Costa Rica has excellent Coffee! You probably already know that; if not, maybe this is why you are reading this. So, welcome you to our blog! Our first post must be about Costa Rican Coffee and how the country produces a highly appreciated coffee cup in the specialty coffee market. Let us give you a tour of the origins of this flavor and invite you to finish this expedition by tasting one of our great coffee options.
Coffee in Our Veins
Before Costa Rica became a nation, Coffee was growing in our backyards. The first coffee plant arrived in Costa Rica by sea and came as a bunch of seeds in 1791. The source was Typica variety. Hundreds of Typica trees grew in almost all Costa Rican houses back then. We were part of the Spanish colonies. Independence was 30 years ahead, but we were the first to cultivate coffee in Central America.
In the beginning, people planted Coffee for their consumption. Can you imagine? Have your coffee plants, making the harvest, and processing them to have your Coffee? It was manual and rustic: they peeled the coffee cherry with a "pilón" (like a big mortar made with wood), then dried it and roasted it in the yard.
As soon as Costa Rica made its first coffee exportation (1820), the government and visionary people knew it: Coffee would boost this little country's economy.
Indeed, Costa Rica exported Coffee exclusively from 1846 to 1890. Coffee became a business for some families; they improved the harvest and the mill process. They created the first wet mills as El Molino in Cartago province.
Costa Rica could build better roads, bring electricity to the capital, and even construct the National Theatre with coffee exportation benefits.
Other agricultural products have joined and enriched the country's exportation with time. Nowadays, Coffee is not our economic engine. However, we have thousands of coffee farmers – many of them 4th or 5th generation – that still cultivate Coffee with passion and quality. And coffee farming remains in every Costa Rican's mind.
Costa Rica established a National Coffee Day. Coffee is one of our national symbols. Even the founders included coffee beans in our National Emblem. They are illustrated in golden colors, representing our "golden bean" (as we call Coffee historically).
Terroir and Hands
But why did Coffee expand and establish itself in Costa Rica so well? One of the reasons comes from its terroir. "Terroir" is a wine concept. It's about soil characteristics, weather, altitude, and cycles of sun and rain. This conjunction of factors has a significant influence on every product's flavor. In our case: Coffee.
Costa Rica is located at the Tropic latitude: where Coffee can grow and be productive. Its valleys and mountains have a kind of spring weather. Like the rest of the Tropical countries, Costa Rica doesn't have four seasons. Still, it experiences one dry and one rainy period every year.
One of Costa Rica's coffee flavor recognition comes from its volcanic soils. This volcanic activity also contributes to their particular topography, a positive characteristic of coffee production.
The other reason belongs to the Costa Rican coffee farmers. With a long attachment to their land and a historical experience, coffee farmers in our country put their touch on Costa Rican coffee’s quality.
Many years ago, they decided to plant only the arabica variety. They determined to focus their effort on quality over quantity. Costa Rica produces less than 1% of the world's Coffee, but its price in the international market has a plus, always.
Coffee producers have innovated in agricultural practices, mill processes, environmental protection, etc. The specialty coffee market qualifies Costa Rican Coffee as one of the finest.
Recently, the evolution of Coffee jumped to the next level. Many small coffee producers quit giving their Coffee to big coffee mills. They built their micro-mills to process the particular coffee lots more precisely and search for direct trade with green coffee buyers.
The knowledge about Coffee expanded from agricultural topics to tasting a cup, preparing Coffee like baristas, and even roasting their Coffee. Costa Rica's coffee scene has experienced a renewed coffee wave: Costa Rica has more baristas, great cup tasters, and passionate roaster masters than ten years ago.
As a result, now we can find an exquisite coffee offer, not just cultivated here but prepared and roasted on our land.
Range of Flavors
Let's talk about micro-climate. The micro-climates result from several conditions such as the terrain, altitude, humidity, vegetation, etc. A micro-climate could be restricted even to a couple of square miles.
Costa Rica owns many micro-climates in its small territory. In addition to different soil types, forests, and such, this characteristic provides a wide range of coffee production conditions. As you can imagine, we can produce an assortment of different flavor coffee profiles.
Costa Rica cultivates arabica coffee, remember? The reason is that it has a complex and aromatic cup, but it requires a minimum altitude. So, every region above 1000 meters until 2000 meters altitude produces Coffee with a different accent.
Our national flavor coffee profile could be described as high acidity, aromatic and precise cup with cocoa, nuts, sugar cane, and citric notes.
But in the northern region (Guanacaste, Monteverde), the acidity becomes subtle; we can expect more floral notes and a light body. The reason is that they have the lowest altitude in the country.
For example, Coffee from the Occidental Valley (Naranjo, San Ramón, for instance) is appreciated for its floral notes, chocolate and orange scent, and balance.
In the Central Valley, we can find a lot of different nuances. But we can highlight its balanced cup (a harmony among acidity, sweetness, and bitterness). We could see the oldest coffee regions inside Central Valley, such as Tres Ríos, Heredia, Frailes, and others.
Turrialba's and Orosi's coffees are defined by their rain and sun cycles. These regions are the nearest to the Caribbean coast. Their rain periods are more constant than in Central Valley or the other areas. This situation defines the crop: more rain cycles, more crop cycles. Although Coffee has only one yield per year, it's usual to have two or more harvest seasons in these zones.
The consequences in flavor are remarkable (for good). We can find cacao and nuts flavors and a mild acidity that is very interesting for coffee lovers looking for coffees perfect for the espresso beverage.
The most famous region of Costa Rica's Coffee is Los Santos. Three towns feature here: Dota, San Marcos de Tarrazú, and León Cortés. Coffee from these farms has won a lot of awards and distinctions. They even have their Denomination of Origin: Tarrazú.
Its juicy acidity and aromatic solid and complex flavor are the main reasons for Los Santos (Tarrazú) Coffee's world-class fame.
A few miles south, we have a large and growing region known as Brunca (the name of its native people). We have vibrant coffee farming in the Brunca zone; their farmers work on productivity and flavor improvement. Some Brunca coffees got high scores in prestigious specialty coffee contests such as Cup of Excellence Costa Rica.
A cup of Brunca's Coffee is full of caramel notes, fruity and nuts hints, and mild but exciting acidity.
Does it make your mouth water? Honestly, we hope so. Costa Rica is a land blessed by coffee farming, and it's a paradise for the coffee lover's palate, too. We hope to join us in this adventure to find these coffee gems!