Sweet florals, orange, and a subtle mango quality on the nose introduce a creamy cup with a butterscotch-like sweetness and flavors of cocoa, peach, and cooked berries.
Roger Urena is a remarkable coffee producer whose Santa Teresa project, in Costa Rica’s Tarrazu region, is a true labor of love. This creamy, delightfully fruity SL28 from Roger’s farm is a beautifully executed example of honey processing, and represents one of the very first Costa Rican coffees to be featured on Passenger’s menu.
Roger Urena is a third generation coffee producer whose Santa Teresa project, located in Costa Rica’s famous Tarrazu region, is truly a labor of love. Roger grew up with coffee: helping his father with the family’s dairy and coffee farming enterprises and caring for a nursery of fledgling coffee trees when he was just 15 years old. Following a period of time working in the States, Roger returned to Costa Rica and invested his hard earned savings in land located near the mountain peak of Santa Teresa, just to the southeast of the town of Santa Maria de Dota. The land had previously been owned by members of Roger’s family, and, with an ideal climate and elevations from 1600-2050 masl, he knew it was the perfect place to create the coffee farm that he had dreamed of for many years.
Some years later, Roger’s main Santa Teresa farm is a hugely impressive operation including 10 hectares of coffee, 50 hectares of protected forest, a micromill featuring a Penagos pulping machine, shaded raised beds and concrete patios for drying, mechanical dryers, and a warehouse. Plans are already underway to build a dry mill to complete the operation.
At an early stage, Roger noted that most farmers in Costa Rica were cultivating caturra and catuaí and thought that planting many additional varieties on his farm would be a useful way to differentiate his business. In addition to catuaí, he currently cultivates an impressive list of varieties including Rume Sudan, Pacamara, Villalobos, Bourbon, Gesha, SL-28, and Mejorado.
Many of the microlots produced at Santa Teresa are honey processed, as is common throughout Costa Rica. In contrast to wet processed (or “washed”) coffee, where some combination of fermentation and washing is employed to break down and ultimately remove the sugary mucilage that remains on the surface of coffee seeds after the fruit passes through a pulping machine, honey processed coffee is dried immediately after pulping, with some amount of the mucilage left to dry on the coffee seeds. Skilled producers like Roger are able to carefully set up their pulping machines to leave more or less mucilage on the coffee prior to drying. A “white honey” indicates that almost all of the mucilage has been scraped off prior to drying, while a “red honey” or “black honey” would indicate that more mucilage was left on the seeds - which oxidizes to a darker hue during drying.
This particular lot is an example of SL28, an arabica variety that is much more commonly associated with coffee production in Kenya as opposed to Costa Rica. The name “SL28” is a reference to this variety’s interesting history: “SL” refers to Scott Agricultural Laboratories, a coffee research center that was established in Kenya by the British Colonial government in 1922 with the goal of identifying coffee varieties that were high yielding while exhibiting good resistance to drought and disease. In the 1930’s, the team at ‘Scott Labs’ selected coffee trees from all across Africa and gave each tree a distinct number following the prefix “SL”. Of all the trees selected at this time, #28 exhibited the most desirable balance of yield, cup quality, and disease resistance, and the rest is history.
Roger Urena acquired his SL28 seeds from another Costa Rican producer who had purchased SL28 plant material from the Starbucks research farm, Hacienda Alsacia. This SL28 variety separation from the 2021 harvest at Santa Teresa was processed as a “white honey”. After careful cherry selection to ensure perfect ripeness, the fruit rests in a tank overnight before being passed through the mechanical pulping machine, which is set to remove virtually all of the mucilage. The finished result is “practically a washed coffee” in the words of Roger’s son Jose. The coffee is then immediately dried on raised beds, and is turned frequently to ensure even drying over a period of 8-10 days.