The name Aquiares means “land between rivers” in the Huetar indigenous language, and Aquiares is commonly referred to as “Aquiares Coffee and Community.” It is the largest farm in Costa Rica and home to 1,800 people. Although the farm was founded in 1890, Alfonso Robelo is the man responsible for its transformation a century later. Alfonso arrived in Costa Rica in the 1980’s seeking refuge from the civil war in Nicaragua, where he was politically active. When politics turned into violence, he left the country to keep his family and himself safe after receiving several threats against his life. Once in Costa Rica, Alfonso began building the Aquiares community on the enchanting slopes of the Turrialba volcano, a lush area of forests, rivers, fauna, and bright flora.
Alfonso challenged the status quo, transforming the relationship between land owner and farm workers. He brought a visionary approach to Aquiares, a farm suffering from low prices and instability. Aquiares had more than 200 employee homes on the farm, but because none owned their home, there was great insecurity in the workforce. Alfonso saw this as an opportunity to strengthen the company by having people feel pride in the coffee they produce. He evolved the farm into a small town where workers purchased their own homes. Today, Aquiares remains a model of sustainable agriculture.
Nowadays Alfonso’s son, Diego, manages the farm. Under his lead, the farm has taken a fresh approach to specialty coffee and exploring the farm’s potential. Through excellent agricultural management, embracing new varieties, and experimenting with processing, Aquiares has become a trailblazer among specialty coffee producers in Costa Rica and all of Central America.