Origin Journal

Origin Journal


After hearing much hype about the micro-mill revolution in Costa Rica, I was excited to have the opportunity to travel to origin once again alongside our green buyer Emma, to visit our long-time relationships Producers with our importer friends at Exclusive Coffees.

Costa Rica, glowing and beautiful as ever, welcomed us with sunny skies, dreamy mountains, and beautiful flowering trees in pretty much every direction you looked. We were able to enjoy a day of cupping coffees at Exclusive’s head office and then headed out to visit micro-mills; Los Angeles, Montes d'Oro, La Lia & Santa Teresa 2000.

Visiting Ricardo Calderon and his family at the Los Angeles Micro-mill enabled us to see the growth they’ve been able to see over our decade-long, working relationship with the Calderon family. Some of your favourite coffees off our menu like Quebrada Grande, Quebrada Grande Superbrew Moka Red Honey, Don Cayito, and Los Girasoles have all come from Los Angeles.

We were able to take in the views from their cupping lab. I thought this might be an opportune time to share some fun stickers with the Calderon family. To my surprise, as we turned the corner, one of our stickers from over TEN years ago was on the side of their sample roaster!! WOW, this moment was so surreal. I stared as Michael placed the new sticker, next to that of over ten years of relationship together. What a beautiful instant to be present for!

Ricardo and his son, Michael Calderon shared the beauty of Don Cayito at over 2000MASL. We decided to ride up in the back of a pick-up truck, in classic Origin Trip fashion — but were in for a rude awakening, when the road was bumpier than we could have imagined. As we were tossed around in the back of the truck, we drove higher and higher, at one point, I’m not exaggerating, it seemed like we were heading up to kiss the stratosphere. Once the ground finally levelled out, we were welcomed by thousands of coffee flowers in bloom at the top of the mountainside. My only wish is if you could smell the incredible fragrance that entrenched the hillside with a fresh, floral jasmine-like smell, so sweet, I wish I could bottle it (and apparently, some people do!!) 

As we took a few moments to take it all in, gazing onward toward Quebrada Grande (another two coffees currently offered on our menu - Quebrada Grande and Superbrew Series Quebrada Grande Red Honey), we stopped again to take in the scent of flowering coffee trees, overtaking the mountainside with floral aromatics, and the happy bees that danced from flower to flower, at a whopping 2000 metres above sea level.

Next, we visited Emilio Gamboa at his Montes d'Oro micro-mill. Emilio greeted us with open arms, excited to meet us after purchasing previous coffees like El Yasal, Carrizal Arriba and Tres Pinos.

I was in awe as, whilst he was showing up how the production of the micro-mill worked, a fully restored 1984 Toyota LandCruiser rolled up the hill in a spectacular shade of orange as one of their delivery vehicles. Whoa!! Talk about a dream car! It was amazing to see Montes d'Oro operating at such a micro level, where everything is closely monitored and traceability for single-origin coffees are achievable all the way through to consumption level.

Emilio said he was honoured to have a visit from us at Montes d’Oro. After supporting his micro-mill's efforts for years, he invited us to stay at his on-site housing (think cozy cabin vibes). He exclaimed that without the work of people like us at Detour, helping to make specialty coffee a sustainable and liveable income would not be possible. Also, it's such an honour to have such good relationships with us, to know that his coffees are being purchased and shared with good people who are consciously consuming specialty coffee with great intentions and care.

As we continued onward to La Lia, we were welcomed by Producer Luis Alberto. You may have enjoyed previous coffees from this micro-mill such as La Lia, Piesan, Santa Rosa & La Vuida.

Luis shared with us his coffee tree nursery, where he is currently growing popular varieties such as SL-28 and Gesha. You can take a look at a real-life scale of how big Luis' micro-mill, La Lia is here.

He also shared a drying bed where he was experimenting with a small lot of coffee that was cinnamon fermented!! The aroma was nothing short of incredible!!

I had to take a moment to appreciate how beautiful La Lia truly was. Nestled up at 1900MASL, with birds chirping, as a warm afternoon breeze passed up in the clouds, his home had me quite reminiscent of that of my grandmother's house back in Portugal. Lots of beautiful tiles, flowers in every direction, and something delicious smelling, cooking on the stove tops, for dinner in a few hours of course. After learning the synchronicity that he had named his micro-mill after his own grandmother, La Lia has been tucked away into a special place in my heart.

We raced up a few mountainsides over to catch the sunset at Santa Maria de Dota, Santa Teresa 2000, and catch up with a long-time partnership with the Ureña family member, Alex.

Alex Ureña, a fourth-generation producer working from Santa Teresa 2000, is another well-renowned micro-mill in Costa Rica, known for its variation in honey-processed coffees. (You may have tried El Toño, La Vuida, Cedral Yellow Honey & Red Honey Espresso). We were able to ask Alex a few questions, whilst taking in the view of rows upon rows of red-honey Catuaí coffee beans on indoor drying beds. We asked, what HIS favourite variety of coffee was, in which he explained that the obvious choice would be Gesha, due to its popularity and delicate floral characteristics, but he prefers Kenyan SL-28, for its complexity, and the fact that he can drink it every day – “Gesha, is different, it is special - maybe only on Sundays!”

