Costa Rica, the land where coffee blossoms

Nestled in the heart of Central America, Costa Rica is one of the smallest countries in the Americas, with an area roughly the size of Denmark. Yet it has much to offer, having long been a popular destination for tourists thanks to its idyllic setting. The country is a place of adventure, with lush forests, golden coastlines and magnificent national parks. Indeed, after many years, and many practices implemented in favour of its flora and fauna, Costa Ricans are putting all their energy into making the country a sustainable place and preserving its natural beauty. No wonder the country is called Costa Rica, as it means “Rich Coast” in English. Above all, one of its greatest riches is its coffee, also known as "el Grano de Oro" (The Golden Bean). Thus, if you're a coffee lover, set off on an adventure and soak up what Costa Rica has to offer by discovering the importance of coffee there.

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Costa Rica, a land made for coffee

Situated between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica is home to a magnificent natural environment thanks to its astonishing biodiversity, which accounts for almost 6% of the world's biodiversity. This variety, combined with perfect climatic conditions, makes it the ideal place for growing coffee. Costa Rican coffee is considered to be one of the best in the world, which is thanks to its unique environment, perhaps due to sun, rain thanks to its wet season from May to November, warm temperatures averaging between 20 and 30 degrees depending on the month of the year, and sometimes to its high altitude and volcanic soil.

Supposedly introduced to the country in the 18th century thanks to imports from Cuba, coffee has become an essential part of Costa Rican’s lives, as it was one of the first countries on the continent to develop the coffee industry.

Since then, the country has developed coffee plantations, also known as cafetales, in several regions. The locals, also known as "ticos", have since put in place a number of written and unwritten rules to make the most of their coffee plantations.

Coffee plantation, Costa Rica

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Firstly, each product must respect the excellence of the single origin, which means that a bag of coffee must have gone through every stage of the process on a single farm or in a single region.

Secondly, the coffee pickers must hand-pick the coffee with care and be attentive to each bean and their degree of maturity to be sure to have the best quality.

Thirdly, in the interests of excellence, it has in fact been illegal since 1989 to grow any coffee variety other than Arabica, as it is in farmers interests to propose only the highest quality coffee beans.

Fourthly, coffee farms give priority to growing their brew sustainably, as the country protects its lands carefully.

A farmer holding ripe arabica coffee beans

A farmer holding ripe arabica coffee beans

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Costa Rican, their history with coffee

Much more than a convivial drink, this loved beverage is part of Costa Rican history, of their culture and of their heritage. There's no doubt that nobody loves coffee more than Costa Ricans: it's the rhythm of their lives, their social life, their memories, and so on. People love coffee so much that it has inspired songs and dances. It stimulates them and they show it through songs like “Que lindo coger cafe” by Juan Carlos Rojas.

© YouTube

What you can find there

If you're interested in finding out more about coffee in general, Costa Rica is the ideal place for coffee tourism. This practice is quite simple to understand: it's basically any activity related to coffee. So get on a plane and discover the production process, visit coffee farms, coffee culture tours, of course, don't forget to do some tasting. If you're interested in this type of activity, there are several places to choose from. You can visit the Esperitu Santo Coffee Tour Naranjo, in the province of Alajuela, and learn more about the process. Other places of interest include the Monteverde Coffee Centre in the province of Puntarenas and the Coopevictoria coffee cooperative in Tarrazu.

Esperitu Santo Coffee Tour, Naranjo in Alajuela Province

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When you visit a "Cafetal", you go through several stages. As you arrive at the farm, you will meet your guide at the entrance. While discovering the beauty of the plantation, he will tell you more about the history of this place. Then you'll discover the plants and the way farmers pick coffee from the small, still-green trees. They do it in the traditional way, with a large basket always beside them. You'll notice that the coffee doesn't look like coffee yet, at this stage it's called a coffee fruit and it looks like little red cherries.

Hand-picked coffee beans

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Depending on your visit you might also see the trees filled with white flowers. It happens during the blooming season, between January and February as the flowers get ready to transform.

Coffee tree with white flowers

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After demonstrating your picking skills by trying it yourself, you can find out what is done with the fruit by visiting the area where it is processed. The fruit’s seeds are roasted to become this brown bean that you know, you'll see right after how the locals package everything.

Dried coffee beans

- © jaeie / Shutterstock

To round off your visit, don't forget to sample this drink enjoyed in the traditional way thanks to a "chorreador ".

Now that you tasted coffee in a traditional way, don't forget for the rest of your stay that if there's one thing you should do, it's drink coffee like a local. You have to drink it all day long and quite slowly. As you drink your black coffee from a small cup, you'll tell your drinking companion the country's national motto "Pura Vida!". As you may have guessed, this means that everything is great, and you will be too if you come!

by Clara Uveteau
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