Costa Rica Coffee Facts: Wondrous things we learned about coffee farming

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You know that we are interested in a sustainable lifestyle, healthy nutrition, and responsible enjoyment. But our main focus is and remains coffee. And in search of the best coffee in the world, we went on a coffee trip to Costa Rica.

Here we review what we experienced.

Costa Rica Coffee Facts

Why this Central American country in particular? The location between the Caribbean and Pacific seas, breathtaking landscapes and growing conditions are second to none. To get you in the mood, here are a few facts:

  • There are over 400 million coffee trees in Costa Rica, a country of 3.7 million people. That means there are over 100 coffee trees for every inhabitant!
  • Costa Rica grows mainly Arabica coffee, the bean for the particularly good taste.
  • The Latin American country has a very complex climate: from the flat, tropical-hot coastal regions to the highlands, there are seven climate zones!

Costa Rica Coffee History

Costa Rican Coffee Farm

The first coffee plants were brought to Costa Rica by the English. The locals did not immediately recognize the commercial potential of the plant and in the beginning, used it mainly as an ornamental plant. To encourage production, Costa Ricans were instructed to keep at least two coffee plants in their gardens. Around 1830, the first coffee fincas were opened in the Central Valley. Coffee was brought to the port of Puntarenas in the traditional ox carts and exported from there to the world. This was the first commodity exported from Costa Rica and brought great wealth to some coffee barons, with which feudal buildings were built in San José. The neoclassical National Theater (opened in October 1897), for example, was financed by tax revenues from coffee exports.

Today there are about 80,000 coffee producers and over 95 beneficios (where coffee is processed). Despite numerous price instabilities, coffee remains Costa Rica’s fourth most important source of income (after tourism, bananas and pineapples).

Coffee beans are called Grano de Oro in Costa Rica. The coffee cherries usually contain a double bean – however, in Costa Rica, there are sometimes single beans called “caracoli”. Some coffee roasters process exclusively these caracoli and sell them at an (about 30%) higher price because they have a special aroma.

Costa Rica Coffee Taste

This cannot be said in general terms, because the taste depends not only on the area where the coffee beans are grown, but in particular on how they are roasted.

In general, however, the coffee beans grow particularly slowly in the cool mountainous regions of Costa Rica, giving them an unusual, spicy flavor. Coffee from Costa Rica also has a fine acidity. Another special feature is the sweet aftertaste of the coffee.

In addition, Arabica beans, which include all coffee beans grown in Costa Rica, are generally known for tasting mild and harmonious. They are also less bitter than other coffee beans because they have a lower chlorogenic acid content.

Arabica beans contain only 1-2% caffeine, which is about half the caffeine content of other coffees.

Are there any special coffees from Costa Rica and if so, which ones?

Yes, there are a total of over 300 high-quality Arabica coffees made from Costa Rica coffee beans. However, the aromas and tastes of the different varieties depend primarily on the roasting process. This varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Many European manufacturers buy the beans from Costa Rica and then roast them individually in Europe. The Italian coffee company “Diemme”, for example, first stores the coffee beans for nine months in a green coffee warehouse before roasting them. By storing different coffee beans together, an individual aroma is created.

The special blends of different coffee beans used by coffee distributors also make some Costa Rica coffees truly special. The company “Fortezza”, for example, won the Feinschmecker award for their blend of different highland beans from Costa Rica.

Costa Rican Coffee : Buying Guides

Like any coffee, you can buy coffee from Costa Rica as whole coffee beans, ground coffee powder or coffee capsules.

Whole coffee beans

Obviously, whole coffee bean preparation is the most laborious of the three options, as it takes the most time. That’s because before you can brew the coffee, you need to grind the whole beans.

You can either do this with a hand grinder, or if you have a fully automatic coffee machine, it will do it for you. The advantage of whole beans, however, is that they lose the least aroma in advance and can then fully develop it during preparation.

