Category Archives: Wycombe and Grecia

An Education Liaison Project

This idea progressed in summer 2021 with letters sent by the Chairman of Wycombe For Fair Trade to secondary & grammar schools in High Wycombe addressed to the Heads of Geography, Sociology, & Business Studies, with the objective of establishing a working relationship with a school in our Fair Trade Partner Town of Grecia in Costa Rica.

A reply, received in October 2021, from Ms. Barker, then Head of Geography at Highcrest Academy in High Wycombe, who invited me to a teachers’ meeting in November 2021. Simultaneously, the Sustainability Manager at CoopeVictora, contacted the lead teacher, Laura Chaves, at the Colegio Experimental Bilingue de Grecia to enquire about connecting with a UK school.

Head teachers at Highcrest Academy were very enthusiastic about a potential link, citing many benefits including broadening pupils’ cultural understanding and perceptions by sharing lessons. The Highcrest principal gave his total backing to the project. The first joint Teams geography lesson took place in December 2021, with further shared classes occurring in March and April 2022, after the Colegio’s long summer break.

Pupils from both learning institutions seemed engaged and interested, and later even instigated their own independent email & Zoom “pen-pal” groups. Fair Trade is part of the Geography & Sociology GCSE & “A” level curricula, but there are plans to introduce Fairtrade to younger year pupils. During Fairtrade Fortnight in February 2022, Mike King delivered 6 x 15-minute Fair Trade themed school assemblies to all pupils about the philosophy of Fair Trade and how small farming communities are benefiting in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This provides small-scale farmers with access to world markets, receiving guaranteed fixed prices for their products, while obtaining a Fairtrade social Premium which could be invested in local community health, infrastructure, or education projects.

Ambassador Rafael Ortiz Fabrega, from the Embassy of Costa Rica in London presenting the Mayor of High Wycombe, Councilor Arif Hussain, with a Plaque from the Mayor of Grecia

A total of 995 pupils were engaged over the week, at the end of which, I was interviewed for a Highcrest internal TV programme. Highcrest ran a “Fairtrade Tuck Shop” & organized a competition involving pupils designing a Fairtrade chocolate bar wrapper containing one sentence catch-phrase to entice customers to buy the product. In 2023, Highcrest Academy applied to the Fairtrade Foundation to be registered as a FairAware school.

During Fair Trade Fortnight, on Monday 6th March 2023, Highcrest Academy hosted HE, Ambassador Rafael Ortiz Fabrega, from the Embassy of Costa Rica in London who presented the Mayor of High Wycombe, Councilor Arif Hussain, with a Plaque from the Mayor of Grecia, stating that Grecia and High Wycombe were sister Fair Trade Towns. Mayor Arif Hussain then graciously donated the plaque to Highcrest Academy in recognition of their sterling work in promoting Fair Trade in the curriculum, as part of school life, and because of the establishment and development of their teaching and cultural links with the Colegio Experimental Bilingue de Grecia, in Costa Rica. The plaque is now inserted on the school awards wall in the main foyer.

The plaque mounted on Highcreat Academy’s Awards Wall

Afterwards, Ambassador Ortiz officially launched the Grecia – High Wycombe Fair Trade Towns Partnership Celebration Coffee, the culmination of a year-long project. There were speeches of thanks followed by the all-important Celebration coffee tasting with “pan de elote “, a Costa Rican sweet corncake. The coffee and the dessert met with universal approval by 60 invited pupils and a dozen teachers.

UK Fairtrade Foundation Fortnight March 2023 – Wycombe For Fairtrade Activities and Events – 5

Big Fairtrade Fortnight Online Get Together – Thursday 9th March 2023

Responding to an email request from Stefan Donnelly at the Fairtrade Foundation for descriptions of what type of events Wycombe For Fairtrade organized over Fairtrade Fortnight, Mike King, the Wycombe For Fairtrade Chairman, was asked to speak about the main highlight and activities surrounding the visit of Ambassador Rafael Ortiz Fabrega from the Embassy of Costa Rica to High Wycombe on Monday 6th March 2023. Organizing these events to bring together different stakeholders was an interesting challenge and involved a great deal of collaboration and liaison.

