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Town of "Pura Vida"

In Costa Rica, you would hear everybody saying "Pura vida", which means "pure life".
It is often a part of greeting, so people ask you "Pura vida (How are you)?" and you can simply answer "Pura vida (I'm fine)." I bet there is no any other words which can better express the characteristic of people in Costa Rica, daily saying "Let's enjoy life!" to each other.

Pt. Aliares was also filled with "Pura Vida", maybe more than any other towns.
It's located 60km far to the east from San José, in 850-1,300m above sea level and has an area of 924ha. Out of the site, 672ha is used for coffee plantation and other 104ha is kept for natural conservation area with a number of shade trees.


They have gotten the certification of Rainforest Alliance, which has a variety of and strict requiments. They let the trees grow naturally and I felt a great power of nature, but it was all grown ordersystematically at the same time. Should be managed very carefully.

The Rainforest Alliance Verified™ mark.
 Powerfully grown shade trees.

 Heavily laden branches with coffee cherrys

It was just the beggining of the harvest time when we visited there, and we were quite surprized by the great amount of coffee cherrys. All the trees were just filled with cherrys, cherrys, and cherrys. But they never could be only with water and soil. Anyhow, it is awfully depressing to take care of all the trees in area of 9,240,000㎡. There must be tremendous effort and patient.

We can see how they can copletely control the whole land because they also perticipate in a government-led project of CO2 Emissions Control. Concretely, they measure how much the plants absorb CO2, and allocate CO2 emission allowances to each country. It's pretty awe-inspiring that a coffee farm even controls CO2 emission, isn't it? Perhaps this is the latest model of Shadegrown today.

They told us that when it reached its peak season, there would be a charming sceney from the hill that bright-red coffee beans were appearing among various green tree gradation like jewelry. It must be so enchanting like cherryblossoms in spring of Japan.

Althogh there is a variety of requirements except shade-grown for Rainforest Allicance verification, typical subjects are "water conservation" and "improvement of working conditions".
As for water conservation, they are requited to prevent soil and fertilizer from spilling into river, and there are more detailed methods and techniques in irrigation and drainage. In Akiares, they name each river and the source, and allocate a full-time manager.
When we talked with the person in charge of Rainforest Alliance, he told that he was egaged in only RA-related tasks. Every time our conversation got off track, he said "Please ask another staff about it." He seriously didn't know about other fields.

Probably, division of labor is one of the keys to success in managing this large-scale farm. Although he kept silence about coffee, he became eloquent as soon as we asked him about the source he was managing - it is somehow heartwarming. He let us drink the spring water. This soft water is purified by the volcanic ash soil there, and shared with labors as drinking water as well.

There are 14 springs in total, spreading wholethrough the farm.

Although there are some points of the benefit of shade-grown, such as blocking direct sunshine, restoring nutrision to the soil, and conserving biodiversity, they told us another utility.
"For labors. Would be a good rest place with shades." It's needless to say that coffee is the most precious thing for them, but it is obvious that coffee is not the only thing which they love.

Visited a local school and they kindly welcomed us with smiling.

The supermarket compares favorably with one in a city.

In Akiares farm, about 1,200 people are living. In a coffee farm, houses are generally prepared for labors, but they more like "huts" rather than "houses" for us. It would be good enough if a house had a roof and concrete walls and floor. The coffee business is supported by labors in the condition like this. This is the reality.

Though, they led us to a fascinating town. There were no huts but decent houses as they had in a city of the foot. The town was pretty lively with colorful church, school with kids' laughter, and supermarket with fresh food and daily necessities.

The engaged workers here all live in the community. It offers a land in a low price so that people can live permanently, and guarantees the minimum living standard (although there is a big difference between that of other work places). The whole town is a community, and people are all friendly and enjoying their life.
When we took a look at each house there, there was no iron railing for security. They simply answered, "Why do we need it?" I doubt even whether they had a door lock.

I found one thing after finishing the inspection. Although we are mainly talked about coffee in a farm inspection (yes, it's pretty natural), but here in Akiares, they positively told us about their community, town, or splendid nature there, very proudly.

Harvesting had been started though it was still in the biginning of the season.

For them, Akiares means the whole community. Although coffee should be evaluated when it's brewed and tasted in a cup, their smile made me feel it was another my mission to introduce everybody that by what kind of people and where it has been grown.
The activity report of Akiares, in which people live with nature in harmony and sing a praise of "Pura Vida", is finished with this sentence:
"We improved day by day, week by week, year by year, and crop by crop."

With the managers. Pura vida, see you again!

Mitsuhiro Yamamoto
HIRO COFFEE The Representitive Director

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