Exploring La Bandera

Sometimes, our sourcing trips are not only for the purposes of pure discovery, but also to finally establish connections with farms we had previously purchased from without having ever seen in person. These moments are always rewarding, as people and places that we had an intangible connection with suddenly become more real. This year, we were thrilled to finally meet and spend some time with Diego Hidalgo, who runs the La Bandera Micromill in the mountains of Santa Maria de Dota, Costa Rica. 

Operator and owner Diego Hidalgo

Last year, while cupping in San Jose, we were shown a coffee from Diego’s farm, and immediately placed a contract on it. We were blown away by the combination of complex sweetness and pristine clarity. The coffee was a hit in our cafes, and with our online customers, so this year, as we traveled back to Costa Rica, we made it a point to finally go see La Bandera, and meet the producer one on one. 

On our way to La Bandera, the first thing that struck us was the elevation. Diego’s farm and mill are high. At points, standing in the bed of a pickup truck, it felt like we were going to go completely vertical. The views were astounding, and this elevation is part of what allows Diego to grow and process coffees with such clarity of flavor. The minimum elevation at La Bandera is 1900 meters above sea level (very high.)

A view of the La Bandera mill from high atop the mountain

Diego is a really impressive guy. Not only is he operating La Bandera, his own micromill where he processes coffees, but he is also managing and growing 10+ separate lots of coffee on his farm, called Aquas Buenas. He has an extremely deep understanding of the microclimate on his mountainside, which sits in a tropical cloud forest, allowing for the correct balance of temperature shifts, moisture, and air flow. Additionally, Diego has a vast avocado crop, which is not only a cash crop, but serves as a natural umbrella to the coffee shrubs during the rainy season, which avoids erosion of the soil, as well as providing shade during the dry season. 

One of Diego's many avocado trees

This year, we’re excited to buy a lot that Diego calls “El Quetzal” — named for the bird he saw sitting on top of one of his avocado trees as he planted the coffee. The varietal is Red Catuai, and total production is only 1 hectare of land. 

We’re excited to work with Diego, and happy to be roasting and offering his coffees for another year.