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Cafe Tournon: sometimes older is better.

Being the oldest coffee miller in San Jose, Costa Rica, Exportadora de Care Tournon S.A. has a sizable reputation to live up to. Dealing with coffee for over 130 years, the company's recognition originates from such ingredients as the quality of raw material used, the employees, and the expertise in the process and finish of the beans.

Approximately 34% of the coffee berries milled come from plantations which are directly under the control of Care Tournon. There, the latest techniques are used in terms of sowing, culture, fertilizers, and picking. The yield per hectare is more than double compared with the average of Costa Rica. The other 66% of the coffee comes from small farmers, and in order to be accepted, the company demands a high content of red berries. Over the years, Care Tournon has developed technical assistance to help the farmers improve their quality, and thus the amount of money they get for their crop. Like the company, the farmers are extremely loyal and have been selling their coffee to the company for years.

Most of the people who work for Care Tournon work here because their fathers and even their grandfathers worked here--a tremendous asset for the company. By having people of the same family who have been in the same job for three generations, these employees are able to compare the coffee of the latest crop with the one which was produced 40 years ago, allowing for exceptional quality control.

The high quality process utilized by the company is based on their extensive experience. The skilled and loyal workforce ensures a continuity in the different stages of the process. In the wet plant, the pulp is take away, fermentation is precisely monitored, and the washing, drying, and final moisture content of the coffee beans are carefully controlled.

In the dry plant, the parchment of the coffee is taken away, beans are electronically selected and separated by size, and then manually screened. It is here where the company takes specific care to the presentation of their coffee, along with its packaging. Since Care Tournon is the oldest coffee miller in San Jose, one assumes that the company was born there. This is not the case! During the first half of the 19th century, David Tournon was breeding silk worms in Cevennes, the south of France, and selling it to the silk weavers of Lyon. Unfortunately, his business was ruined by the silk worm disease. He decided to emigrate and settled in Bordeaux with his four sons. There, Hippolyte, his second son, started working for a ship owner, a Mr. Le Quellec and in 1959, Hippolyte Tournon rounded Care Tournon with his employer Le Quellec. Since that time, the company has been involved in coffee plantation and processing.

This company was first a warehouse, trading manufactured goods from Europe for coffee. At the end of the 1800, the coffee was sent to France on a clipper called "The Costa Pica." The legend goes that the french flag which appeared on the former five Colones note (Costa Rican currency) is the actual flag of the Tournon ship. A few years later, the company decided to concentrate on the coffee business, and is now processing between 1,200 and 2,000 metric tons of green coffee each year.

Originally registered in Costa Rica under the Le Quellec name, the company later became Le Quellec & Tournon and eventually Cafetalera Tournon Limitada, when the Le Quellec family withdrew its interests.

The Tournon name has also been associated with the development of the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose. Two districts of the city--Tournon and Amon-- bear the names of two members of the Tournon family. San Jose is now much larger than it was 130 years ago, and the dry plant, (Beneficio Seco) is located in town. The wet plant, (Beneficio Humido) has been moved a few kilometers away from town to a small village, Santo Domingo. The reason for the move was to secure the large quantity of water needed for the processing and the washing of the beans and to avoid the traffic of the city when the new crop comes in.

The company markets its products throughout Europe under two registered trade marks, "HT", for Hippolyte Tournon, (such as "HT-PR" or "HTM", which is the best of the crop), and "SAT", (Sociedad Anonima Tournon), for the other qualities. More than 60% of the Tournon Coffee is exported under the "HT" trade mark. The "HT" bags are hand-sewn and carry a metallic seal which guarantees origin and year of production.

When asked of Care Tournon's plans for the future, this steadfast firm's scheme is to market their products to the U.S. specialty market.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Title Annotation:Exportadora de Cafe Tournon S.A.
Author:Boxman, Alyson R.
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Previous Article:Sintercafe revives the international coffee industry.
Next Article:Coffee comes to the rescue of the Costa Rican environment.

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