The lessons of La Minita

Costa Rica is an easy place to take staff for their first experience at origin, and this year I took Wiley. He’s been on staff for just over a year and has taken over the role of wholesale sales for the DoubleShot. Yes, if you didn’t know, we sell our coffee to certain restaurants, offices, coffee shops, etc. (more at

The most interesting things in coffee for me happen on coffee farms. It’s where I’ve learned the most over the past several years, so now that we’re traveling again it’s fun to see new developments and get some insight into what other people are doing in coffee.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen my friends at La Minita, so it was good to catch up with Jhonny, Jose, Lindsey, and Rosio. There were folks from four other coffee businesses visiting the farm with us, mostly longstanding coffee people but a pair of newbies as well. Throughout our three days together we got to know each other, telling personal stories, gossiping about characters in the industry, and talking shop. It’s funny to find myself in the position of being a veteran, having worked in coffee longer than anyone else, but I guess that’s what time and perseverance earns you.

We cupped coffees, first to demonstrate the difference between quality separations (labeled from “first” to “third”), and then the lowest grade which is used only for domestic consumption. Then we got down to business with a cupping table full of interesting micro-lots. This is a departure for La Minita, as they’ve made their mark on the industry by producing nearly the same, top-quality washed coffees year after year. This was a basic tenet set out by Bill McAlpin from the time he purchased the farm in the late 1970s. And that consistency has only been possible because of the skill and abilities of their professional cuppers, Sergio and Jorge, who grade every single lot of coffee by taste. It wasn’t until Bill sold the company that La Minita felt the freedom to begin experimenting with different varieties and processes, which has yielded really interesting aromatics in some of their coffees. We’ll be purchasing some innovative micro-lots in the coming months, so keep an eye out for those.

Throughout this trip I found a common thread that separates what we do from almost every other coffee company on the planet. Like McAlpin, I have some staunch beliefs about how I want to run my company, and that starts with the way we source coffee and doesn’t end until you’ve swirled the last sip around your mouth and exhaled the retronasal aromatics through your nose. We’re old school. We believe that there is value in hard work and attention to detail. And while we enjoy the conveniences of the latest technologies, we know that true mastery comes when you understand how to use technology and when not to. It’s easy to go online and buy green coffee. But that’s not the same as showing up in Concordia, Colombia hoping to find someone who still grows the Caturra variety, knowing I’d still have to figure out how to buy and import it. The personal relationships make the coffee uniquely ours. Just as our manual roasting process differentiates the DoubleShot from all those pushing a button on a computerized roaster. There are a lot of ways to make coffee, and we just happen to do it the hard way. On purpose.

That’s what you taste when you drink a cup of DoubleShot coffee. That’s what you feel when you walk into The Rookery and see all those hand-hewn beams and the custom iron work. It’s in the tactile sensation when you imbibe from one of our hand-thrown cups. There’s just something different about things crafted with hard work and skills earned through years of practice. It’s not just coffee; it’s a lifestyle you and I have chosen to lead. We take the time to do things the way we know they should be done, and to support those who are doing it the hard way. That’s what the DoubleShot lifestyle is all about. You can taste it.