My name is Oscar Chacon. My wife Francisca and I have spent our entire lives producing coffee, and we have recently built and installed a small plant at our farm in order to process coffee ourselves.
We must confess that at the beginning we believed that to process coffee we did not need much experience, and that we would establish a well-defined line of work with fixed costs that would allow us to ensure quality.
Once the business opened, a new range of options focused on quality was established, and with imagination and creativity we have produced different coffee profiles with the same raw material. Even we are surprised sometimes by the flavors obtained through changing different production techniques.
How and when did you get started in the coffee business?
For a coffee producer to establish a start date in this business is a bit complex, but I remember when I was five years old my mother would send me to bring lunch for my father working in the coffee with my grandfather Maximino. Francisca says that her mother and siblings were very young, the first time they picked coffee she was just ten months old and was held in a small wooden box.
Since then, we have been very closely associated with the production and harvest of coffee. Our lives have always revolved around it, since the economy of the family is based on the proceeds.
We cannot say that it is an easy business, because for me personally it is like a random bet. Prices change every day and when you are a coffee producer the only thing to do is close your eyes and ask the Lord to help you have good crops.
What jobs have you held in the industry?
We started from the bottom, literally speaking, from scratch. First we started sowing plants, fertilizing, removing weeds, and after taking an intensive course of patience, hoping not to fail while waiting for four years to collect the first crop. Then we put in practice our parents teachings “Collect only the best coffee. Only red coffee, only good quality.”
In recent years our work has been focused on improving quality by processing at the Ecologic Mill Las Lajas, by trying to obtain our own coffee label, and a different coffee flavor, with the purpose of not only improving the lives of our family but also of our community.
What people and/or things inspire you, coffee-wise?
The main inspiration is within us every morning…
It is indescribable the feeling a person conveys to us when they say: “I like your coffee.” There is an emotion felt by us, and this feeling drives us to improve quality, and thus provide a coffee full of gratitude, friendship, and affection to everybody who took time to share a drink so common, but which will undoubtedly provide surprise.
What would you like to see change in the industry?
The big challenge is to get to the point that the coffee market will benefit both the poor and the rich people. The low prices of coffee make it such that some of the poorest and least powerful people of the world need to negotiate in a free market with some of the richest and most powerful markets. The result, not surprisingly, is that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
If you were to get reincarnated and come back as a drink, what drink would you be?
I would like to return as a café drink, yes, but not just any drink, I want the coffee my mother prepared at five every morning, when it began to dawn, the scent and flavor of choreado coffee is undoubtedly the best drink, it’s the one that is prepared with love.
What do you consider to be your greatest contribution to coffee?
From a different perspective we have tried to look for quality improvement, stepping out of the traditional profile of Costa Rica coffee characterized by 100% washed coffees.
We started with organic production before moving on to the preparation of coffee with honey, called “Lajas – Honey Process” which placed us in the specialty market for micro-batch boutique. Then we came to the process of Perla Negra, a naturally processed coffee in the style of African countries, which is rarely produced in Costa Rica, and never for export.
This relentless pursuit of continuous improvement helps us add value to the product, which in turn is transferred to the roaster and thus the final consumer.
What do you think others would say is your greatest contribution to coffee?
The spirit of innovation and experimentation.
What’s next for you?
In recent years we have developed direct partnerships with several buyers (direct trade). What remains now is to strengthen them, and ensure that they do not deteriorate over time, that the customer is satisfied and also the producer. I think this is my humble opinion, since I consider it is the only way to continue generating justice.
Has coffee affected your “non-coffee” life? If so, in what ways?
Coffee has allowed me to meet and make friends, good friends, people who otherwise I never would have met. I have also had the opportunity to meet other cultures and how they produce coffee. I am glad, because I learned a lot.
Who’s the person you’d most like to see us interview next?
The person we would like to see in this space is the one that deserves our respect and gratitude, Mr. David Griswold, and his team at Sustainable Harvest, who have designed a program that allows both small (like us) and large producers to be part of the coffee supply chain in a transparent and fair manner.