Country: Costa Rica
Region: West Valley
Producer: Steven Vargas
Elevation: 1,600 meters
Profile: Caramel, Milk Chocolate, Orange, and Florals.
Operated by Steven Vargas, Don Sabino Micromill is a recent addition to the Vargas family’s coffee business in the West Valley region of Costa Rica. The family’s history in coffee began with Steven’s great-grandfather, Recadero Vargas, who was one of the pioneers of coffee production in the area of Poas, Alajuela. The legacy continued on to Steven’s grandfather, Don Sabino Vargas Sibaja, and father, Gilberth Vargas, making Steven part of the fourth generation of his family to work in coffee production.
Steven originally joined the family business in 2010 when he, his father, and his brother made the decision to produce specialty coffees. With Steven’s father responsible for taking care of the farms as he had for many years, Steven was able to focus on implementing changes and new plans, as well as finding new markets for their coffees. It was from this decision to produce specialty coffee that Steven and his father founded a family micromill in 2011, named Don Sabino after Steven’s grandfather.
Don Sabino Micromill is located at the foot of the Poas Volcano in Sabanilla, Alajuela. Since its inception the mill has grown to be a shining example of scalable quality, growing from a small number of microlots to a full-fledged family business which grows, processes, and sells coffee around the world.
Since joining the family coffee business, part of Steven’s vision has always been to acquire more land for coffee cultivation. This vision has been with the intention of not only scaling the volume produced by the family, but also to diversify the coffee varieties cultivated.
Today, Steven owns approximately 50 hectares of land which are planted with a large collection of varieties including Caturra, Catuai, Gesha, Obata, Villa Sarchi, SL-28, and many others.
Steven’s farms have a unique landscape which contributes to the final cup characteristics of his coffee. All of his farms, including Orvo where this coffee was cultivated, are under the Poas Volcano and benefit from the nutrient-rich volcanic soil. The topography of the coffee fields doesn’t include steep slopes, which makes organizing the land and separating the coffee varieties easily manageable. The microclimate brings sunny mornings followed by cool and misty afternoons, creating an environment in which coffee thrives.
This lot of SL-28 coffee underwent Natural processing at Don Sabino Micromill. All coffees processed at Don Sabino receive either Natural or Honey processing, conserving the water that would otherwise be used for Washed processing.
Natural coffees from Don Sabino Micromill are fully sun-dried on raised beds. The beds are made of black zaran material which encourages airflow around the cherries during drying.
Cherries enjoy sunlight throughout the day and are covered with plastic overnight to
prevent moisture from building up on the coffees. Cherries are dried for 2–3 weeks to reach their ideal humidity before being stored in the mill’s warehouse for 1–2 months to rest. After resting, each microlot is sorted for screen size, color, and density before being packaged for shipment.
The West Valley, or Valle Occidental, seems to have been created especially for coffee
growing. Its altitudes of 800–1400 meters above sea level, humidity consistently near 81%, and an average temperature of 21°C are all factors that promote a plentiful, healthy crop.
Valle Occidental typically experiences rain for about 160 days each year. The start of the dry season in November coincides with the beginning of the coffee harvest, which continues until February, often with a festive atmosphere during the Christmas holidays. Most local growers have small plantations and use sustainable agriculture and processing methods.
All of these factors, from the climate to the producers, come together to produce Arabica beans with the balanced acidity and body for which West Valley coffee is world famous.