Thursday, August 08, 2013

Finca Rosa Blanca: a shade-grown, organic coffee farm & inn

A view of the central lodge building of Finca Rosa Blanca inn on a hill, set amidst the tropical forest. In this shot, clouds are coming in... a storm is brewing! It's absolutely gorgeous - both the setting and the buildings!!!! (Images Copyright (c) 2013 Wendee Nicole)

I'm finally getting the last photos from my trip to Costa Rica up on my blog. I can't believe it has been 4 months - wow! Where has the time gone? How is it August already? I have spent a month studying for the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) because I'm applying to a Ph.D. program at Stanford.

Although I am technically a Ph.D. candidate at Rice University, I took a leave of absence in 2005, while going through my divorce. I couldn't finish due to finances and just the stress of raising young kids and being in grad school as a single mom. For a long time, I actually didn't think I would ever go back to grad school but I started systematically researching the three options I had for after the kids are both off to college (which were: go to Africa for 6 months to a year, buy a cheap RV and pimp it out and drive around the US for a year figuring out where to live, or grad school) and came upon the EIPER program at Stanford and it just clicked. I sort of knew in my soul I was meant to be there. There is a story behind that too, which I'll tell soon, but I don't want to distract from the Costa Rica images!

At any rate, I took a practice GRE and did great in verbal but am still needing to get much faster at the math... you only have like 1.5 minutes average per question.  I picked up the math itself pretty quickly (nothing like cramming 12 years of primary math ed into 1-2 months of review...) but just need to improve on the speed. I will probably take it at the end of the month. Anyway I have no idea if I will get into this program but I am really hoping and praying I do. It is perfect for me and my interests and what I want to do with the next phase of my life, which is returning to conservation work and combining that with poverty alleviation which I feel increasingly drawn to due to my faith. If you are so inclined, I would be grateful for your prayers for my GRE and grad school application! I also may apply to the law school there for a joint PhD/JD program... I am still debating on that one in my mind. I really want to, but it depends on how I do on the LSAT - ha!

A solar panel provides electricity to power the lodge. The sky was cloudy so the shot isn't great, but you can see a bit more of the main lodge architecture here. I absolutely love white stucco and this type of building and the decor inside. Finca Rosa Blanca is run by American expatriates Glenn and Teri Jampol, who are the nicest people! They both attended Berkeley so it was fun talking to them about that place, and the Bay Area. /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (err, that would be my kitty Pippin attempting to communicate in human... she is apparently better at speaking than written English, apparently... hear her say "hello" here).

This is the foyer inside the main lodge (the white building in the images above). I absolutely adore the white stucco and the wood flooring. Everything is decorated in such a beautiful style. I love it! When myself, Elizabeth and Paula stayed here 2 years ago after the Planet, People, Peace Conference we arrived late so it was after dark and had to leave at 4am to catch a 6am flight so we never got to see it during daylight or tour the coffee plantation so I was excited to come back and see it in its full glory. CANAECO (the Ecotourism Bureau of Costa Rica, of which Glenn is President) just announced the 4th Planet People Peace ("P3") Conference to be held this fall. I hope I can make it! This year it will be held in San Jose, which I feel like I "know" now after the tour of the city Heidi and I had.

My room and Heidi's rooms were in a separate building behind the main lodge. These are the patios set amidst the gorgeous landscaping. The roof is made from plastic tiles made from recycled banana bags! Cool, huh!

My own personal patio! Wish I lived here....

This was inside MY ROOM! This whole thing was just my room - wow! To the left it went to the bathroom, with my bedroom to the far left (I didnt get a photo of it for some reason), and to the right is the breakfast nook. The middle door goes out to the patio. 

A closer view of the breakfast nook. 

A shot of the gorgeous pool. I have such a hilarious, fond memory of the last time I came here, with Elizabeth and Paula, and we arrived after dark and made our way to our rooms (which, that time, was in the main lodge, behind the pool) and we had to walk around it, and one of the two girls - I won't say who - was deathly afraid of toads, and there were like a hundred toads all around the pool at that time in the rain. At first we thought she was joking and just a bit leery but she was actually deathly afraid of them! It was cute. :)

Finca Rosa Blanca guide, Leo Vergnani (from Italy), took us on a tour of the lodge grounds and around the coffee plantation itself. Here he is sitting on the edge of a unique solar setup that heats water for the lodge.

This is Leo in the coffee plantation. He taught us SO much about how coffee is grown both here at Finca Rosa Blanca, and in different parts of the world, and later we went back and sampled it (pics to follow) with "cupping" - similar to wine tasting but with coffee. He was so funny with a hysterical dry wit that had Heidi and I cracking up. I took a few iPhone videos of him talking about coffee and hope to upload them here if I can figure out how. He has since moved to Belgium but his protege, Ulises Zúñiga, is now the coffee tour guide. This is an organic, shade-grown coffee product but it took a few years after the Jampols bought it to convert to organic because they have to make sure any chemical traces are gone from the soil.

They have banana (plantain) trees growing in the coffee plantation. Leo told us why but I can't remember!

Heidi and Leo on the trail up towards the main plantation.
Another view of the plantation during the tour.
This depulping machine is called a "chancador" in Spanish. It removes the pulp from the red coffee cherries after they're picked. It wasn't harvest season when we visited, so we didn't get to see it in action. 
This chute takes the de-pulped cherries ("grano" in Spanish) to a fermentation tank where they spend 2 days covered in the sweet mucilage or "miel." [OK, yes sweet mucilage sounds gross, but hey, you know it's just coffee cherry pulp remaining after depulping, right?]. Then it goes to the drying racks...

The drying racks, sometimes called African beds. (I think that has to do with the kind of coffee that is grown around the world). Glenn told me that they experimented with not fermenting the depulped cherries and just drying immediately, and they had a great flavor so they're doing about 50% of their crop this year that way. 

The green coffee beans... These are popular now for that "green coffee bean" extract that is getting a lot of attention! 

And then we went back to the El Tigre Vestido restaurant at Finca Rosa Blanca (which, by the way, is amazing!!) to try out the different coffees with "cupping." We tried Finca Rosa Blanca's espresso roast and the regular roast, as well as a cheap coffee sold in the country. They normally don't "cup" the crap coffee but have it there only to smell the grounds initially but I wanted to taste test/compare it and it was so fascinating to do so! It tasted like motor oil and garbage (not even kidding) compared to the lovely chocolate, caramel and cherry notes of the FRB coffees. 

Heidi and I laughed so hard doing this. You have to sip and then spit the coffee out, which is kind of gross and very funny! Especially with Leo and his cute/sexy accent. LOL. 

I was laughing so hard!! I don't even remember what about but it was fun :)

And they sell bags of the coffee... I finally opened a bag I was saving!

And last but not least, two photos totally out of place but which I forgot to post with my Playa Grande/Tamarindo beach images! I love this shot... It is the beach of Tamarindo, outside of the Hotel Daria where we stayed one night before heading to Finca Rosa Blanca. It is also where I dropped my iPhone in the ocean... and miraculously saved it with rice! 
Me, happy and content, at Hotel Las Tortugas Restaurant in the town of Playa Grande, where we ate before heading over to Tamarindo. 

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