Interesting news broke last night from Seattle Times writer Melissa Allison, who reports that Starbucks is purchasing its first-ever coffee estate in Costa Rica. The farm is located on the slopes of Poas Volcano National Park, just north of San Jose, in Costa Rica's famed Central Valley.
The land is around 242 hectares. Most coffee producing families in Costa Rica own around four hectares.
Here's more on the purchase and plans, from Melissa Allison and the Seattle Times:
[Starbucks] plans to convert the farm to an agronomy research and development center working on climate change mitigation, long-term crop stability and other programs. It did not disclose terms of the deal, which is expected to close in May.
The center “will support the resiliency of coffee farmers and their families as well as the one million people that represent our collective coffee supply chain,” CEO Howard Schultz said in a news release.
Starbucks’ farm also could be used to experiment with new types of coffee, he said.
There are hundreds of farms, micromills, and Coops in the Central Valley. For example, Starbucks' plot of land and education center will be within let's-share-a-beer distance of Oscar and Fransisca Chocan's Las Lajasa micromill, whose “Perla Negra” organic coffee has been purchased and roasted by a wide variety of specialty coffee roasters around the world. Maria Elena Camacho's Finca La Union is also located just east of Poas; we're primarily familiar with La Union through their ongoing relationship with Gimme! Coffee.
As the Central Valley is an important hub for micromills and family-owned quality focused farms, we'll be interested to watch this Starbucks project develop, particularly as it relates to the planned Farmer Support Center at Las Poas. From the article:
Over the past 40 years, Starbucks has invested more than $70 million on programs that support farmers’ livelihoods and help ensure the long-term availability of high-quality coffee.
The chain has farmer support centers in China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Rwanda and Tanzania. Their agronomists and other experts provide farmers with expertise and training in soil management, field-crop production and milling processes to improve the quality and size of their harvests.
Starbucks built out its very first support center in Costa Rica in 2004. Like the benefits of a cooperative, the service center's purpose is to “provide local farmers with the resources and expertise that help lower the cost of production, reduce fungus infections, improve coffee quality and increase the yield of premium coffees”. It'll be fascinating to watch how this new project plays out in Costa Rica, and how it can potentially benefit the well-regarded farms in the beautiful Central Valley.
For more on Costa Rica, re-peruse our 2013 Cafe Imports Origin Trip coverage.