A Split Flap Welcomes Guest to a Coffee Drinkers Paradise

Starbucks selected Oat Foundry, the leader in modern split flap displays, to create a beautiful electromechanical sign to match the aesthetic of their innovative Hacienda Alsacia Visitor’s Center. The split flap sign will share facts about the farm with guests, as well as the type of coffee currently roasting. In early March 2018, Oat Foundry’s CEO Mark Kuhn joined Starbucks Executive’s on-site for the opening gala.

Costa Rica is a beautiful country. You know it immediately, looking from the window of a plane — the green mountains rising to greet as you descend past the peaks, touching down in tropical San Jose.

The Journey to Coffee Paradise

Starbucks Costa Rica Split Flap
custom split flap displays

My diminutive 4×4 learned the meaning of 2nd gear chugging along, climbing higher and higher above Alajuela and onto the slopes of the Poás Volcano. Costa Rica trades the speedy, impersonal convenience of the interstate highway system familiar to mainland America; for winding, switch-back and often-single-lane mountain roads. This kind of infrastructure forces you to slow down and take it in — take in the sweeping hills, low hanging clouds, clear blue skies, the patchwork of light and dark green painted on the rolling, bucolic landscape. A small plume of smoke rises from the volcano in the distance, although I’ve been assured the volcano’s been quiet of late.

My destination is Hacienda Alsacia – Starbucks’ 240 hectares (~600 acres) coffee farm dedicated to the future of coffee. It is a working farm and visitor’s center dedicated to preservation and education. Coffee, a fruit growing more and more difficult to produce, is the life crop for multigenerational family farms on nearly every continent. There is a specific kind of blight known as coffee rust, the spores of which travel on the wind and can ravage a family’s farm, destroying their income source in as little as a week. Starbucks is researching disease-resistant strains of arabica coffee trees at Hacienda Alsacia to give to these small producers, as well as best practices in large and small-scale farming. It’s all part of their commitment to sustainable coffee communities.

Touring the Hacienda Alsacia Visitor Center

The opening celebration began with a tour of each station, walking through the life-cycle of the coffee plant from cultivation to harvesting to roasting. Hacienda Alsacia is built into the side of a mountain, with a pathway meandering up through the coffee tree embankments to a vista at the top of the hill. From here, I caught the sunset before the party got into full swing. With the final orange dipping below the horizon, I could hear the soft *tink of metal on glasses – the call for the coffee toast with Howard Schultz.

Howard, the Founder and Executive Chairman of Starbucks introduced the team that made this vision possible. Victor Trejos – the current General Manager of the farm – Cliff Borrows Group President Siren Retail, David Daniels VP Store Design, and Andy Adams SVP Store Development. Howard introduced the family from whom he had bought the farm and walked around with them the rest of the evening, showing them every detail of the visitor’s center. After toasting to this monumental project, the party clicked into an electric rhythm – music playing, the coffee bar in full swing, guests chatting and laughing. I loved seeing an Oat Foundry Split Flap hanging in one of the most beautiful locations on the planet, alongside such a well-known brand committed to doing something good.

Starbucks costa rica Split Flap

So, How Was The Coffee?

My favorite brew method showcased here was the coffee siphon. On a warm brass embankment of 4 up-lit, focused halogen heaters sit on what looks like a laboratory experiment. The round bottom boiling flasks begin to bubble and percolate water into the upper cylindrical bowl into which the barista then stirs coffee. After a few minutes and with the heat off, the coffee is drawn back into the bottom round bowl, emptying the top. The barista separated the two parts and poured the coffee hot. Delicious.

Parting Ways

I was sad to leave the visitor’s center that night, but I left feeling a tremendous appreciation for the hard work of such a large brand. It helped me remember who Starbucks is and what their mission is from the top down. It was good to put a face to the name and to meet some of the family’s whose lives were being directly impacted for the better.

Starbucks Costa Rica Split Flap

The Oat Foundry Split Flap in the Starbucks Visitors Center will continue to greet coffee enthusiasts for years to come, making their trip even more memorable.

If you would like to learn more about Split Flap displays, contact us.

Ready To Stand Out?

  Reach Out To Us