What is a coffee event like in Costa Rica : la feria del café de Frailes

Better late than never, I want to write a few words about the feria del café that took place in Frailes on the 18th to 20th of January 2013. Maybe you’ve read a previous post about coffee pickers (https://audreyslangscape.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/the-art-of-being-picky/), then you may remember the videos of dancers performing there.

For the record, here is the setting :

Well ok, this is not super accurate, but you get the idea

On the way to Frailes, the mountains are covered with coffee

What’s a feria? According to the organisation :

“It is a fair attended by coffee pickers, people working in fincas, craftsmen, retailers, neighbouring inhabitants, small and big companies devoted to produce and commercialise coffee. We share with our visitors cuppings, tastings, coffee-based recipes and a bunch of typical meals, as well as live music, folkloric dances, a “coffee picking competition”, the election of “the coffee queen” and religious ceremonies to honour the “Virgin del Perpetuo Socorro”. Our feria responds to a need for micro-companies of the area to develop socio-economically ways to salvage the identity of Costa Rican coffee, to promote the coffee from the area as one of the best in the world, to offer a privileged moment to families in a very pleasant, familial and cultural environment.”

So, concretely, what does that mean?At the fair, you could see a lot of different things, always somehow related to coffee.

Cafetal-style :

Coffee trees surrounding a traditional carreta that was used in the cafetal to store the cherries freshly picked before they were brought to a mill or a recibidor

Things you might need to take care of your cafetal

Art and craft like jewelry or chorreadors (traditional Costa Rican coffee maker) and such

Wood sculpture made by saw

Entertainment and fun activities like the coffee picking competition which was really cool (I came 8th! but I won’t say out of how many…)

En route for the coffee picking competition in a traditional carreta s’il vous plait!

The 3 winners and their beautiful trophies (I want one next year). To win, you needed to pick as much RIPE cherries as you can in 10 minutes, without green cherries, leaves or dirt.

You may wonder why are those people carrying umbrellas when it doesn’t rain? Well, when the sun shines, it is really strong here…

Group of dancers from Panama (ans if you don’t remember why, go read about the coffee pickers)

Colourful dresses, dancers from Panama as well

Musicians playing some cumbia!

Children were not forgotten, a storyteller was here to entertain them too

As you see, there was a lot of fun and interesting things going on, particularly for a “visitor” like me. But what I found particularly interesting, is the emphasis put on education by the Asociacion de cafés finos. The idea was to show people the whole “coffee tale” from seed to cup by short but spot on workshops.

1/ What does coffee cherries look like when they are unripe/ripe? What are the different ways of processing coffee and drying it? Exellent workshops by Mario. And contrary to my prejudices, many people in Costa Rica have never seen a coffee tree!

Look, smell, touch, learn!

2/ Next step, roasting! Mario then live-roasted coffee beans with a 1kg Probat roaster, explaining to curious visitors what happens during the roast and how much time and temperature matter.

Again, look, smell, touch, learn!

3/ Cuppings (coffee tastings) were organised but not just like any cupping. Before the feria, coffee growers sent samples of their coffees to the association. There, they would be tasted and scored. Specialists like Mario are called “Q graders” (Q standing for quality). They evaluate the coffee in every aspects of it : fragrance, flavours, aftertaste, acidity, body, balance, uniformity, cleanliness and sweetness. Considering all of those, they score the coffee. If the total score is above 80 points, the coffee has made it to the “specialty coffee” very private club. Each producer receive a sheet that describes precisely the sample they presented.

Coffee growers were invited to come and cup the coffee samples they sent to the association. Some of them tasted their coffee for the first time and were really proud to receive the rewarding feedback.

There is a long way from the seed to the cup

4/ Brewing! Paula from Café Sikëwa (https://www.facebook.com/Sikewa) and I were brewing coffee to present alternative ways of making coffee. People were super interested and asked us loads of questions about the whys and hows one coffee can taste so different when brewed in a chemex, clever drip, aeropress or french press.

There was also a espresso based drink corner were Mario and José from the association (http://www.scacr.com/) were interviewed to talk about coffee on tv!

What a great team!

All in all, three fantastic days gathering people from the whole area, proud to present what makes most of the economy of the region, delicious coffees exported all around the world. Not only coffee professionals, but just anyone happy and enthusiastic about learning more about a product that people may start consuming even before they can walk here. Because that is what the most popular beverage in the world is about, sharing!