Costa Rica Coffee History
When you hear about Costa Rican coffee, you will probably think about good quality and strong flavor. Both thoughts are correct but this reputation is not a coincidence, Costa Ricans take their coffee very seriously and are proud of what we call our golden beans.
History says that back in 1720, the first coffee beans where brought to Martinica and then to Costa Rica at the end of the XVIII century. Due to the ideal climate in the mountains, coffee became one of their largest exports and an important part of their economy.
Costa Rica was the first country in the area to develop the coffee industry and since then, the government was motivating farmers to grow coffee. Sometimes they even gave land to the farmers for free in order to increase the national production. It is a law that farmers can only grow one certain type of coffee in order to keep the quality top notch.
Costa Rican Coffee Facts
Coffee was such an important product for Costa Rica that laws were passed pertaining to it’s cultivation. Back in 1989, it was prohibited by law to cultivate the Robusta coffee due the poor quality. After this, the coffee farmers decided to stop producing another kind of coffee called Catimores.
All these efforts were made in order to produce only Arabica Coffee. Caturra and Catuaí are the ones we use in Costa Rica. More than 80% of our coffee plantations are located between 800 meters and 1600 meters altitude, planted with fertile volcanic grounds, and temperatures from 17 to 28 Celsius degrees.
This is the perfect environment to produce an excellent product. Coffee plants do not like extremely hot weather and thrive in a higher altitude.
Costa Rica’s coffee has won plenty of international contest and certifications. In Japan, the winner of the world coffee competition used Costa Rican coffee to make his winning cup, saying that he only uses that coffee because it is the best in the world.
Costa Rica Coffee Brands
The most sold coffee brands are the 1820, Cafe Rey, Dorado and Britt. You will find many different brands in the supermarket though.
Our favorite coffees are Peaberry by Doka, French Roast by Doka, Terrazu by Cafe Rey and 1820. However, you can’t buy all of the brands of coffee in Costa Rica at the supermarket since many of them export their coffee or sell it at their plantation or factory. So to get the really good stuff, you have to take a coffee tour.
Costa Rica Coffee Tours
If you want to try a specialty coffee, then you must take a coffee tour at a beneficio, or a coffee plantation. If you go to the plantation, you will get to see the entire procedure.
It’s very interesting to see the fusion between old and new technology because they use both ways to process coffee – by hand and by machine. You can see the entire process of coffee from bean to cup which is a lot more work than you could imagine. I highly recommend it for anyone who loves coffee.
The best coffee tours are the ones on a plantation so you can see the entire process. Those tours are in the Central Valley (San Jose, Heredia, Alajuela, Cartago) and Monteverde since those are the best places to grow coffee in Costa Rica. We especially love the Doka Estate Coffee Tour.
If you visit La Fortuna or Guanacaste, you’ll see coffee tours as well but they don’t show the whole process since coffee doesn’t grow well there. You won’t be able to see the entire process and learn more about the roasting process.
Another activity that is part of our culture is to collect coffee. My mom and her brothers did this when they were young to make money. Nowadays they pay from $1.80 to $2 for a basket. It is a tough job but a good collector fills around 15 baskets a day.
Most of the Costa Ricans don’t collect coffee as a job anymore because the pay is very low and there are easier jobs available.
The ones in charge are seasonal workers that come from Nicaragua and some rural parts of the country.
Costa Rican Chorreadors
Costa Ricans use a chorreador to make coffee which is their traditional coffee maker. A chorreador is essentially a wooden stand and they use a cloth “sock” as a filter.
Although most Costa Ricans use the normal electric coffee makers, the chorreador gives a much richer flavor. The “sock” they use as a filter retains more flavor. When it comes to the flavor profile, I would say much of it is an earthy or a fruity flavor.
Here is a video of the traditional way to make coffee. If you love coffee, you must try it made this way! It’s one of the essential experiences to have in Costa Rica 🙂
You can buy a painted chorreador for about $20. If you plan to use this to make coffee, make sure to buy plenty of socks!
Coffee and chorreadors are one of the best souvenirs in Costa Rica. As for the best coffee to bring home, 1820 and Britt are the two most popular. You can find Britt everywhere since they’re the most commercial. So if you don’t have time to do any souvenir shopping, don’t worry, they have a huge store inside SJO and LIR airport.
Learn more about the food and drink of Costa Rica here.
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