Tito brewed up a pot of coffee for us to try.  It was strong and very flavorful and it didn't need the addition of any milk or sugar.  We could have stayed all day sipping coffee and learning about his farm.

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