They dreamed of a coffee plantation and now they have a hotel, a restaurant, shops, courses and they export to Asia

How far can a person’s taste for coffee go? Gonzalo Hernández Solís and his wife Fanny García Brenes can answer that question very well. They, like good Ticos, are lovers of the Costa Rican drink par excellence and, currently, the golden grain is a fundamental part of their lives.

It all started in 2003, a time when the couple lived abroad and visited Costa Rica year after year. At the time decided to plant a few coffee plants on a farm in Biolley de Puntarenas, hoping to see if they would grow.

Gonzalo Hernández and Fanny García started Coffea Diversa in 2003Courtesy Coffea Diversa

To their surprise, every time they visited the country they found some plants that had grown, had a good color and were already bearing fruit. So, they decided that little by little they would plant more to see the result. Over time they realized that it was no longer just a small plantation, Rather, they had created a coffee mill (site where production takes place), which currently has about 16 hectares.

“We also built a micro mill to be able to process the coffee we were producing, but little by little, we became integrated into the economic activity of coffee,” says Gonzalo. Nearly two decades later, the couple, who have been married for 28 years, it not only grows that coffee, but also exports it to countries in Asia such as China, Singapore, Korea and Japan. In addition, they have a coffee garden through which they take tours, a small but striking hotel with rooms in the shape of baskets, an academy for nationals and foreigners, a restaurant, and two stores where they sell the product under their Coffea Diversa brand.

In Coffea Diversa there are more than 800 botanical variants of coffee.
In Coffea Diversa there are more than 800 botanical variants of coffee.Courtesy Coffea Diversa

If you ask them, neither of them would have imagined everything they would achieve in two decades, just inspired by the mutual taste they have for this drink. “This project is the product of a great love that we have for coffee, because without that great love one would not do this. We feel great admiration for this natural drink, because we recognize that Costa Rica is what it is today because of its peace, its democracy, its large middle class and its coffee”, says the entrepreneur.

“During the Colony, we were the poorest province, there was no gold or silver, it was not an attractive place. Here, people only produced for their family, that is, for self-consumption, because that was what they could afford… until coffee came. And my wife and I recognize that about coffee and we are deeply grateful. I think that’s where the love we have for this activity is born. It is that love that has made us think about all things so that our project is always growing”, says Gonzalo.

Coffea Diversa is a coffee garden, given the great variety of coffee species.
Coffea Diversa is a coffee garden, given the great variety of coffee species. Courtesy Coffea Diversa

Several decades ago, when the aunts met to talk and drink coffee in the afternoon at the grandmother’s house, the children went to play in the Moravian coffee plantations, except for one: Gonzalo. He doesn’t remember, but his mother tells him that instead of going out to play with her cousins, he preferred to stay at home waiting for all his aunts to finish their coffee. Then little Gonzalo would go cup by cup, drinking the few that were left.

“My relationship with coffee began at a very early age. My mom says that the coffee I drank was too much; She even told me one day that she added salt to the coffee and I still drank it, so the trick didn’t work for her, ”she recalls with a laugh.

Life has always led him down a path where the golden grain has been present: as a teenager he went to pick up coffee with his friends and after graduating as an agronomist from the university, he got a job in a bank giving loans to small producers of this fruit.

Years later he decided to study Business Administration in the United States and the job he got in North American territory was as a manager in a coffee shop franchise. Later, Gonzalo moved to Jamaica and there he worked in a coffee trading company. That was his professional experience until his plantation in Costa Rica began to grow and he decided to return to the country with his wife, Fanny García, who is the architect of creative ideas.

“Our goal is to produce different botanical variants of coffee in order to offer different flavors. For this reason, we wanted to plant a large number of exotic variants in order to offer coffee lovers and our customers different flavor profiles than what they are used to,” he says. For that reason, the couple is emphatic that your property is not just a coffee farm, but a coffee garden.

The basket-shaped rooms were an idea by Fanny García to initially house foreign students.
The basket-shaped rooms were an idea by Fanny García to initially house foreign students.Courtesy Coffea Diversa

“We have the world’s largest private collection of botanical variants of coffee, since we have around 800 types. So, we consider that we are a coffee garden, because on a farm there is a monoculture and all the plants are of the same type, to standardize all the tasks. The same happens with bananas, pineapple and corn; On the other hand, in a garden you don’t only have one type of flower, what makes a garden beautiful is the diversity of plants and the different colors, and that is what we have: a coffee garden, with a great diversity of plants”, Add. In fact, Coffea Diversa, the name of his enterprise, is in Latin and means “diversity of coffees”.

In times of pandemic, tourism in the interior of the country gained strength since with the borders closed, no one entered or left Costa Rica. In addition, small businessmen had to find ways to attract the attention of tourists, so that their businesses did not die. In the case of Gonzalo and Fanny, They had to readapt their project.

At Coffea Diversa, the famous baskets are rooms for up to two people.
At Coffea Diversa, the famous baskets are rooms for up to two people.Courtesy Coffea Diversa

At the idea of ​​Fanny, who is the soul of the project, a couple of years before the pandemic they built seven rooms for foreign students, who came to Coffea Diversa to learn about coffee. These are rooms with the same shape as the colorful and striking baskets where the coffee beans are collected.

“We were doing very well. It was a project that was growing. National and foreign students came from Japan, China, the United States and Chile, who came to learn more about the cultivation and benefits of coffee. Since they were four-day courses, we had to build rooms to accommodate them. Once my wife and I, talking about what we were going to do, thought it had to be something related to coffee. That is why, at a breakfast, the idea of ​​the baskets came up and we made them”, says the entrepreneur.

Although the project gave positive results, in 2020, the coronavirus forced the couple to pause the academy and also the baskets, which are rooms for a maximum of two people. The singular rooms were empty. However, the unfortunate situation did not last long: Since they were so striking, they generated the curiosity of Costa Rican tourists, who frequently asked about the lodging.

Coffea Diversa has an academy for foreign students from the United States, China and Japan, who get to know more about the cultivation of coffee.
Coffea Diversa has an academy for foreign students from the United States, China and Japan, who get to know more about the cultivation of coffee. Courtesy Coffea Diversa

At that precise moment, the entrepreneurs decided to turn their business around, turning a part of their coffee garden into a hotel shopwhere they began to receive national tourists in their village. The idea was good, because this has allowed them to do tours and that visitors stay there. In addition, it gave way to open a restaurant.

“We have always wanted to give added value: we do the tour around the place, a tasting of the different coffees prepared with different methods and it has been a continuous process”, he says.

These recent projects also include a showroom in Moravia and a kiosk in Multiplaza Escazú, where they sell roasted coffee to the final consumer and implements for the preparation of a good coffee.

Currently, Coffea Diversa has 15 collaborators. However, that amount can be doubled at harvest time. Both Gonzalo and Fanny hope that this year will not be the exception, as this represents more work for the residents of Biolley de Puntarenas.

The baskets are part of the appeal of Coffea Diversa, they were designed about four years ago.
The baskets are part of the appeal of Coffea Diversa, they were designed about four years ago. Courtesy Coffea Diversa

In addition, the couple is very excited, because Almost three years after having the academy closed, in November 2022 they hope to open it again. “The idea is that during the harvest season, from November to April, foreign students come again. We are seeing signs that things are getting back to normal and hopefully everything will be fine by then,” she assures.

Meanwhile, Gonzalo and Fanny continue with their usual tasks. With a freshly poured cup, always present on their table, they never stop dreaming of new and better projects for their business, the one that was born out of their deep love and gratitude for coffee.