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Roble Negro’s Coffee Forest

Ally Coffee’s Central America buyer Bram first connected with producer Jorge Vasquéz Ureña and his cousins Alex and Daniela at a coffee shop in San Jose, Costa Rica during a Cup of Excellence event. From that meeting, the relationship developed and Ally Coffee invested in helping connect Roble Negro coffees with roasters around the world.

Jorge Vasquez along with his cousins Alex and Daniela, scenes from Jorge's Finca Cedral AltoJorge Vasquez along with his cousins Alex and Daniela, scenes from Jorge's Finca Cedral Alto

Agriculture is an activity that requires patience, and over the past three harvests Bram, Jorge, Alex, Daniela, and the final coffee roasters have been working together to share feedback and experiences. During this time Roble Negro built a wet mill to process their own coffee for the first time and found trusted neighbors with a dry mill suited to milling small specialty coffee lots.

Finca Cedral Alto

The story of Roble Negro is both the story of producer Jorge Vasquéz Ureña and the story of the Finca Cedral Alto farm in Aserrí, Central Valley that he bought in 2007. After two decades as a successful banker, Jorge started a recycling company and acquired Cedral Alto to realize his convictions of environmental responsibility and to do what he could to address the problems of land abuse he saw happening around him.

Farm animals and green coffee on Finca Cedral Alto, the mountain farm house on the property, and natural growth in the surrounding forests.Farm animals and green coffee on Finca Cedral Alto, the mountain farm house on the property, and natural growth in the surrounding forests.

Finca Cedral Alto is more than two-thirds forest; the farm’s 22.5 hectares are mostly covered in preserved primary rainforest, with additional hectares of reforestation and pasture land and around 3 hectares of coffee production. Coffee trees are intercropped with fruit trees, which provide food for both people and the many animal species who call the farm home.

The natural biodiversity of flora and fauna creates a rich habitat for trees, flowers, birds, reptiles, and mammals. Orchids, bromeliads, and other epiphytes grow on the oak and cedar trees that give the farm and coffee company their names; hawks, parrots, snakes, frogs, raccoons, mountain lions, armadillos and other creatures feed off the fruit from guava, banana, plantain, avocado, and citrus trees, whose roots stabilize the soil while their falling leaves add nutrients. 

Lush green scenes around the farmLush green scenes around the farm

Cultivating Sustainability

Jorge manages Finca Cedral Alto as sustainably as possible, with timely applications of natural fertilizer made from the pulp of coffee cherries and preventative applications of fungicides and insecticides made from microorganisms gathered from the rainforest’s humus layer of soil. His team clears weeds by hand to eliminate the need for herbicides. Pruning, harvesting, and planting are also done by hand.

Jorge Vasquez with vegetables grown on the farm, rows of coffee trees, and Jorge with Bram De Hoog among ripe coffeeJorge Vasquez with vegetables grown on the farm, rows of coffee trees, and Jorge with Bram De Hoog among ripe coffee

Roble Negro coffee and Finca Cedral Alto represent a possible future for coffee production in Costa Rica, one where outputs are small but steadily growing and always cultivated in harmony with the landscape and its ecosystemic balance. The farm’s forest tracts protect the six freshwater springs and the brooks and waterfalls that run through the farm form the beginning of the Rio Jorco river that provides drinking water to neighboring towns and farms. This holistic approach to coffee farming comes with an understanding that quality is not based on the cup alone but cultivated throughout production and reflective of the treatment of people, plants, animals, and the land involved and proximal to the process. 

Finca Cedral Alto is a community gathering place for sports, celebration, and ecotourism that welcomes both locals and visitors. Ally’s partnership with Roble Negro is everything we mean when we say it is our purpose, mission, and goal to continue moving coffee forward.

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