Agreed events for this incredible day of the visit on Monday 6th March included: –

  • Greeted the Ambassador and the Economic Consul at the railway station and escorted them to the High Wycombe Council Chamber building.
  • Met with and greeted the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of High Wycombe, Wycombe For Fairtrade Steering Group members, and Wayne and Sarah Coetzee, co-owners of Roast Lab, a local, independent, micro-roastery who roasted the green coffee beans.
  • Ambassador Ortiz engaged in a live Zoom meeting with Directors of CoopeVictoria Fairtrade coffee and sugar cooperative and the Deputy Mayor of Grecia.
  • Ceremoniously cut the Grecia – High Wycombe Fairtrade Towns Partnership Celebration cake with the Mayor of High Wycombe, Arif Hussain.
  • The Wycombe Mayors laid on a lavish lunch for the Ambassador and guests.
  • Conveyed the Ambassador of Costa Rica and the Economic Consul and Mayors of High Wycombe along with five Wycombe For Fairtrade Steering Group members to Highcrest Academy where Ambassador Ortiz: –
  • Met and greeted senior teachers and the Head Boy and Girl.
  • Delivered a 15-minute Powerpoint presentation about Costa Rican culture, geography, history, ecology, and the natural environment.
  • Presented the Grecia – High Wycombe Fairtrade Towns Partnership plague to the Mayor of High Wycombe. The Mayor in turn presented the Grecia –plaque to Highcrest Academy for their incorporation of Fairtrade into the curriculum, and for their outstanding work in establishing a strong and continually developing link with liaison, videos, projects, and joint lessons with pupils at the Colegio Experimental Bilingue de Grecia.
  • In co-ordination with Mike King, Ambassador Ortiz officially launched the Grecia – High Wycombe Fairtrade Towns Partnership Celebration Coffee with single-origin green beans supplied by CoopeVictoria and roasted locally by Roast Lab, a small, independent, micro-roaster near Gerrards Cross.
  • This medium-roasted arabica coffee was then sampled by teachers and some pupils, accompanied by the delicious Central American snack – “pan de elote”, a type of corncake.
  • Photographs and interviews with Bucks Free Press journalist. The whole event was recorded live by the Highcrest Academy Computer Technician.
  • Farewells and goodbyes at 4 15 pm.

Towards the end of the Big Fairtrade Fortnight Get Together, responders used the Zoom chat box to give their opinions and comments. After my 5 – minute resume of the Ambassador’ s visit, one responder stated, “That’s amazing work in High Wycombe – Inspirational.”

It was an extraordinary day, which all stakeholders involved could justifiably be proud.

Mike King,
Chairman, Wycombe For Fairtrade

UK Fairtrade Foundation Fortnight March 2023 – Wycombe For Fairtrade Activities and Events – 4

Visit of Ambassador Ortiz and the Economic Consul from the Embassy of Costa Rica on Monday 6th March 202 to the Mayor of High Wycombe’s Parlour and to Highcrest Academy in High Wycombe.

Wycombe For Fairtrade in association with the Mayor’s Office in High Wycombe had invited Ambassador Rafael Ortiz Fabrega from the Embassy of Costa Rica and his Economic Consul to visit High Wycombe on Monday 6th March 2023 with the intention of involving Ambassador Ortiz in helping High Wycombe celebrate High Wycombe For Fairtrade’s 4 year partnership with the Fairtrade Town of Grecia in Costa Rica, and with the neighbouring 3000 – farmer Fairtrade coffee and sugar producer cooperative, CoopeVictoria.

This event was recognised by the UK Fairtrade Foundation as a whole with a photograph of the mayor of High Wycombe, the Costa Rica Ambassador and the owners of Roast Labs – see https://www.fairtrade.org.uk/media-centre/blog/thank-you-fortnight-campaigners/

Organizing these events to bring together different stakeholders was an interesting challenge and involved a great deal of collaboration and liaison.  This was the highlight of Wycombe For Fairtrade’s Fairtrade Fortnight events. The list of activities surrounding the visit of Ambassador Monday 6th March 2023 are listed below.

