The Story of Diego Robelo in Costa Rica

The Story of Diego Robelo in Costa Rica

The work Diego Robelo has done at Aquiares in the last decade is nothing but impressive. Together with his loyal team he has achieved milestone after milestone in a whole array of fields.

In the field of quality he has elevated the farm from producing merely commodity coffee to producing award winning microdots of over ninety points. Each year his innovations in quality continues to assure consistency and scalability of the techniques used.

At the agricultural level multiple variety gardens were planted with over one hundred different varieties in observation of which multiples have entered commercial production, many of them innovative hybrid varieties adapted to the challenging climate conditions. Much of this work happens in partnership with World Coffee Research and the nearby Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE). Varieties such as Centroamericano and Esperanza have reached world wide acclaim after successful trials at Aquiares.

In terms of diversification Diego set up a successful tourism branch at the farm, showing people from all over the world the intricacies of coffee farming and culture. Furthermore Aquiares has started to produce cacao and chocolate bars as well as essential oils. All these efforts have provided additional jobs at the farm in cooking, hospitality, food science and spawned tour operators in the town.

Diego’s biggest achievement is in the field of sustainability, pioneering studies and techniques never applied before at the scale of a farm such as Aquiares. For over twenty years they have held the Rain Forest Alliance Certification and since 2015 Aquiares is a Carbon Neutral certified company, capturing four times more carbon as it emits. Diego advances this work through trials with organic alternatives to common synthetic agro-chemicals.

It is no surprise that Diego has achieved all this, as he had some big shoes to fill, the shoes of his father. Innovation has always been a key pillar at Aquiares since Alfonso Robelo started to manage the farm in the late eighties. Don Alfonso had a turbulent political career in Nicaragua which ended in an exile to Costa Rica after his democratic government was undermined. His vision for an equalitarian, democratic Nicaragua did not come to fruition there, but he could apply his ideas to Aquiares.

Aquiares is an exceptionally large farm for Costa Rican standards, measuring over 800 hectares. To operate this farm a large workforce is needed, most of whom live on the farm. Their houses, however, in the traditional model, were owned by the farm. This created dire situations for the employees as their home and job were tight together. Don Alfonso challenged this idea and set up a system in which all employees could own their own homes. Now, thirty years later this vision has changed Aquiares into a thriving town. What used to be farm property is now owned by the people where they run businesses, organisations and live in their homes. It was this first dramatic challenging of the status quo that ingrained the innovative spirit into Aquiares’ business model. It inspires Diego to continue his work with the same mentality and take care of the community.

Bram’s personal note.

I met Diego in late 2018 and was blown away by the multitude of exceptional achievements of Aquiares. For five years we worked together and collaborated in quality, promotion and sales of Aquiares’ coffee around the world. During one of my visits, sitting around the campfire with a couple of beers we drew up the plan for Paso Paso. Aquiares was founded in 1890 and is under Diego’s family’s management for the last forty years, during their tenure they have advanced the coffee industry significantly. However, we both agreed there is so much more work that can be done, if only we would have a stake in the roasting business. With Paso Paso we have finally breached that gap and can expand Aquires’ their innovation further than ever before.

We invite you to learn more about Aquiares through the below content. James Harper of filter stories created an incredible podcast following Don Alfonso Robelo’s story and together with the Institute of Costa Rica we produced this video to highlight some of the innovations done at Aquiares.


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