The Father of Costa Rica Coffee and the Church

William Le Lacheur was born on 15 October 1802 and was baptised Guillaume Le Lacheur (using the French version of the forename) in the parish church of the Forest, Guernsey on 31 October by his parents Jean Le Lacheur and Marie Suzanne (nee Allez). He was named after his grandfather, Guillaume Allez, who was also one of his godparents.

Le Lacheur is widely credited in Costa Rica as having transformed the economy of this Central American country by establishing a direct regular trade route for Costa Rican coffee growers to the European market, thereby helping to establish the Costa Rican coffee trade and development of gourmet coffee in Costa Rica. He set up the market and the trade routes that allowed the coffee business to bloom and flourish.

Little is known of his education and upbringing. At a young age, he went to sea, working his way up to become the captain of his first ship, St George in 1827.
William married Rachel de Jersey (1798-1882) in parish church of the Forest, Guernsey on 19 May 1828. They had five children: Rachel, Emma, Amelia, John and Louisa

The Start of Costa Rica gourmet coffee and coffee trade
After sailing for 3 years and building a good shipping route and building up some capital to expand his shipping business he decided to expand his business.
In 1830 he entered the Azores fruit trade with the ship Minerva. By 1836, he had formed a company Le Lacheur & Co, which owned two ships: Minerva & Dart. Over the following years, he continued to add to his fleet, and seek out new markets. In 1841, Le Lacheur took delivery of the barque Monarch. The Monarch was a much larger vessel capable of journeys further afield. During a stop at the port of Mazatlan, on the Pacific coast of Mexico, he learnt from the British Consul of the difficulty that the Costa Rican coffee growers were having in finding a market for their produce.

Since their independence in 1839, Costa Rica found no regular trade routes for their coffee and European markets. This was compounded by transportation problems. The coffee-growing areas were located in the central part of the country, and it was impossible, because of the mountains and the rainy forest, to send the coffee to the Caribbean Sea and therefore to the Atlantic. It was a lot easier to ship the coffee to a Pacific port, Puntarenas, and to sail around Cape Horn to the Altlantic. It was before the Caribbean railway from San Jose to the Caribbean and the Panama Canal were built.

William saw a business opportunity, and agreed with Costa Rican coffee growers to establish a regular service to carry their coffee to London. In 1843, the Monarch arrived in the Costa Rican port of Puntarenas, and loaded the first cargo of nearly 5,000 bags of coffee.The venture was a success, and he began increasing the size of his fleet to accommodate the increasing demand for coffee in London. During the rest of the 1840s, he diverted his other ships from the fruit trade to the coffee trade. Then starting in 1850 he commissioned the construction of five ships designed especially for the coffee trade. During the 1860s, a further seven ships were added to the fleet.

In addition to his contribution to the Costa Rican economy through establishing trade routes, Le Lacheur made a significant impact on the development of a number of other aspects of Costa Rica. Church coffee - much like Mission Grounds Gourmet Coffee - a tradition started then - giving all the proceeds from coffee sales to help others -

Le Lacheur, a devout Christian, was appalled by what he described "the lowest form of the Roman faith" being practised where superstition took precedence over true religion. Through the British and Foreign Bible Society, he obtained and distributed Spanish Language bibles, thereby introducing Protestant faith into Costa Rica. As a result he distributed 3,500 bibles in Costa Rica, and was presented with an inscribed Imperial Quarto Bible by the Bible Society in recognition of his achievements.

In 1864, the year after Le Lacheur's death, it was resolved to build the first Protestant church in Costa Rica. It was made of pre-fabricated iron, was carried to Costa Rica by Le Lacheur's son John and was assembled in San Jose as the Church of the Good Shepherd. It became unofficially known as the 'Iron Church'. When it was rebuilt in 1937 with more traditional materials, a memorial plaque was erected to Le Lacheur with an inscription which includes the phrase ' by whose exertions public Protestant worship was established in this Republic '.

Once Le Lacheur had established a fleet of ships that were regularly making journeys between Costa Rica and London, he arranged with several Costa Rican families to take their sons to England for their education. This has been cited as a contributing factor to Costa Rica's economic success.

This arrangement was also responsible for the introduction of the game of football to Costa Rica. Through this Le Lacheur has also been credited with contributing to Costa Rica national team qualifying for the 2002 FIFA World Cup[1].
Army and Defense of Costa Rican

When William Walker, an American filibuster, attempted to invade Costa Rica in 1856, the Costa Rican government declared war. However, the march from the Costa Rican military base in San Jose to the northern border was an arduous one. Le Lacheur put his ships at the disposal of the Costa Rican military commanders to transport the army up the coast to the border so that they would arrive fit and ready to fight. As a result, they successfully repelled the filibusters.[2]

He is buried in Highgate Cemetery in London. There is a Memorial to Captain William Le Lacheur of Guernsey in the Church of the Good Shepherd, San Jose, Costa Rica. Postage stamps have been issued commemorating his achievements by both his native Guernsey (1997) and Costa Rica (1963).

Users Reading this article are also interested in:
Top Searches on Gourmet Coffee:
Costa Rican Coffee Costa Coffee
About The Author, Boake