Coffee powder

Coffee powder is very easy to use, as it does not require any special preparation. You only need a hand filter or a filter coffee maker to prepare it, for which you only need filter paper in addition to coffee powder. Coffee powder, however, is subject to the greatest loss of aroma, as oxygen has a greater surface area to attack.

Coffee capsules

Coffee capsules are also very easy to use – simply insert them into the coffee machine and a minute later the coffee is ready. But coffee capsules are not only very expensive compared to the other options, but also very harmful to the environment due to the high waste production.

Below we have summarized the advantages and disadvantages of coffee capsules.

Pros
  • Coffee powder in the capsule is packed airtight and thus there is no loss of flavor
  • Very easy handling
  • Capsule machines are easy to clean and quick to use
Cons
  • High waste production
  • Higher cost in the purchase of a coffee capsule machine
  • High price with 20 to 30 cents per capsule

Fairtrade coffee from Costa Rica

Especially with coffee it is advisable to look for the Fairtrade seal. 80 percent of coffee is produced by smallholder families who often own very little land. They are totally dependent on the yield and often live remotely, in poor conditions and on less than two dollars a day.

The Fairtrade concept offers the families a regular income, which means more security for them. They get access to advice and support in financial terms and also in terms of adaptation to climate change. Nevertheless, they get an active say and nothing is decided over their heads.

Next time you buy coffee, look for the Fairtrade seal. With the slightly higher price, you are doing something good for the coffee farmers who ensure their survival under difficult conditions.

Tarrazú coffee from Costa Rica

Tarrazú is the best known coffee growing region in Costa Rica and is located in the highlands. This is located south of Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, in the center of the country. There, the soils contain volcanic ash and many organic substances – the ideal conditions for coffee cultivation.

In addition, the coffee is grown at an altitude of at least 1,200 meters. Tarrazú coffee is therefore a quality product.

Another quality characteristic for such highland coffee from Costa Rica is the rating “SHB”, which stands for “Strictly Hard Bean”. This means that the coffee was grown at an altitude of over 1,600 meters. At this altitude, the coffee beans grow more slowly, which results in the beans becoming larger and denser.

Costa Rica Coffee Production

Coffee in Costa Rica is mainly grown in the highlands in the center of the country. The climate there is mild and humid, and the temperature of 17 to 22 degrees Celsius is ideal for coffee cultivation. Due to the coolness, the so-called coffee cherries ripen more slowly than in other growing regions. The longer ripening time leads to a more intensive aroma and taste of the coffee cherries.

A coffee tree needs up to four years until the ripe coffee cherries can be harvested. Each coffee cherry usually contains two coffee beans. During this ripening period, the tree requires an enormous amount of care and attention. It must not be too hot, nor must it get too much or too little water.

As a rule, the coffee cherries in Costa Rica are harvested by hand. This has the advantage that really only ripe fruits are harvested. The still green beans contained in the coffee cherries are then dried in the sun for about two weeks. Only then can the outer shell be removed.

Finally, the coffee is individually roasted. This process causes the beans to lose water and weight. In general, the longer the beans are roasted, the better their taste and the more pronounced their aroma. In roasting, we distinguish between two processes, which we compare in the table below.

Traditional drum roastingIndustrial coffee roasting
Roasting time 8 to 25 minutesRoasting time 2 to 7 minutes
At temperatures from 180 to 240 degreesAt temperatures from 400 to 800 degrees
Externally heated drum with notches for mixing the beans rotates around its own center. Result: flavors are expanded and unwanted acids are reduced.Hot air roasting: green coffee is continuously and evenly surrounded by very hot air. Due to the short roasting time of large quantities of coffee, burnt roast aromas can occur.

We therefore recommend that you try Costa Rica coffee from smaller farms and companies that roast the coffee traditionally in the drum and whose coffee tastes much more aromatic due to the longer roasting time.

Testimonial documentary VIDEO about the specific characteristic of producing Café de Costa Rica

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