The coffee industry giant will release next Thursday a new kind of product in its Costa Rican farm, after nearly four years of R&D, the locals will have their own taste of the morning beverage. The presentation will be done by Carlos Mario Rodriguez, Head of Support Center at Starbucks Costa Rica and Monica Bianchini, Starbucks manager in the country.
The Hacienda Alcasia is a coffee farm that survived the test of time. A single family manages it since the 70’s. This ads to the plantation a tradition of love and hard work, plus the most fertile ground Costa Rica has to offer. Being just beside the Poas Volcano, caught the attention of Starbucks owners into making their own coffee bean.
After a year’s work, the general manager of Hacienda Alcasia, Victor Trejos has said there’s a notable difference in the farm’s operations. “I have been working with coffee for 20 years, but this harvest was different. It was very exciting to see all our hard work come through with this very high-quality cup of coffee”.
Under the guidance of Starbucks, the harvest has given more than 300,000 pounds of coffee in its first year of work. There was a partner-exclusive “first-crop” coffee taste in a company leadership conference at their headquarters in Seattle.
Starbucks hopes lie on Costa Rica
Climate change is real, and it’s affecting the coffee industry worldwide, the fungus known in Latin America as roya takes its toll on crops, reducing them up to 35% in countries like Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in 2014.
To sort this out, Starbucks has a long-term plan that started on buying their own farm for research and development. Through nursing and hybridization, their beans are becoming climate resistant, preparing to endure further climate changes.
“Coffee is very sensitive”, says Ric Rhineheart, executive director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. He also says that the plantations need a very specific rainfall pattern and don’t respond well to temperature swings due to its low tolerance to climate change.
Jacques Avelino, plant pathologist of the French organization for Agricultural Research and Development says that the current weather changing conditions can affect arabica growing farms. Climate change in Central and South America can reduce coffee harvests to almost extinction in a few decades. According to results of a research project done at London’s Kew Royal Botanic Gardens.
Starbucks even promises to share what it learns about coffee with farmers in Costa Rica, including new hybrid seeds, according to Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz as their relations in the Central America country go a long way, though they will keep the best beans to turn them into coffee blends to sell in stores.
Carlos Mario Rodriguez, the coffee magician
The best talent comes from the people that work and knows everything about their hometown; this is the case for Mario Rodriguez. With a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from the University of Costa Rica and a master’s in plant pathology from Ohio State University, he’s more than qualified to say what happens on his own soil.
Initially, Rodriguez worked studying coffee diseases for the NGO Icafe, which focuses on promoting Costa Rica’s coffee industry. In 2004 Starbucks hired him to run the support center in San Jose.
Now, Carlos Mario is one of the most respected agronomists, due to his work, he got a recognition last year as one of the “Most Creative People 2016”, an award given by the business magazine Fast Company. Daily, he oversees all research activities at Hacienda Alcasia.
The trees developed by Rodriguez through selective breeding are highly resistant to coffee rust (or roya) and they have remarkable quality as well. Starbucks final goal is to breed coffee hybrids that are enjoyable and also can endure future weather conditions.
Starbucks and Costa Rica’s Ups and downs
The first steps in the relationship between Starbucks and the Central American country were made on 2004, and consolidated with the opening of several coffee shops after 2012.
In 2010 the Seattle-based company lowered the amount of coffee they bought to Costa Rican companies, some reductions were as 25% less than Starbucks had the previous year.
2020, the year of Starbucks
Starbucks has committed itself to open up to 12,000 coffee shops worldwide in a six-year span, Thursday’s release of Hacienda Alcasia seems to be one of the key steps for the company. Afterward, by the end of the decade, Costa Rica’s and the Starbucks brand may as well have one of the strongest strategic alliances in the coffee industry.
Currently, Starbucks has over 25,000 coffee shops all over the globe, in April, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz will step down from his position. However, he will keep supervising the companies luxury coffee shops, known as Starbucks Reserve Roasteries.