The Roasterie Costa Rica Trip: Thoughts from an Entrepreneur (Day 5)

WRITTEN BY HERB SIH

In January of 2013, friend and fellow Kansas City entrepreneur Herb Sih joined The Roasterie on its annual trip to Costa Rica.  Never having been to a coffee bean farm, Herb was able to provide a fresh, new perspective for the coffee-growing region in the blog post below.  Herb also acted as trip photographer and was able to flush out his own entrepreneurial ideas including one of his new ventures, Smart Coffee.  Learn more and follow Herb through his day-to-day adventure in Costa Rica with The Roasterie.

Read about Day 1 here.

Read about Day 2-5 here.

DAY FIVE–BACK AT CABINA

After spending several incredible days visiting coffee farmers, now it was time to take stock of the visits and sample the micro-lots to determine which beans (and farms) would end up as The Roasterie coffee. During the day, I got to watch Danny and Paul practice their craft, sampling various coffee beans in blind taste tests. There almost seems to be a dance rhythm to their process. Like bees circling flowers, tasting nectar and pollinating flowers, they circle the sample tables, slurp the coffee and quickly make notes on their clipboards to what their well-trained taste buds revealed from the coffee bloom in a cup.  Surrounding the sample tables are members of Grace’s staff, some with more years of experience tasting coffee than I have even lived, but all in the room being deeply focused on finding the best coffee in the world.

Sitting on the terrace of the former statehouse provides a great backdrop for thinking about life and appreciating the sheer natural beauty of our surroundings. This also proves to be fertile ground for late-night, thought-provoking conversations with others on the trip.  We all share thoughts about our own lives and the ability to watch the miracle of coffee during this incredibly special week. And with the help of a bit of Dizzy Three Vodka, some of the problems of the world at least get discussed, with a solution left to be found on another day.

All in all, it was an incredible week of realizing a few key things:

1.  Life moves fast, but perhaps we make it even faster in the United States than it needs to be. Slow down and have a real conversation, savor the promise of each day a bit more, and become more engaged in the relationships that matter around you.

2.  Coffee production is HARD. Great coffee production is even HARDER. I have no idea how I can enjoy a cup of The Roasterie coffee for the price I pay as a consumer. There have to be at least 30 pairs of hands that are responsible for getting the coffee cherry into my cup. And the conditions that often produce the world’s best coffee are usually some of the less hospitable areas that are easily accessed. Maybe this is a fair trade-off, but not a fair trade-off in my mind given who works hardest seems to benefit the least.

3.  Coffee farmers are just like many other farmers and entrepreneurs. Their offices look a bit different than mine, but their mentality towards innovation and delivering their best work are very similar. They work hard to ship a great product and take pride in their results.

4.  Coffee farmers could use some understanding…and maybe even a bit of help. Fair trade is not enough. What more can be done?

5.  People in Costa Rica are amazing. Nearly everywhere I went, the people were friendly, happy and caring. It makes you really realize that oftentimes the things we (as Americans) think make us happy (like material items and money) are less important than we realize. Relationships matter. And that begins and ends with people.

6.  Inspiration for new ideas can come from anywhere. I now have a perspective that has become a saying: “innovation is like a sock of coffee”.  After watching how coffee is made, and how a sock was used one day during a meal as a coffee filter, I realize how good ideas come from the right raw materials, with the right people on board, under the necessary but not always glamorous circumstances. But the end product always ends up speaking for itself.

7.  Danny is seriously passionate about delivering the world’s best coffee. He and his team will go to almost any corner of the earth to find great coffee, and they live this passion daily.

8.  While Danny is a great entrepreneur, he is an even better human being. Watching him with his family says it all, and after being part of his world nonstop for a week straight, you know he is the real deal.

As I sat on the plane home, watching the sun peak over the horizon, I contemplated my new appreciation for the world of coffee, and one of my new favorite foreign countries, Costa Rica.  The Roasterie coffee adventure was more than what I bargained for, especially in the world of the unexpected. Thank you Danny, Carla, Paul, Jose and Kelly for letting me accompany you on this great trip. And special thanks to Grace, Cecelia and Amanda, who helped make the trip even more special.

Coffee, one the world most consumed beverages, bridges the language divide among all coffee drinkers. And my new found ability to get “jazzed up” on coffee, with the new found perspective gained from quiet moments of revelation left over from Costa Rica make every cup of coffee I drink today a private journey into my happy place. Life is an adventure…drink it up!

Want to experience Costa Rica with The Roasterie just like Herb did? You can!  Simply enter The Roasterie Adventure Photo Contest and win a bean-picking trip to Costa Rica with The Roasterie! Only a few days left to submit! Enter here.