We also asked Alex, "Is there anything you'd love to tell people at home who are enjoying your coffee?" He responded, "In my personal opinion, I feel very proud of myself and my dad (Roger Ureña), and all the hard work we've done here at Santa Teresa. To the people who have consumed all the work that we've done here, we're very grateful for you!"

As the clouds rolled in to hug the mountains, it was quite peaceful and very quiet. It was so nice to just take a moment to take in all the beauty of Costa Rica. As the sun sets on our time in Tarrázu, I am blown away by the beauty of this country and super appreciative of the connections with so many of our long-lasting relationships in such a short amount of time - my heart is so full, Pura Vida!!



Next, we jetted off to Jesus de Otoro to connect with our importer pals from Semilla. After connecting last August, and hearing about the success of the Monkaaba project they helped begin in Colombia, we were excited to see their newest chapter; Sueños de Semilla. We were eager to see the early stages of Sueños, which is working to improve supporting smallholder producers’ coffee production in Honduras and help them transition to selling their specialty coffee on an international market.

We wanted to take an opportunity during this harvest season to connect with producers from Sueños whom we’ve been working with already, like Jesus Galeus and also make some new connections too!! Semilla is looking to work with 40-50 producers this year in four different communities throughout the Montecillos mountain range.We swiftly popped out of bed, in the early morn to enjoy the sunny haze awakening the mountains arising in the Selguapa region and headed out to start our day.

It felt like Honduras was hazing us a little bit, instead of welcoming us with open arms, the air was hot and thick, with roads to reflect, shaking us around as we rattled around on the dirt roads.

The test continued as our group cars endured not one, not two but THREE flat tires in our time here!!! These mountain roads were no joke, but truly foreshadowed the trials and tribulations that some farmers have already faced here in Honduras — and honestly is just a testament to the tenacity of producers here.

As we headed up to Don Chepe, located in Los Alpes, Jesus de Otoro, Intibuca; we were met by Jose Santos Galeas, owner of Don Chepe, and his son Jesus Galeus, who others call “Chungo”, that is part of Sueños group. 

As light leaked between the trees, we arrived at Don Chepe 1350MASL, we were greeted by a large amount of heavily shaded overhanging trees, steep slopes and a few cawing toucans. I found Jose Galeas’ farm to be very quiet, zen and peaceful.

He spoke to us about what he’d love for the future of Don Chepe. He said he’s looking forward to planting large mature trees at Los Alpes. 

Jose understands that many producers are focusing on extending their production size, but he is focusing on creating a better atmosphere on his existing lot and making the land even more heavily shaded to give more shade to his existing trees. 

I can’t help but giggle at this next photo of Brendan sharing a Gesha cherry with me, at Don Chepe, telling me to come soak in the moment. “Come try this Gesha!!” he exclaimed.

Jose Galeus, also shared another area of this farm with us, where his manual de-pulping machine was located and bags upon bags laid in a shaded area where cherries were currently undergoing their first fermentation process. “This is where coffee is left in their cherries for 45 hours to ferment prior to moving to their second fermentation, de-pulping and drying stages.” explained Jose.

As the sun set, we made one last stop to see Chungo at his home. He was excited to share his raised drying beds that he built himself in his backyard. It was a beautiful display of rows and rows of both washed and natural coffees that were drying.

Jesus told us that this year, they were experimenting with extended drying time for their natural coffees. This particular drying bed was undergoing a drying phase of 30-50 days.

We asked Chungo if he had any words he’d like to share with consumers who have previously purchased, or are currently enjoying La Falda at home.

“ I would like to say thank you to consumers for preferring our coffee and say that as a producer it is very helpful that you can buy our coffee since income goes a long way in providing better opportunities and a better quality of life as a family since we heavily depend a lot from coffee income. As a producer, it is a source of great joy and motivation every year to prepare quality coffee for you. Thank you so very much for all the love and appreciation of specialty coffee, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Jesus also shared with us a small nursery where 3000 coffee trees were being grown and monitored. Both Gesha and Red Bourbon being grown, would be quickly maturing enough this spring before they will be transported to a new farm, later this year where he will be planting them.


We arrived at the Coaquil Cupping Lab where we spent the morning cupping multiple tables of amazing coffees. Our favourite had us reminiscing of fresh, juicy grapefruits on the side of a peach yogurt parfait. Creamy and fruity – not a flavour combination I was expecting to taste in Honduras!! Delicious!!

We then travelled to visit the Campanario Women’s Co-op. A group of three generations of women, operating their entire harvest exclusively. They even have their own roaster!!

It was very touching to spend some time seeing their drying operations, and after sharing a few of their trials and tribulations with us, we were lucky enough to enjoy a short lunch with them. Honestly… it was the best tortilla I’ve ever had in my life. I asked if next year, when we come back, if I could spend time learning how to make their incredible tortillas, and Victoria and the other women, smiling, said they’d be happy to. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t already counting down the days until were reunited with Victoria and the beautiful women of Campanario.