  • Steering Group members greeted the Ambassador and the Economic Consul at the railway station and escorted them to the High Wycombe Council Chamber building.
  • Ambassador Ortiz was introduced to the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of High Wycombe, Wycombe For Fairtrade Steering Group members, and Wayne and Sarah Coetzee, co-owners of Roast Lab, a local, independent, micro-roastery who roasted the green coffee beans.
  • Ambassador Ortiz engaged in a live Zoom meeting with Directors of CoopeVictoria Fairtrade coffee and sugar cooperative and the Deputy Mayor of Grecia.
  • His Excellency ceremoniously cut the Grecia – High Wycombe Fairtrade Towns Partnership Celebration cake with the Mayor of High Wycombe, Arif Hussain. This delicious cake was specially made by the Mayor’s Office and had the Grecia – High Wycombe Fairtrade Towns Partnership Celebration coffee bag details on the top of the wonderful cake.
  • The Wycombe Mayors laid on a lavish lunch for the Ambassador and guests.
  • At 1.45 pm. Wycombe For Fairtrade members and the Mayoral party conveyed the Ambassador of Costa Rica and the Economic Consul and Mayors of High Wycombe along with five Wycombe For Fairtrade Steering Group members to Highcrest Academy where Ambassador Ortiz: –
  1. Met and greeted senior teachers and the Head Boy and Girl.
  • Delivered a 15-minute Powerpoint presentation about Costa Rican culture, geography, history, ecology, and the natural environment which was very well received.
  • Presented the Grecia – High Wycombe Fairtrade Towns Partnership plague to the Mayor of High Wycombe. Mayor Arif Hussain in turn, presented the Grecia – High Wycombe plaque to Highcrest Academy for their incorporation of Fairtrade into the curriculum, and for their outstanding work in establishing a strong and continually developing link with liaison, videos, projects, and joint lessons, with pupils at the Colegio Experimental Bilingue de Grecia.
  • In conjunction with Mike King, Ambassador Ortiz officially launched the Grecia – High Wycombe Fairtrade Towns Partnership Celebration Coffee with single-origin green beans supplied by CoopeVictoria and roasted locally by Roast Lab, a small, independent, micro-roaster near Gerrards Cross.
  • This medium-roasted arabica coffee was then sampled by teachers and some pupils, accompanied by the delicious Central American snack – “pan de elote”, a type of corncake, made by two of Wycombe For Fairtrade Steering Group members.
  • During the coffee sampling, there was time for photographs and interviews with the Ambassador, Mayor of High Wycombe, and Mike King, Chairman of Wycombe For Fairtrade. There was even a live link with Maria Angela Zamora Chaves, the Sustainability Manager at CoopeVictoria. She commented that this was a special day because this was the first time that the “Monte Camejo” coffee had been roasted in the UK as a single-origin coffee. The Bucks Free Press journalist interviewed the main stakeholders and took many photographs. These appeared in a full-page colour article the following Friday, both in the High Wycombe and Marlow editions of the Bucks Free Press. The whole event was recorded live by the Highcrest Academy Computer Technician.
  • Farewells and goodbyes at 4 15 pm.

It was an extraordinary, incredible day, which the Mayors of High Wycombe and Grecia, CoopeVictoria Managers, Wycombe For Fairtrade, Roast Lab independent roasters, and Highcrest Academy pupils and teachers involved could justifiably be proud. Ambassador Ortiz enjoyed his day in High Wycombe and was very impressed with level of the Grecia – High Wycombe Fairtrade Towns partnership linking.

Mike King,
Chairman, Wycombe For Fairtrade

Grecia Trip – Wycombe for Fairtrade – Afternoon Wednesday 18th May 2022

Day 6 Weds 18th May 2022 – Early Afternoon

Visit to Grecia Cathedral

After an excellent lunch on the veranda at the CoopeVictoria Cafeteria, Mike and Sheena King were driven by Marie Angela to Grecia centre where we met Nora Suarez, the Deputy Mayor of Grecia, and Shirley from Grecia Fair Trade Committee, who showed us around the beautiful Roman Catholic Cathedral (Iglesia de la Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes), which is made entirely from sheet steel.

 Caption: Sheena, Maria Angela, Shirley, and Nora Suarez in the central aisle looking towards the main entrance.

Caption: Interior of Grecia Cathedral looking towards central altarpiece.

The bright red house of worship was built in the late 19th century out of plates of imported Belgian steel. The separate plates have been plainly riveted together and the whole building painted red.  Given the odd make-up of the building, several legends regarding the reasons behind the church’s construction have appeared over the years. One zany theory is that the church, having been imported from Europe, was meant for Greece, but got sent to the slightly similar sounding town of Grecia. Another story says that it was meant for Chile but, due to bureaucratic quicksand, the building simply settled in Grecia. However, the truth behind the building would seem to be the one answer no one wants to believe: that the church was simply purchased by the local government and a group of investors.

