Coffee in Costa Rica

There’s something about that first jolt of caffeine on a lazy morning that stirs the spirit, especially when the flavours are rich and satisfying. In Costa Rica, coffee is as woven into the fabric of life as it is in Italy, although there’s an added bonus here, because this fantastic little South American country also happens to be one of the premier places on Earth where coffee is grown.

Coffee is known locally as the grano del oro – the golden grain. It pulses at the heart of Costa Rican life, so it makes sense to have a quick crash course in the country’s coffee culture before your trip.

A brief history

In the colonial era, Costa Rica wasn’t able to meet its full potential. Although its green landscape and fertile soil made for decent farmland, the empire of Spain in the 1700s had grown so vast that managing it was a headache for all involved.

Forgotten among the larger of the empire’s New World realms, such as Mexico, Costa Rica was finally able to revolutionise its prospects in the 1770s, when coffee was first brought into the nation.

It was an overnight hit, and completely changed the country’s economy. When the colonies of the New World declared independence from Spain, Costa Rica was further freed to chart its own course in the pages of coffee history. The country’s government promoted coffee as the key to prosperity, even offering free patches of farmland to those who would grow the profitable bean.

By the 1800s, Costa Rica had joined its South American peers in coffee production and export, and in the 1840s, English sea captain William Le Lacheur of sailing ship The Monarch sent swathes of coffee back to Great Britain. A love affair between the UK and Costa Rica was sparked, and trade of the beans between the two continued right up until the 1940s.

Costa Rican coffee today

Nowadays, coffee remains a principle export of Costa Rica, and it’s still grown in the traditional way. Costa Rica is a leading member of the Fair Trade movement, which sees growers and workers fairly compensated for the time and love they put into making our coffee happen.

As far as flavours go, the soil and climate of Costa Rica, and perhaps even the peaceful outlook of its people, gives coffee grown here a mildness that distinguishes it on the palate of connoisseurs. The approach that Costa Rica takes in identifying the farms where the beans are grown and the place where the crop is processed is meticulous. This provides wholesalers and roasters an understanding of which farming estate produced which bean in the latest harvest. As with anything, business relationships quickly blossom, and people soon find their favourites.

Far from ordinary coffee

The reliable and smooth taste of Costa Rican coffee, particularly when compared to flavours produced from elsewhere around the world, briefly gave the country a reputation as relying on the same-old same-old, and coffee lovers began turning their curiosities elsewhere. However, in recent years, a keen experimental edge has been noticed among coffee lovers in Costa Rican coffee estates that has put the little country right back in the limelight. Particularly, the coffee flavours produced by La Minita Farm and the Dota area of the Tarrazu region are noted for distinctive coffees that are dazzling aficionados worldwide.

For a better understanding of how coffee is grown, harvested, produced and marketed in Costa Rica, there are always opportunities to take tours of the estates where it is grown. Friendly experts are only too happy to show how their lifestyle makes for a fantastic cup every time and the chance to taste test for yourself is never an opportunity to pass up.

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