Costa Rica is known for being an exporter of many agricultural products, like Bananas, Plantains, Pineapples, Ornamental plants and flowers, you name it. However, there is one product that puts Costa Rica on the map apart from other countries and eventually making it a household name; our famous Costa Rican Coffee. Our country is known around the world for its high quality of Arabica coffee, as a matter of fact; this variety of coffee is the one known to be of the highest quality and by law, is the only one that can be planted in the country, because of our high standards. Due to this and the fact that we have very fertile volcanic soils ideal for the cultivation of this product, there is a high demand for the Costa Rican Coffee in foreign markets like North America, Europe and Asia.
Coffee plays a very important role in the Costa Rican economy, because as today, it is the agricultural product that employs the most people, with a record of 52,000 coffee producers country wide! Also, the Costa Rican Coffee Plantations are the ones that cover the most land as well, with an approximate of 90,000 hectares of coffee planted (225,000 acres). You are more than likely to find coffee plantations all around Costa Rica, but there are key places where the best quality of coffee is grown, mainly at high elevation areas. For example, you can find these coffee farms in the Province of Cartago, the foothills of the Barva Volcano in Heredia, the foothills of the Poas Volcano in Alajuela, the Naranjo Mountains in Alajuela as well and some of the best at about 2,300 m (7,500 ft.) above sea level in the town of San Marcos de Tarrazu, which is part of the San Jose Province (70km from Downtown San Jose). Tarrazu is also known for having the best variety of Arabica coffee in Costa Rica known as the Tarrazu Geisha; this coffee has won many awards and most commonly known for being the coffee of preference used at all the Starbucks Coffee shops around the world.
The Costa Rican Coffee beans are handpicked mainly by immigrants from Nicaragua (85% of the total); native tribes from Panama (10% approximately) and by locals, which nowadays represents only a 5% of these workers. The coffee pickers use a big 25 pound basket that they wrap around their waists to then pick the beans by hand, and they get paid an average is US$2 per basket. The reason for the coffee beans to be picked by hand is because not all of them ripe at the same time, therefore, the same plant would have to be harvested for about 3 or 4 times during the same season, to be able to collect all the ripe beans. However, the coffee pickers must be very careful to collect only the red beans that are ripe, because if they collect many of the green beans by mistake (or in purpose), the quality of the coffee of the particular plantation would be lower and as a result, they could easily lose their job. Once the beans are collected, they would be transported at the end of the day to the “Beneficio”, which is the processing plant where the beans get tested for quality. First, they would be placed in a pool where the better quality coffee beans will sink to the bottom of the pool and the lower quality beans will float. After this, the outer pulp of the beans will be peeled off and the coffee bean inside get sun dried (or by drying machine). Once the moisture has been removed from the beans, these would be packed in 100 pound sacks, stored for 4-6 months in a dry building to completely remove the moisture and then will be ready for export; 96% of the High Quality Coffee Produced in Costa Rica gets exported and only 4% stays in the local market.
There are many plantations now in Costa Rica taking advantage of their coffee processing plants and are offering coffee tours, an activity that generates A LOT extra revenue and jobs for the local communities, besides the coffee production itself. Here are some of the most representative Coffee Tours in Costa Rica:
Doka Estate Coffee Farm: This particular farm is located in the foothills of the Poas Volcano, in the Province of Alajuela, just about 20 minutes North of the City with the same name.
Britt Coffee tour: This tour is done just a little North of the City of Heredia.
Espiritu Santo Coffee tour: This is a big farm located in the town of Naranjo. Naranjo is home of the best coffee in the world’s winning award farm for 2016.
Coopedota Coffee tour: This tour is done right at the town of Santa Maria de Dota.
Diria Coffee tour: This tour is very representative because is done in an area where coffee is not traditionally planted; the Guanacaste area. The tour is done close to the town of Hojancha, and is the only one in that entire region!
Don Juan Coffee tour: This tour is done near the town of Santa Elena in the Touristic Region of Monteverde.
This is a little bit about the Coffee of Costa Rica, so don’t miss out, come to visit our country and have the coffee experience of a lifetime for yourself!