This week, Beansmith Coffee Roasters in Omaha's Old Market held a "Meet the Producers" event which gave coffee professionals and enthusiasts alike the unique opportunity to meet Jon and Marianella Jost, the owners of Finca Cafe Con Amor, a coffee farm in the Naranjo region of Costa Rica.
This region of Costa Rica is world-renowned for high quality specialty coffee. Coffees from this region have won the Costa Rica Cup of Excellence the last two years in a row.
Finca Cafe' Con Amor is approximately 14 acres in size and sits at around 1200-1400 MASL. Taking in various factors such as soil composition, climate, and altitude, Jon and Marianella have found that Caturra and Villa Sarchi, both natural mutations of the Bourbon variety of coffee, grow best at their farm. However, they also grow some CR-95 and an experimental Gesha lot.
Jon & Marianella have a unique background in that they both spent a large majority of their lives in the United States prior to purchasing their coffee farm. Jon, a Nebraska native, met Marianella, who moved from Costa Rica to the United States when she was 18 years old, at University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
After meeting at UNL, Jon worked for over 20 years in college athletics at Division 1 universities including UNL and Florida State while Marianella worked in the corporate world of international business and later in academia.
Early in Jon and Marianella's marriage, they decided that they wanted to do something different later in life and that they wanted to be financially independent while they did it. They also wanted to make a difference somehow in whatever they did. The combination of these ideas eventually led them to return to Marianella's native country of Costa Rica to purchase Finca Cafe' Con Amor.
Jon & Marianella invest careful and deliberate effort into cultivating their coffee plants to be the healthiest possible. They have mapped out their farm via GPS and conduct regular soil analysis which they then plug into software that tells them what nutrients the soil needs in order to create the ideal composition for their coffee plants to grow.
Interestingly enough, the software along with much of the knowledge they now use in cultivating their plants was taught to them by a coffee engineer from the Starbucks Research & Development Center in Costa Rica.
All this work can't be done by the Josts alone. They have the help of a full time staffer named Chevo who has more than 40 years of hands-on experience in coffee as well as their coffee engineer, Adrian, who travels throughout Latin America consulting for coffee farmers.
In addition to the soil analysis, Cafe Con Amor also pays their seasonal workers, who mostly come from Nicaragua during harvest season, above-average pay to pick their coffee cherries only when they are at their most ripe state or "Sangre de Toro" which means "Bull's Blood Red".
The coffee cherries are then taken to the Herbazu Mill, owned by Don Antonio Barrantes, winner of the 2015 Cup of Excellence, where they are processed using semi-washed and honey-process methods.
Jon & Marianella keep a close eye on the chain of custody of their coffee throughout it's life cycle not just on their farm but at the mill and beyond all the way until it reaches the United States.
Typically, a coffee grower sends their coffee to the mill where often times it is mixed with other growers' coffee as part of a cooperative. The coffee is then processed and most often the growers are paid a negotiated price from a broker who then turns around and sells that coffee for a profit themselves. Many coffee farmers across the world earn very little if any profit from their coffee because they are often taken advantage of by brokers interested in buying coffee at the lowest price possible in order to maximize their own profits.
Another issue is that the price of coffee is often based on the "C market" or C Futures. C Futures are the market standard for Arabica Coffee, which fluctuates much like the stock market and other traded commodities. This "market price" does not factor in variations of quality or the careful practices that growers like Jon and Marianella put into their farm.
Fortunately for the Josts, they were able to make connections with Midwest Coffee Trading, a decades-old coffee importer based in Kansas City that buys coffee from farmers around the world and sells it throughout the United States.
After experiencing the sheer difficulty of finding the proper connections in order to earn fair wages for their coffee, Jon & Marianella established Farmers Project, which currently includes four other neighboring coffee farms. The aim of Farmers Project is to help connect other coffee farmers with importers and coffee buyers who will give them a fair price for their coffee. The benefit to the Farmers Project is that unlike a Co-op, Jon & Marianella do not involve themselves in the price-negotiating for other farmers. They allow those growers to negotiate prices themselves with the buyers.
The specialty coffee industry needs growers like Jon & Marianella who have education, access to technology, and no language barrier who can help build connections between buyers, roasters, and growers alike as well as assist other farmers in earning fair wages for their hard labor.
John and Marianella's farm, Cafe Con Amor is rightly named, as their investment is truly a labor of love.
You can purchase Finca Cafe Con Amor's coffee from Beansmith here.
Beansmith Coffee Roasters is located at:
1213 Harney Street
Omaha, NE 68123