Melissa Campos Soto at the coffee plantation in Costa Rica. (Photo from her personal collection)
Melissa Campos Soto at the coffee plantation in Costa Rica. (Photo from her personal collection)

During a gap in her studies, TU Delft student Melissa Campos Soto launched an online business selling Costa Rican coffee. “It just started with a small bag of beans.”

“I came to TU Delft five years ago and started doing a Dutch course. I wanted to study civil engineering but the bachelor’s programme is in Dutch. So I did the course for a year and then I started my studies. After the three years of my bachelor’s programme, I had a problem with my visa. I wanted to start my master’s right away but I couldn’t so I had a gap semester. During that time the pandemic happened and I was trying to figure out what to do.

I always thought Dutch cheese was delicious so I thought maybe I could start selling it in Costa Rica but the logistics of temperature and transportation were complicated. Then I thought about bringing something from Costa Rica to the Netherlands. I always brought coffee here for my friends, family and boyfriend. I started thinking about bringing the green beans here and roasting them and making something out of that.

It just started with a small bag of beans, more like a hobby. People started liking the coffee, saying it tasted really good and it was good quality. So, I thought let’s make it more real. This year we registered Tyba Coffee with the Chamber of Commerce and set up a web shop. People started buying our product and it has grown really fast.

It actually started in my garage in Delft. We import many kilogrammes of the green coffee beans and I store them in the garage. I started to roast them at a place in Amersfoort, but we found a place in The Hague so that’s where I roast them now. Roasting beans is really like cooking. You have to check the smell, the time, there are lots of variables. It takes a lot of time, but it’s nice. If you change the temperature or the time a little bit then the bean produces a different taste.

I didn’t know that much before I started this. I come from Costa Rica so the coffee culture is really strong. I had always known how coffee was harvested. It’s a hard job; it’s done manually. And like many other manual jobs people can be exploited. It has good sides and bad sides for sure. But I didn’t really know the whole process of how beans are taken from harvest to the end product. As the brand is growing, I’m learning a lot.

‘Roasting beans is really like cooking’

What makes our coffee special has to do with the process. You have a tree with cherries and what you drink actually comes from the seed. The process of taking the seed out first requires removing the pulp and washing it. It takes a lot of water to wash and clean the seed. The process they use for our beans is different. After extracting the pulp, you still have a sticky layer around the bean. But instead of using water, they leave it to dry. So the coffee bean actually absorbs that layer which gives it a fruity taste. It’s a more sustainable way of producing coffee because they use less water and, in the end, it has a more tropical taste. It’s definitely not the coffee you would get out of a coffee machine.

A friend of mine works at the Coffee Star at the TU Delft Library. She encouraged me to send them an email so I did. I talked with the manager, who really wants to innovate. We decided this was the perfect way to introduce our beans at TU Delft.

At the beginning of December, we started offering coffee with our beans at the Coffee Star next to the Faculty of Industrial Design on campus. That means right now you can order your cappuccino, espresso, whatever you want with our coffee beans.

I want to do a master’s in architecture so I needed to do a bridging programme because I studied civil engineering. I’m almost done with that so I can start the master’s in February. I don’t know where I see myself in the future but I do know that I will be between here and Costa Rica. I also know that drinking our coffee makes me feel at home, it’s like bringing home back to where you are.”

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