'Lazaro' Gesha No.1 Costa Rica
This coffee is called Lazaro. It’s the first Gesha selected coffee from the farms of Juan José Araya Acuña. It is also the first Gesha to be offered by 802 Coffee.
There’s a nice symmetry here. We’ve been working with Juan José since 2016 as the exclusive roaster of his Finca Aurora Micro Lot. It’s been a perennial favorite of ours and has lead to a strong partnership and friendship between us. When he finally decided to try sorting all his Gesha beans as a unique offering he reached out to us before bringing them to market. We were both honored and intrigued. We had to say yes.
For those of you who haven’t made a career out of coffee allow me a moment to talk about what we mean when we say Gesha (or Geisha). Where coffee originated in Ethiopia there are countless heirloom varietals only some of which have been thoroughly identified. The name “Gesha” comes from the Gesha region in Ethiopia where some seeds of this varietal were first collected in 1936. As these plants were brought across the ocean to Central America, these new farmers found it helpful to select and cultivate certain coffee trees suited to their specific climates and conditions. For many years the Gesha trees were mixed in with trees of other varietals and their beans were likewise blended together at origin to create regional offerings. Then in 2004, the Panamanian coffee estate Hacienda La Esmeralda entered a competition with an offering of 100% Gesha beans. It attracted a lot of attention for its distinctly aromatic, floral flavors and went on to set record prices. Since then a small number of farmers from throughout Central America have begun to select specifically for these beans. This painstaking process and the relative rarity of the Gesha varietal means that many simply cannot offer Gesha-selected coffee at market. Indeed, our friend Juan José produced only a single bag of this coffee. We are thrilled to have it.
Though the varietal may be new to us, Juan José’s coffees certainly aren’t.
The Lazaro is grown right alongside the Finca Aurora that we know and love. It isn’t just the varietal that’s important in determining the flavors in the cup, but the farm itself. We’ve been to the farm, we’ve had the coffee year in and year out. This coffee is grown and harvested with great care. At about 4900 feet above sea level with a view of nearby Poás Volcano across the valley, this is exactly where you want your coffee to be grown. The coffee is grown interspersed among peach trees providing shade, and a place for local and migrant birds to alight. Juan José winds his way through his various fields in an ancient truck whose continued functionality defies belief. This old red Toyota has died and come back so many times Juan José has taken to calling it Lazaro in reference to the biblical figure. Just because a thing is old doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed. He loves that truck.
When it was time to name the coffee, ‘Lazaro’ is what he chose. We don’t see any reason to change it.
For those of you who have some experience with a Gesha, or are familiar with their reputation I’ll say this one isn’t as aggressively Gesha as some others. It still has an airyness about it. It takes you down the road into florals, and delicate aromatics like you’d expect from a coffee like this, but it doesn’t lose you in the cul-de-sac of ephemeral tea-like notes, and layers upon layers of oleaceae flower where you get glimpses of jasmine and lilac. Not that such coffees aren’t fun, The Lazaro is just a bit more subdued than all of that.
Like Juan José’s Aurora, this has been dried using a honey process, in this case it’s a ‘red honey.’ This means a reasonable amount of the fruit is left on the bean itself as it dries. This enzymatic interaction helps develop a rich fruity aspect to the coffee without muddling any of the cleaner and more delicate flavors. They’ve been processing coffee like this in Costa Rica for years and they quite literally have it down to a science. What we end up with is a wonderfully airy and delicate coffee that retains the regional identity of the West Valley Naranjos of Costa Rica. The finish is long and nuanced with pleasant and focused sweetness. The lively acidity cools into a lovely citrus that Tonya perfectly describes as ‘bright, but polite.’ The body is juicy and direct. Simply put, this coffee does everything well.
Like all of our coffees we spent a lot of time dialing in the roast for this. There’s a balancing act of bringing certain elements of the coffee out without losing others. We taste the coffee a lot, at a lot of different roast profiles. We tweak things here and there and take meticulous notes on how different approaches to roasting effect each coffee. We aim to get the best out of every bean we bring in and develop a unique roast profile for each coffee based on how it interacts with heat. We don’t set out to make a light or a medium roast, we set out to make the coffee as delicious as possible no matter where that might technically place it on that spectrum. Sometimes it’s easy to get a little preoccupied with those labels. “I only like medium roasts” or some similar position. That’s why we decided not to put the roast level on there at all. This coffee ended up being its happiest as one of the lightest we’ve ever done. At the same time it’s as big and rich as anything we’ve ever offered.
So, after all that:
Introducing 'Lazaro' Gesha No. 1 from Juan José Aryaya Acuña, of San Juanillo Costa Rica, roasted by Chris and Spencer at 802 Coffee of Vermont. We are intensely proud of this coffee and hope you love it as much as we do.
Geography -- San Juanillo, Naranjo, Alejuela Province, Costa RIca
Contributing farmer – Juan José Araya Acuña
Varietal – 100% Gesha
Altitude – 4900 feet
Preparation/Grade – Red Honey process, sun dried on patios, Nano Lot
802 Cupping notes – Delicate, Exquisitely Layered, Gentle Citrus-like Brightness, Pleasant Floral Aromatics, Juicy Body, Long Sweet Finish