A Day in the Life with Don Pancho

December 6, 2016

If you are lucky, you can catch a glimpse of the Volcan Poas crater on the way to Don Pancho’s coffee farm. (Check this website for real time update on visibility) For 16 United Nations University for Peace students and I, we were not lucky enough to enjoy the view. However, the weather in the mountains changes quickly. By the time we arrived at Don Pancho’s farm at 9:30am, it was warm, sunny and clear skies again.

Our group consisted of a diverse group of travelers from Japan, Germany, Bangladesh, and USA. We came to experience the entire cycle of coffee harvesting from picking to processing to packaging.

As a member of the National Coffee Council, Don Pancho is a successful and confident coffee grower. He is committed to keeping his operation small and personal to ensure sustainable farming practice. He maintains a bio-diverse farm filled with banana and citrus trees and his farm is essentially zero-waste as all by-products are reutilized. For example, the bean peels become organic compost and the expired trees become firewood. Pancho has perfected the system, and watching him navigate the farm with ease and with a smile, it is obvious that this is not just his business- this is his life.

This was an amazing opportunity for coffee lovers. Pancho explained to us how to spot a good batch of coffee: what to look for on the label, in the grains, and how to feel confident about your coffee purchase. We listened and asked questions as we toured the farm, tasting sweet coffee berries along the way. How many people ever get to taste the pulp of the coffee berry before it is harvested?

To wrap up the morning, we sat around a big table inside Don Pancho’s home where his wife, Ginny, had prepared us hot home-made tortillas and cheese. The coffee beans we had put in the roaster before the farm tour were ready and yielded the freshest cup of coffee. It was so nice to finish the day with a home-cooked meal and share company with good people.

Before heading out, you are welcome to purchase and/or package your own coffee to bring home. Local coffee makes for a great souvenir/gift. Plus, you watched it happen. It doesn’t get more transparent than that. Think the most fair “fair-trade” ever.

Pancho’s farm is a perfect example of a blend of knowledge: combining traditional processing with modern technologies, while also maintaining the family-feel. As his wife says, when it is time to prepare the coffee, you always need to add a “spoonful of love”, and I will vow that you will truly feel this. His home is so welcoming and Ginny goes out of her way to make you all comfortable. It is truly a gem of a place.

“Their dream is not to sell in every shop in Costa Rica; Because then they couldn’t keep it a “Mom and Pop” business. Their dream is to continue sharing their passion and experience with you and keeping it as it is. It is small and intimate; that is what makes it special.” –Satchel, Peace Corps Volunteer living with Don Pancho's family.

Note: Pancho sells his 100% pure bags of local coffee at $2 per ½ lb, while the commercial Britt brand is priced at $8.

Don Pancho directly benefited from the Vayando experience by receiving $160 in bookings and $250 in coffee sales from the 16 travelers. This revenue helps Don Pancho re-invest in his business, especially during these months (February-March) when the coffee harvest slows.

Field Notes from Costa Rica by Jamie Posa