La Perla Del Cafe Mill was established by Carlos Barrantes and his wife, Dayanna, in 2011, after the couple spent many years utilizing the mill works at Carlos’s brother’s famous Herbazú, just up the street. In fact, the whole immediate area is a family affair: The Barranteses are a third-generation coffee family, and after Carlos’s father passed away his land was divided among Carlos and his brothers and sisters, most of whom still live and farm within walking distance. (In fact, the main road to access Herbazú and La Perla Del Cafe is called Calle Barrantes.)
The family’s obsession with quality and precision is obvious from the mill to the drying greenhouse to the bodega, where it seems not a single bean is out of place. Visitors are often skeptical when they hear the mill is almost 10 years old, since it’s so clean it could have been set up just a few weeks ago. In the greenhouses, staff members wear special shoes while raking the parchment coffee, and the lots are separated into nearly perfect rectangles on the floor and on second-level drying shelves, with no space wasted. In another nod to quality, the Barrantes family hires the same pickers every year, regardless of the size of the harvest: These pickers are so exceptional that Carlos doesn’t have a float tank at his mill—he knows to trust the keen eyes and swift hands of the pickers to only select the perfectly ripe cherry.
The mill produces mostly Honey coffees, and Carlos likes to experiment with different varieties: He currently grows Gesha, Villa Lobos, Typica, Villa Sarchi, and SL-28. (He was the first producer in Costa Rica to be given SL-28, and rather than hoard the special variety for himself, he has distributed seeds to friends and neighbours for the past few years.) Carlos believes that growing non-traditional varieties, in addition to focusing on honey and natural processing, will be what allows him to differentiate La Perla’s coffee from others in the region.
Despite his tremendous success and growing fame as a producer in the West Valley, Carlos is still one of the softest-spoken and modest producers we’ve met. “Coffee is not only the tip of an arrow, it’s also a cycle,” he says. “The pickers depend on me, and I depend on you, and you depend on your customers.” In other words, behind every great coffee, there are lots and lots of great coffee people, and we couldn’t agree more.