Caption: Beautiful Cathedral side chapel altarpiece containing many carvings and statues.

Caption: Looking back to main Cathedral entrance with organ loft and lovely stained-glass windows giving good idea of scale.

The Cathedral is located in the centre of the town in front of the park and a pond. It is the focal point of Grecia and is as imposing as it is impressive. The interior of the Cathedral is just as impressive as the exterior, with beautiful stained-glass windows, icons, and alters with carved figures and statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus.

Caption: Grecia Cathedral interior with many carvings, icons and relics devoted to various saints.

Farewells: Municipal Council Chamber and Tour of Grecia Municipal Market

We returned to the Grecia Municipal Council Chamber to say our fond farewells to Nora and Shirley. They gave Mike and Sheena King gifts including a superbly baked cake and a bag of gifts for the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of High Wycombe. Mike was interviewed along with Marie Angela by the local newspaper report and live radio broadcast. After coffee and pastries, we were also shown a couple of videos by the Grecia Municipal Market Manager of the town as well as the historic indoor market.

Indoor Market

Nora, Shirley, Marie Angela, and the Market Manager then gave us an interesting tour of the famous indoor covered market. This had been going for over 100 years and currently was occupied by 94 small, family-run, independent stallholders selling local, homemade products such as food, clothes, shoes, crafts, snacks, and artisanal goods based on local crafts. Large supermarkets and chain stores were banned from this area. There were many interesting murals adorning the tiled walls and passages in the market interior. The local craftsmen and artists had created some inspiring and beautiful depictions of Costa Rican wildlife, animals, birds, forests, and water scenes, as well as depicting historic crafts reflecting the local indigenous culture.

The covered market was open 6 days a week with around 1500 people during weekdays rising to 5,500 visitors on Saturdays. Our impression was of a thriving market providing a good meeting place for the local community as well as offering good quality organic food at reasonable price in the “sopas” (snack bars and mini store).  

Grecia Trip – Wycombe for Fairtrade – Morning Wednesday 18th May 2022

Day 6 Weds 18th May 2022  Morning – Visit to the FANAL Sugar Cane Distillation Plant

Marie Angela, Greg, and Andres from CoopeVictoria, Sheena, and Mike toured the FANAL sugar cane distillation plant just outside Grecia town, at the invitation of the former Mayor of Grecia, Mainor Molina.

FANAL is a state-owned and managed plant. The plant manager showed us around this interesting and fascinating distillery that extracts methanol from liquid heated from sugar cane liquor, converting it into a range of products, mainly Cacique, a Costa Rican 40% proof rum. Interestingly, Cacique was only allowed to be sold for public consumption within the boarders of Costa Rica only and was not for export.

Caption: FANAL plant. Storage takes containing 2 million liters of sugar cane liquor.

Caption: Heated distilled cane liquour condenses and captured according to alcholol level. 40% proof for Cacique, 90% proof is piped to holding tanks for the health industry.

After the methanol has been extracted by heating the sugar cane alcohol and cooling the steam through heat exchangers, the 94% proof alcohol was diluted down to 40%. Then, the cooled rum goes by a series of pipes to the bottling plant. The remaining industrial strength alcohol was transferred to giant storage tanks awaiting collection by road tankers for transport to processing plants that utilized the 90%+ strength alcohol that was used to make surgical wipes and anti-bacterial hand gels. These gels and wipes were and still are widely used during the global Covid outbreak and in the post Corona virus era.

Caption: Bottling plant production line new bottles being filled with Cacique.

Caption: Filled bottles move on to the capping machine for their tops.

We all received gifts of our visit which included bags, baseball caps advertising Cacique, as well as a liter bottle of rum each. Some of CoopeVictoria’s sugar cane was used by FANAL in its processing.

Caption: FANAL plant director with Mainor Molia, a former Mayor of Grecia.

Caption: End of the production line. Bottles are packed 12 to a box for distribution across Costa Rica.

