During the harvest, mills run round the clock drying coffee beans for Starbucks.
ALAJUELA PROVINCE, Costa Rica — Norman Alpízar supervises the mill at night on Rodrigo Vargas’ farm in the highlands of central Costa Rica.
Vargas is his uncle, and along with Vargas’ daughters and other nephews, they are part of the fourth generation that will lead the family business, Santa Eduviges.
Now 29, Alpízar thought of becoming a rancher when he was younger.
Eventually, he was drawn into the coffee business and became the apprentice of the coffee master Vargas employs. Alpízar also checks the quality at least once a week.
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“Starbucks loves sourness,” Alpízar says.
At the mill, the beans are washed and peeled, then dried and stored in huge aluminum or wooden silos. It takes about two days for the bean to make it to storage after harvest. The beans sit for about two to three months to become dry enough to be shipped to the buyer.
Dryers at the mill run 24 hours a day, and workers labor deep into the night. In the vertical dryer, towering more than 20 feet, coffee beans are softly stirred. At one of its three mills, Santa Eduviges also dries beans the traditional way, on patios under the sun, but only with its very best coffee.
Back at the main mill, soft, yellow dried coffee beans are the final result.
At a warehouse, Alpízar shows off four silos where the beans rest before being shipped. “This, all of this, belongs to Starbucks,” Alpízar says as he points to the coffee.