Cafetalera Herbazu is a well-known farm in the West Valley region, the Lourdes de Naranjo area to be exact. It is one of the early pioneers in independent, small mill coffee farms, the work of the Barrantes family. They grow a type of Villa Sarchi cultivar that they have used for so long, it has become their own mutation in a way. It's quite a short plant (Villa Sarchi is a dwarf mutation of Bourbon, as is Caturra). The mill and drying patios are right in the center of the farm, which ranges from 1550 to 1700 meters. I have been there a couple times and have always been impressed with how efficient and neat the mill looks, as well as the trees, which are kept well-pruned and short. They don't employ much shade on the farm, and their particular type of Villa Sarchi seems adapted to this exposure. But it is a proven winner, with a consistently bright, dynamic, clean cup flavor, and Herbazu won 4th place in the 2009 Cup of Excellence! Sadly, the crop is very small this year at the farm, due to climate and rainfall patterns this past year. But even from the earliest samples I cupped of this '10 crop while in CR, the cup quality has been superb. We have offered the pulp natural "honey" coffees from Herbazu: This lot is their wet-process style estate grade, which is a forced demucilage process (as opposed to traditional fermentation wet-process).
The result is a classic, citric Costa Rica flavor profile, vividly bright, crisp and clean. The fragrance of the dry coffee grounds is full of honey, refined toffee sweetness, and citrus blossom accents. The wet aroma has dynamic orange and Meyer lemon notes, with a graham cracker scent as well, malty and honeyed. The cup is dynamically bright, with fresh-squeezed lemon juice adding a high-note zing to the cup, while there is a tenor-level flavor of honey, caramel and barley sugar. It's that aspect, the fact that there is such excellent bright acidity (meaning the high flavor notes, not the stuff that hurts your stomach), as well as well-defined sweetness, that makes Herbazu my choice for a take-home, weekend coffee! I like the City+ roast level, but it might be too bright for some folks. In the slightly darker roasts levels (FC, FC+) a berry note emerges, so adding a bit more roast time to tone down the coffee a bit is always an option. It also balances out with more rest (48+ hours) and the body improves. This is an amazing cup, with a sour-and-sweet polarity that makes it a very exciting tasting experience. I find it is very versatile, and works anywhere from City roast, through the middle ranges, and into 2nd crack, if you are so inclined.