Grecia Trip – Wycombe for Fairtrade – Afternoon Tuesday 17th May 2022

Day 5 Tuesday 17th May 2022 – Afternoon

Visit and Tour of the Colegio Experimental Bilingue de Grecia

After an excellent lunch as guests of UNAGUAS, Maria drove us to the Liceo Experimental Bilingue de Grecia, where we were greeted by three final year geography students, Lester, Adrianna, and Viorela, whose command of English and manners were impeccable. They showed us around the whole school, including two ongoing English classes, where Mike was invited to talk to the pupils in English describing life in England and his observations on Costa Rica. So important is English, that the timetable allocates 14 hours per week for each student to learn English, compared to only 4 hours per week for Spanish lessons and 3 hours per week for French! The school seemed very well appointed with classrooms and positive posters and slogans on the walls advocating effort and achievement. There was a bias towards the arts, languages, and social sciences. However, there seemed to be a shortage of computers and a lack of science labs.

Laura Chaves, the Academic Director, also accompanied us around the school. Mike and Sheena were introduced to the school principal, who welcomed us in Spanish and was very complementary about the recent partnership between the Highcrest Academy in High Wycombe where 6th form Geography pupils were having joint Zoom lessons with teachers in Grecia and Highcrest and vice versa.  Some of the pupils had establish email “pen pals” with fellow pupils in High Wycombe.

After the tour, we were invited to the staff room where we had drinks and homemade plain and cheese tortillas, as well as gluten and sugar free snacks. Maria even met one of her former English teachers. Mike told the pupils and staff in Spanish what Colette Barker, the Head of Geography at Highcrest Academy, had reported about the benefits to teachers and pupils, of the initial partnership with the Colegio Experimental Bilingue de Grecia. Colette hoped that this liaison would continue through the following academic year. Lester then told us of his positive experiences linking with a pupil from Highcrest Academy who had similar interests to Lester.

There was even time for a photo opportunity with Mike and Sheena King from Wycombe For Fairtrade, Colegio pupils Lester, Adrianna, and Viorela, Maria Angela from CoopeVictoria, Laura Chaves, the Academic Director, and the English Teacher from the Liceo.

We were made to feel extremely welcome at the school. Mike and Sheena King were particularly impressed by the pupils and by the positive learning experiences and encouragement which permeated through the school. Our 2-hour visit seemed to flash by, and it was time to say our “farewells” and express our thanks to our friendly hosts at the Liceo.

Caption: Maria Angela’s photo of Mike and Sheena King with the pupil guides, Lester, Adrianna, and Fiorella to their left. On the extreme left-hand side is Laura Chaves, the Deputy Academic Director at the Liceo and the lead link teacher with Highcrest Academy in High Wycombe. Maria Angela is on the extreme left with an old English teacher.

Grecia Trip – Wycombe for Fairtrade – Morning Tuesday 17th May 2022

Visit to UNAGUAS, a Grecia community-owned and managed freshwater supplier, overseeing local sustainability, environmental, and reforestation projects, e.g., tree planting with local primary children.

Introduction

Sheena, Maria Angela, and I were invited by UNAGUAS, theUnion of Grecia Associations for the Environment and Health, to attend and help with a tree replanting morning involving a local primary school class. The purpose of UNAGUAS is to strengthen communal water management in the canton and guarantee to supply fresh and safe drinking water to over 5,500 homes in Grecia and to businesses in the area such as CoopeVictoria for washing coffee beans and processing sugar cane.

Caption: Sheena (far right) and I planted our own native sapling in this new forest gowth. The children loved getting their hands dirty and engaging with nature.

The local community-run project has been operational for 20 years, beginning in September 2002. It is just 1 of 9 community freshwater management systems in the canton of Alejuela. Lydia, the President of the Community Association stated that it was important that “people work together to protect and ensure future water resources”. Their mantra is “Together is Better”

Tree planting, reafforestation, and engagement with children

We joined a local primary school class to plant some indigenous, native species of trees in an area once cleared for logging. The idea was to increase tree cover which holds the soil together, helps retain water, and encourages wildlife like bats and birds to feed on the tree fruits. The trees would provide shade for certain coffee plant varieties in the future. The children also planted saplings which take around 12 years to become established. The benefits are that young children become engaged, get their hands dirty, and learn at the same time, and realize the importance of their natural environment. A professional agronomist ensures that tree saplings are planted correctly.

Caption:School children planting their splings supervised by ecologists and teachers.

Caption: Primary school child finishing planting a sampling.

Caption: Row of recently planted saplings by primary school class.

Future Challenges and Opportunities.

Climate change is starting to have a huge impact in terms of earlier rainy seasons, heavier rainfall, and being near the Eastern Caribbean – frequent hurricanes. Community managed water supply systems are novel, and UNAGUAS are considering running tours for tourists of the water sources, volcanic springs, pumping stations, and storage tanks. International interest is also being shown in their operations from Chile and Mexico who are coming to Grecia to see how these local community run water projects work and share ideas. As this is a voluntary body, people have other jobs outside UNAGUAS. They do however employ full time plumbers, pipe layers, and inspectors.

Caption: Poas volcano provides the run-off water to this stream, the volcanic rock providing a natural filter.

Conservation of Natural Resources and Sustainability

The protection of water resources is vital for communities for which they pay a bit more money to ensure the supply of pure, fresh, naturally filtered water, which is utilized in the commercial sector too, for future generations. Therefore, people are more conscious of water use. Strangely, there are no plugs in wash basins!!! Wherever possible, appropriate and sustainable technologies are utilized.

UNAGUAS link with Grecia Municipality and CoopeVictoria.

UNAGUAS ensures that any new projects are in keeping with nature and the natural environment, keeping heavy industry out of the mountains and the rain catchment areas, while bringing clean water to the people. Water emanates from two local aquafers near to two volcanoes. The volcanic rock is a natural purifier and filter of water. UNAGUAS works closely with both the Grecia Municipality, including the Fairtrade Group and CoopeVictoria.  The UNAGUAS logo sits proudly on banners and signs promoting Grecia, CoopeVictoria, and Fairtrade. UNAGUAS shares the Fairtrade development goals, especially the one pertaining to sustainability. Water conservation and protection are issues shared by all three organizations. Marco, the President of UNAGUAS said that he was pleased to be part of the Grecia Fairtrade Town and would continue to work to protect pure water resources, plant more trees to absorb carbon dioxide, so attracting and encouraging wildlife and birds and to increase the biodiversity.

Caption: UNAGUAS water storage tanks at the purification plant in the forest.

Hazel Ordenana Tenacio, the Executive Director of UNAGUAS then gave a speech welcoming Mike and Sheena King to Grecia and thanked them for for visiting UNAGUAS, delivered an interesting powerpoint presentation which Maria translated, and then gave out some welcome gifts to us. A delicious meal then rounded off our visit serenaded by a singer.

Caption: Maria Angela and Sheena King outside the UNAGUAS water filtration plant where small quantities of chlorine are added to kill off any bacteria.

Grecia Trip – Wycombe for Fairtrade – Late Afternoon Monday 16 May 2022

Day 4. CoopeVictoria – Coffee Quality Testing (cupping) with Mario Chief “Q” Grader. Mon 16th May 2022.  Late afternoon. 4.00 pm – 5.00 pm.

The tasting technique is called “coffee cupping” or “cup tasting”. This is how coffee is tasted and tested by producers for buyers around the world to check the quality of a batch of coffee before being exported or sold. In cupping, coffees are scored for aspects such as cleanness, sweetness, acidity, mouthfeel, and aftertaste.

Caption: Migrant coffee pickers accommodation during harvest time.

According to the cupping protocol, hot water is poured directly onto freshly roasted ground beans in the cup and allowed to steep for 3–5 minutes. The infusion is then stirred, and the foamy head removed. The coffee will need to cool before tasting to avoid burning your tongue and to allow the flavours to emerge. Two spoons are used, one going in to the cup and the other into the mouth. Mario, the chief “Quality Grader” at CoopeVictoria, tests every batch of coffee before it is exported to the supplier or wholesaler. He grades many cups of coffee during a workday, so spitting out is a must.

Caption: The coffee quality unit is located in the building where all the CoopeVictoria whole bean and ground coffees are bagged-up in sterile and temperature-controlled conditions.

Caption: Mario, a certified Quality Grader, Marie Angela, and Sheena ready to begin the cupping process.

Marie Angela, Sheena, and Mike were introduced to the protocol that involves smelling the beans or ground coffee for their essence before any hot water is added, then hot water is added and allowed to stand for 4 minutes, smelling the aromas of the hot coffee. The final stage of the process is “slurping” each cup of coffee from a spoon to allow the whole mouth to absorb the taste and flavour. The cupping “scores” the essences, aromas, and flavours present in the coffee, and are then compared to a chart and a score awarded. If the score falls below a certain grade, then the whole batch is dumped. The complex chart indicates the many varieties and flavours of fruit , flowers, and chocolate.

