2018: In February, right in the middle of harvesting season, I paid a visit to Francisco Mena’s farm. The sun was blazing through a cloudless sky, but I found a spot in the shade where the breeze was nice and cool. I looked around and saw vibrant hydrangeas swaying gently back and forth under the early-afternoon sun and dogs sprawled out on the ground, enjoying their blissful siestas. The languid warmth in the air obviously didn’t have any effect on Francisco, though—he was darting to and fro, hard at work. That’s who he is. He’s integral to Costa Rican coffee—and not just for the high-quality beans he cultivates. The first time I met him, in fact, he wasn’t even a grower.
2002: I met Francisco for the first time at a tasting in Costa Rica, where he was directing the event as a staff member of an exporter. Seeing him move around with brisk efficiency, I could tell he knew exactly what he was doing—and that first impression hasn’t changed a bit. Back in 2002, Maruyama Coffee was just getting into the specialty coffee market. I was looking for whatever channels I could find into the growing communities, and Francisco quickly became my link to Costa Rican beans.


2006: Francisco once introduced me to a farm in Tarraz?, so I decided to pay a visit. The farm didn’t have a high profile―or much of a profile at all, actually―but the location and altitude were so promising. Desperate to taste the coffee, I headed to Francisco’s office and cupped several lots from the farm. The tastes, however, weren’t what I’d expected. I worked up the courage and decided to come straight at him. “I really don’t think this is the best that farm can do,” I said, and he looked at me, startled. “Sorry, sorry,” he said. “Let me set you up with another lot.” I could tell that he’d been trying to suggest the lot he figured would match my quality and price needs, but he quickly realized that my needs were different. He set up the table with different lots. The flavors were phenomenal. I placed my order right then and there, starting with the highest-quality beans the farm had to offer. The experience was a big step, one that laid the foundation for real trust: Francisco could see that I wasn’t interested in anything less than the best, and he’s always kept the best beans on reserve for Maruyama Coffee ever since.

2006年、こんなことがあった。彼の紹介でタラスという地域の農園を訪ねたときのこと。当時はまだ誰も注目していない農園だったが、取り巻く環境が極めて良好で、素晴らしいコーヒーを栽培していることが明らかだった。ぜひ買いたい、ということで輸出業者のオフィ スで改めてカッピングすると、農園があんなに素晴らしかったのに、カッピングしていてまったくピンとこない。「あの農園はこの程度の味ではないと思うのだけど?」はっきりと伝えると、彼はハッとした顔をして「すまない。すぐに別のロットを用意しよう」と準備を始めた。彼としては、客のニーズに合った品質と価格のロットを提案してくれたつもりだったのだろう。次のカップは素晴らしく、良いものから順に買い付けた。「ケンタローが最高品質のコーヒーにしか興味がないことがよく分かった」と彼は理解してくれ、以来、常にベストな豆を丸山珈琲のためにキープしてくれる。互いに本当に信頼できるパートナーになることができた。

2008: When I heard that Francisco was starting his own business, I immediately signed on to buy from him―I trusted him and knew the kind of dedication he had to his craft. He was aiming for a setup where he’d focus exclusively on specialty coffee, work to help growers produce higher-quality beans, and make his transactions as transparent as possible; it was a break from the old, traditional mold. His company, Exclusive Coffees, has held true to that original vision and become one of Costa Rica’s foremost coffee exporters, a firm that propels the local coffee industry forward―and also forges the links between Maruyama Coffee and the country’s best growers.


2014: Francisco decided to try his hand at growing. Taking advantage of all the knowledge and experience he’d gained through Exclusive Coffees, he started cultivating a wide array of cultivars and tinkering with production-processing methods to find the best approach. His hard work had an enormous payoff: just two years after opening his farm,Francisco took home the 2016 Cup of Excellence. It might’ve come as a shock to most people, sure. But for me, it wasn’t much of a surprise. I’d seen what he could do; I’d watched him utilize his skills on the farm. I had a hunch that he’d succeed, and I was thrilled to see him do it.
I remember what Francisco told me once, his voice brimming with earnest enthusiasm. “When you sell coffee beans,” he said, “you should be selling the grower along with them.” He’s absolutely right. It’s an honor to sell Francisco’s beans―and put a face on them―in Japan.