The road to La Falda was no different -- so bumpy and so hot, climbing to 35° midday. But the higher we climbed in the hills, the more green appeared as we entered the new micro-climate approaching 1700MASL. It would be a crime not to mention the Yucca trees. What was known as a small house plant back home, grew and grew what seemed to compete with the mountain tops and lined the streets as we reached closer and closer to La Falda. On the other side of these mountain-top Yuccas, there were toppling mountain cliffs in a colossal drop-off of coffee trees, as far as the eye could see. The incline, almost unbearable, I’d be lying if I wasn’t a bit nauseous even getting close to the edge, the fear instilled as the danger was screaming from looking at coffee trees hanging cliffside at 1750MASL.

La Falda was in full harvest. After walking the path of Chungo’s 4-hectare farm, we tried a few cherries off the trees, and after seeing a few other visiting roasters try their first coffee cherry (always a fun experience) to my excitement I got a peaberry! A Peaberry is when a coffee cherry produces one bean “pit” instead of two “split” beans.

After what felt like the hottest walk of my life, Chungo shared with us what floating cherries in barrels as well as de-pulping looked like. The de-pulping machine, deafening and messy, aggressively worked through removing the beans from the cherries. 

Chungo shared that producers, like himself, can lose up to 20% of all their cherry in this floating phase alone. Floating coffee cherries separates the defects as the beans are not as dense and float to the surface of a water-filled barrel. A loss they are willing to take, in efforts of trying to produce a better scoring cup, and in turn hopefully be able to sell their parchment for a better price. These are the sacrifices producers are making as they strive to achieve better-tasting coffees by pre-eliminating defects from their lot before the drying phase. This also comes comes as a privilege and a helpful resource, only to producers who are lucky enough to easily access water.

The last farm we visited was that of Don Clementino's wife, Celia, overlooking Pichingo at sunset. I hope you believe me when I say the photo above does not do the view justice, at a whopping 1800MASL, it was unbelievable how far you could see. The dramatic view of the landscape, boasting with cascading greenery down vigorous mountainsides. It is difficult to explain how steep the slopes on these mountains are, and even more difficult to stand there, holding your breath.

It was incredible to take in the view and the scale of the farm, and soak in the last bit of our time here in Honduras hosted by Semilla. We really couldn’t believe our time here was over in what felt like a blink of an eye!

After a bittersweet breakfast, we shared a few words before we parted ways, both Jesus (Chungo) and Don Clementino expressed their gratitude for us making the time and the journey to come to visit and experience the hard work of not only them but also of their friends, families and other producers that are pushing boundaries to make their dreams into realities and how excited they are for the future of our growing relationships.

We asked Jesus Gealus what he hopes to see for the future of Sueños de Semilla, 

“As a producer, I hope every year we can continue working in the specialty market and as our Sueños chapter is just beginning, to continue supporting more humble and struggling producers and for our project would be a dream come true for everyone, so that the opportunities are equal for everyone here in Honduras.”

After shedding a few tears of my own, naturally, it was obvious that their extended hospitality did not go unnoticed and it was so exhilarating to feel the passion and momentum of that driving Honduran coffee to the place where they wanted it to be. As roasters, it is our job to not take credit for all the hard work done for specialty coffee but to build a bridge so that the world from producer to consumer feel closer than ever before.

As I take the time to reflect on the whirlwind of this year's origin visit, it was incredible to be able to compare the terroir and appreciate how different and beautiful, growing specialty coffee in different countries can be. I’m grateful for the new connections that we've made and to have the opportunity to take in all the knowledge and passion that Producers had to share about the beauty and richness that their land had to offer — it felt completely humbling to be able to see the success and establishment of Producers like the Calderon family and the Ureñas, in Costa Rica, after purchasing coffee from them year after year, whilst simultaneously witnessing the rise of some incredible Producers like Jesus in Honduras - where he is in his first years of selling his coffee on the specialty market. It's exciting to see where he will be in just a few years too!

On one last note, Emma and I just wanted to share an overwhelming thank you to both Exclusive Coffees; to Francisco, Dabian, Hota Hota and everyone for their time and hospitality and for sharing the beauty of Costa Rica with us as well as Pat, Wilts & Brendan of Semilla, and Jesus and Don Clementino from Sueños; we cannot say thank you for being gracious hosts during our time in Honduras.

As I wipe more than a few tears away from my eyes, we cannot express how special this time in Honduras was for us, thank you for hosting Detour, and accepting us with open arms – it has been an incredible feat to see the beginning stages of Sueños de Semilla and we can't wait to see what the future holds. If you'd love to keep up with the work of Producers in Sueños, be sure to follow them over on Instagram @suenosdesemilla and more of the incredible work Brendan, Pat and Wilts are doing at @semillacoffee.

I am proud to say that year after year, I continue to fall more in love, and inspired by the world of specialty coffee.

Until next time! 

Signing off ✿ Sarah

*Detour Coffee has full copyrights to all enclosed images. We ask that you do not utilize images under any and all redistribution for any use without prior formal written consent as permission. 


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