Costa Rica is a country with an extensive history of coffee, with production commencing here in the 18th century in the country’s central valley. Arabica was first brought here directly from Ethiopia, where it was first cultivated. Since the beginning, Costa Rican Coffee has benefitted tremendously from investment, with Spanish, and then subsequent independent governments going out of their way to offer incentives – including plots of land – to anyone who wanted to harvest the plants for a living.
This gambit paid off. Coffee quickly outstripped rival crops like sugar, tobacco and cacao to become the country’s number one export. In many ways, the country has served as an example to other aspiring coffee-producing nations of what can be achieved with sound investment, infrastructure and stability.
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The Costa Rican Coffee Industry
Today, Costa Rican coffee is considered some of the best in the world. The country produces around a million-and-a-half bags every year, and accounts for more than a tenth of the country’s exports. This coffee is predominantly the work of smallholder farmers, each of whom own just a few hectares of land. Since labour in Costa Rica is so expensive, most of the actual work is done by seasonal immigrants from neighbouring Nicaragua.
Coffee Growing In Costa Rica
Costa Rica enjoys many geographic advantages. It’s filled with mountains, rich volcanic soil, periodic rainfall and favourable temperatures all year round. Most production takes place in the San Jose, Alajula, Heredia and Cartago provinces, where the soil is especially mineral-rich and acidic. There is nothing terribly unusual about the methodology employed by Costa Rican farmers; cherries are picked mostly by hand before being processed at a central plant, where they’re washed, pulped and fermented. The beans are then left to dry on raised beds underneath the sun. Finally, they’re sorted and shipped, to be enjoyed in cafes across the globe.
The Costa Rican economy benefits tremendously from a constant influx of tourist dollars – which have helped to build the infrastructure that Costa Rican coffee producers need to thrive. The same forces have also helped to ensure that Costa Rica is more stable than other parts of the coffee-growing world – the country’s image is invaluable, and any instability would likely make foreign tourists reconsider a visit.
Costa Rican Coffee: Quality & Flavour
Being unable to compete on price alone, Costa Rican farmers have had to concentrate on quality, producing premium micro-lots that offer flavours and textures that mass-produced coffees simply cannot rival. Being of such a famously high quality, Costa Rican coffee tends to command an accordingly high price. Taste some of it, however, and you’ll see that this price is often justified. The best Costa Rican coffees are mild, with an acidity that’s soft and subtle. Recent innovations have seen sweeter, fruitier flavours enter the cup – but these newer coffees are less authentically Costa Rican than the traditional sort favoured by the locals. If you’re in the market for a new espresso, then there are few better places to start looking!
If You Like Costa Rican Coffee, Give These A Try…
If Costa Rican coffee has got your taste buds tingling, but you’d like to explore coffees from other regions, try the following: