Carlos Couturier: Designer Fruits

The Hôtel Americano Founder Opens Up His Gulf Coast Citrus Farms and Tropical Estate

Fresh limes ripe for the picking, family meals in the garden and laconic afternoons on the veranda feature in photographer Retts Wood’s series shot across hotelier Carlos Couturier’s verdant country home and citrus farm empire in San Rafael, Mexico. Situated on the humid tropical coast of the Gulf of Mexico, Couturier’s 15 farms spread across the former French colonial state of Veracruz harvest up to 60,000 tons of citrus per year which are distributed to leading restaurants, hotels and supermarket chains across the world. Couturier’s French immigrant grandfather settled in the 1890s to farm vanilla, switching to citrus when demand dropped due to the advent of artificial flavoring. Co-founding Grupo Habita with Moisés Micha, Couturier has launched twelve luxury design hotels including Endémico in Baja California and New York’s Chelsea boutique Hôtel Americano featuring Kengo Kuma-style, almost-on-the-ground platform beds, black vinyl Zanotta bean bag chairs, and iPads loaded with music and the hotel’s own city guide. “By traveling constantly through the citrus business I became an expert in hotels,” explains the entrepreneur, who was spending up to 200 days a year traveling. “I hated the big chain hotels, I always wanted to find small hotels with character and personality.” Currently developing new fruit varieties at the farms, expanding into avocado production and building a residence for emerging artists specializing in land art, here Couturier reveals his favorite citrus concoction and the essential summer cocktail.

What do you always pack in your suitcase?
My Musc Ravageur by Frederic Malle.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Just Kids by Patti Smith.

What's a typical meal at home in San Rafael?

A bowl of fresh mango and scramble eggs with black beans and a slice of avocado.

What have you discovered on your travels?
I enjoy things that I didn't have as a kid. Contemporary art, for example. I'm a big fan. I collect it. Everyone here thinks I'm crazy. They say, "Why would you pay that much money for that? I could do that now! I could repeat it in a second." They don't get how an artist can capture the essence of a time or a thing. Contemporary art to them is like putting money down the drain.

How does San Rafael compare with staying at your hotels?
I work here but at the same time it feels like I'm always on holiday—I can drive into the fields and be close to nature all the time. Think of yourself going to Patagonia on a trip, or going to Africa on a safari—I can do that but I'm working. It's beautiful.

What's your favorite thing to make using your citrus at home?
A morning smoothie with fresh orange and cactus leave.

What's the ultimate citrus summer cocktail?
A michelada. Fresh lime juice, ice, Corona beer and salt. Very refreshing!
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