Being the largest coffee farm in Costa Rica, Aquiares devotes 80% of its land to growing high quality coffee and the remaining 20% to conservation. Coffee plots are interlaced with over a dozen natural springs and almost 20 kilometers in water streams, all protected with buffer zones in line with a Rainforest Alliance certification. These streams form a network of natural corridors through the farm that connect the large protected forests in the two river valleys, providing a healthy environment for the local animals, birds, and plants.
In 1890, Aquiares was founded by farmers looking to take advantage of Costa Rica´s railroad to the port of Limón. The farm built its own mill, focusing on the washed-coffee processes that are indicative of Costa Rican coffee. Today, the farm is co-owned by three closely-knit families.
In the 1990s, the farm began a campaign to improve home ownership in the local community. Each worker was given a bonus for their years of service and the farm gave assistance to people applying for government loans. Today 96% of the Aquiares employees own their own houses.
The farm and the community are mutually connected. The farm provides services, land, security and honest jobs. In return, the coffee farm has benefited from a well-educated community and relies on highly skilled professionals from its community to continue functioning. They employ a very large amount of the residents of the town that help other local business thrice (small restaurants, corner stores, etc). Several generations of families have all been involved in the farm and they also inspire residents to pursue higher levels of education for more advanced jobs around the farm.
They try to do what they can to help improve the lives of those around them. They built large dormitories for their pickers, a nursery for the children to attend while their parents are on the fields, and they pay cash every single day immediately after picking, plus offering incentives. As a way to empower their workers and increase their knowledge in coffee production, they often send them to other farms around the country to learn from other producers. Aquiares Coffee also supports/sponsors a teen group in their town named Jóvenes entre Ríos, who puts on theater acts as well as other art performances.
About Costa Rican Coffee
1779 is the year credited as the start of coffee production in Costa Rica. Since then it has become a major part of national culture. Today it is the 3rd most valuable cash crop export, but it has held the number one spot in the past. The climate and geography of Costa Rica create an ideal situation for cultivation and export. It is believed that the coffee plants that were imported to Costa Rica came directly from Ethiopia. The classic Costa Rican flavor profile and soft acidity seem to attest to this though today you will find a number of wonderfully bright and fruity coffees.
Coffee production in Costa Rica has experienced some wild swings lately. Up about 15% one year, down about that much the next and then right back up again. Like most countries the cost of coffee production often exceeds the farmers earnings. Some farmers found a way to diversify by offering eco-tourism packages and coffee tours. It is also especially difficult to find organic certified coffee in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica faces many of the same challenges their neighbors do. Low returns, climate change and plant disease threats. Despite these thought they continue to produce wonderful and unique coffees. Our aim is to help them find more affordable ways to implement organic farming practices and secure higher returns for their coffee.