Caption: The Golden Cup plaque for 1st place in the Best Fairtrade Coffee in Costa RIca Competition 2021. CoopeVictoria have won the award three years running.

Just like with wine, one can find endless flavour notes to coffee as each harvest is different. Flavour is directly affected by weather and altitude, but the most important roles are played by the soil and the cultivar. 

Caption: 7 of the 8 CoopeVictoria coffee varieties about to be tested for quality. The roaster is just behind Marie and Mario with the extractor fan visible.

Caption: Mario pouring hot water into the 4 coffee bowls relating to the 8 varieties of coffee. Essence, aroma, taste, and sweetness are being tested and scored.

Caption: Two of the 8 CoopeVictoria cofee varieties available in the CoopeVictoria on site shop.

Grecia Trip – Wycombe for Fairtrade – Afternoon Monday 16 May 2022

Day 4. Tour of CoopeVictoria Coffee Roastery Mon 16th May 2022.  Afternoon.

After a fascinating tour of Carlos’ organic coffee and sugar cane farm, Maria Angela drove us to have lunch in a “sopa”, a small cheap café and mini market with very reasonably priced food. The sopa was owned by CoopeVictoria and sold 8 of their coffees as well as their new range of Rainforest Alliance certificated chocolate bars. The complex included a pharmacy, a few other shops, and a petrol station, the largest in Central America. These were all owned and managed by CoopeVictoria. The petrol and gasoline pumps were powered by solar panels on the roof of the petrol forecourt canopy. After our meal we returned to CoopeVictoria.

Caption: Located in the CoopeVictoria gardens near the roastery are examples of the varieties of coffee plants grown by the small cooperative member farmers.

Andres Gonzales, the Research and Development Director of CoopeVictoria, then showed Mike, Sheena, and Marie Angela around the dormant coffee roastery and explained the processes. The roastery was undergoing mechanical maintenance in preparation for the new coffee harvest in November 2022. Andres pointed out the delivery system for the coffee cherries, the washing process, as well as the coffee cherry mulching machines which removed the pulp to expose the coffee beans. The beans were then dried and either exported as Fair Trade “green beans” for roasting abroad or were roasted onsite.

Caption: Maria Angela and Andres Alvarado pose by the information boards in CoopeVictoria garden relating how sugar cane production has developed since 1943.

The roastery itself dates to 1943 and some of the other equipment like the boilers needed upgrading or replacing. The boilers were currently wood fired and would need to be replaced by less polluting methods.

Caption: Trucks bring the ripe coffee cherries to the CoopeVictoria roastery which are unloaded into these hoppers where the coffee cherries are weighed, and the farmer paid according to weight.

CoopeVictoria produces a range of 8 coffee types grown by the 3000 cooperative small farmers. Six of these coffees have either wholly Fairtrade certification and/or Soil Association certification indicating its organic origin. This included the recently released “Essence of Women” Fairtrade coffee which is grown exclusively by 20 women owned or run coffee fincas (small farms). We saw the bagging ares for the green beans for export in the large warehouse.

Caption: Coffee cherries are then soaked in water in these ponds.

There was a single, non-Fairtrade blend of coffee that was sold entirely within Costa Rica and was not exported. It has proved to be very popular with the Costa Rican public, being widely sold in independent stores and supermarkets, in addition to the CoopeVictoria shop next to the roastery and their “Sopa” located at their petrol station on the outskirts of Grecia. At the conclusion of the tour at 4.00 pm, it was time to visit the “Quality Grading Centre” to test the consistency of the coffee varieties.

Caption: Wet coffee cherries are then turned in these drums to remove the outer pulp layer.

Caption:  The pulped cherries are then pumped into these drainage tanks. Water drains out and the mulch is used for free fertilizer by all the CoopeVictoria farmers.

Caption: Boilers are wood fired and have been since 1943. Equipment needs updating and non-fossil fuels utilized.

Caption: Some exported coffees are roasted by CoopeVictoria, others like this new Women Essence coffee are exported as dried green beans and roasted overseas.