As you savor your morning coffee, have you ever wondered about the origins of this delightful black drink you’re consuming?
It’s no surprise that coffee plays a key role in the Costa Rican economy. The nutrient-rich soil, climate, and topography make Costa Rica a prime location for cultivating some of the world’s finest coffee.
The History of Coffee in Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s relationship with coffee dates back hundreds of years. To understand why this plant is so vital to the country, let’s briefly examine its history in Costa Rica’s tropical mountain ranges.
Coffee was introduced to Costa Rica in the 1700s. The temperate climate and perfect environmental conditions allowed the plant to take root and spread rapidly in the mountains. In just a few decades, coffee became one of Costa Rica’s most important exports, playing an integral role in the country’s economy.
The cherries (red fruits) are exclusively hand-picked to select only the ripest ones. Once Costa Rica gained independence from Spain and then from the Federal Republic of Central America, the nation emerged as a global power in the coffee domain. Europe and the United States were the main importers of Costa Rican coffee, contributing to a development boom in the country.
Coffee became the backbone of the economy and, over the years, an essential part of local culture. Coffee consumption acted as a cultural equalizer, shared and enjoyed by every citizen, regardless of profession or social class. Costa Rica elevated coffee to an art form, and the drink became a cherished daily ritual throughout the country.
Although Costa Rica contributes only a small portion to global coffee production, its beans are among the best. Producing over 1.5 million bags per year, coffee accounts for about 11% of the country’s exports.
The Excellence of Costa Rican Coffee
The superiority of Costa Rican coffee rests on a unique set of factors, including an idyllic environment, meticulous harvesting, ecological mindfulness, a variety of territories, and active government support.
Coffee plants, sensitive and requiring special care, demand precise climatic and environmental conditions for flourishing. These criteria include mild temperatures, high altitudes, distinctly marked dry and wet seasons, low incidence of diseases or parasites, and fertile soils.
Costa Rica’s lush tropical climate creates the perfect environment for coffee cultivation. Its imposing mountains offer the ideal altitude, while moderate temperatures favor the prosperity of coffee plantations throughout the year. Enriched by volcanic ash, Costa Rican soil is fertile and oxidized, imparting deeper and richer flavors to the coffee beans.
Expert Harvesting from the Farmers
Costa Rican farmers have been cultivating premium-quality beans for generations. Their care and attention are reflected in the coffee they produce. Coffee picking is a cherished and respected tradition in Costa Rica, with thousands of locals participating in the harvest each year. The expertise and experience of these pickers are key elements that distinguish Tico coffee.
The coffee harvest season occurs once a year in Costa Rica, between October and March. During this season, ripe coffee beans are carefully harvested and sent to processing centers.
Environmentally Friendly Practices
In Costa Rica, 25% of the territory is reserved for protected areas such as national parks and reserves, which cannot be developed industrially or agriculturally. The government encourages environmentally friendly practices among its farmers, and many Costa Rican farms produce fair trade, organic, and « bird-friendly » coffee. When you buy Costa Rican coffee, you support an industry that does not contribute to deforestation, carbon emissions, or other harmful agricultural practices.
Costa Rica takes coffee cultivation seriously – it’s the only country in the world where it’s illegal to produce any type of coffee other than Arabica, the highest quality coffee available.
The government got involved in the coffee industry in 1989 by passing a law banning the planting of low-quality coffee plants. This encouraged Costa Rican farmers and business owners to pursue excellence in their craft, leading to a national commitment to produce the best coffee possible.
THE 4 MOST POPULAR COFFEE GROWING REGIONS IN COSTA RICA
Throughout the country, several regions produce exceptional coffee beans, creating a fantastic drink that will delight even the most discerning connoisseurs. The most popular coffee-growing regions in Costa Rica include Poas, Tres Rios, Terrazu, and Naranjo.
The Magnificent Poas Region
Poas is a volcanic region located in the center of Costa Rica, at an altitude of 1,200 to 1,600 meters, and home to about 30,000 inhabitants. In the heart of the region, an active stratovolcano peaks at 2,708 meters, and the surrounding national park is the most visited in the country.
The Poas region is known for its beautiful landscape and thriving culture, becoming a popular destination for tourists eager to discover the interior of Costa Rica. The center of Costa Rica stands out for one of the best coffee bean productions in the world. The rigorous microclimates expose the coffee beans to rapid and significant temperature variations, producing a hard, high-quality bean.
The soil, rich in minerals, is incredibly fertile and ideal for cultivating quality coffee beans. In Poas, the coffee harvest takes place from November to February. The Poas region is recognized as a pioneer in Costa Rican coffee cultivation, and its intense conditions have produced a robust coffee with a slight acidity.
Flavor Profile: Poas coffee is known for its balance between fruity and floral flavors, with earthy and chocolatey notes.
The Tres Rios Sector – Translated as « Three Rivers » in English
The mountainous region of Tres Rios produces some of the world’s most coveted coffee. Many coffee enthusiasts consider Tres Rios the « Bordeaux » of coffee-growing regions, thanks to the exceptional quality of its beans. Like in Poas, Tres Rios coffee grows in soil enriched by the nearby Irazu volcano. Unlike other regions, Tres Rios experiences two distinct seasons, with markedly different weather conditions, offering ideal growth conditions for a high-quality coffee bean.
Tres Rios farms are known for producing a bean with closed cracks and good density. As a result, Tres Rios coffee is characterized by a pleasant aftertaste and a well-balanced body. The acidity of this coffee is well balanced, not dominating the lighter flavors.
Flavor Profile: Tres Rios coffee offers a complex and intense aroma, with flavors of sweet chocolate and rich fruits.
The Quality Lands of Terrazu
Terrazu is widely regarded as the producer of Costa Rica’s best coffee. It’s also the largest coffee-growing region in the country, consistently producing some of the world’s best coffee crops.
This small region, located in the center of Costa Rica, lies between 1,200 and 1,900 meters in altitude. The population of Terrazu is about 10,000 inhabitants, but this number triples during the harvest season with the arrival of workers coming to help with the picking.
As the largest coffee-growing region in Costa Rica, Terrazu contributes to at least one-third of the national production. Its rich volcanic soil, combined with a cool climate and high altitude, produces a coffee with marked acidity and a rich, full body.
Flavor Profile: Terrazu coffee is distinguished by a complex flavor profile, with notes of warm honey, hay, chocolate, dates, and malt.
Naranjo – The Orange-Colored Coffee Sector
When a coffee bean from Naranjo wins national awards for four consecutive years, it’s a sign of exceptional quality. Naranjo, located in Costa Rica’s Central Valley, is primarily an agricultural town.
The region was named in 1833 when the first Europeans, struck by the abundance of orange trees in the dense tropical forest, named it Los Naranjos. The name has stuck, and today, its fertile soil is used to cultivate some of the country’s best coffees. The cool temperature of Naranjo, year-round, and its high altitude, create the perfect environment for coffee plantations.
Flavor Profile: Naranjo coffee is known for its balanced acidity, with notes of citrus, nuts, honey, and cocoa.
EXPERIENCE COSTA RICA’S RENOWNED COFFEE
Visiting Costa Rica, you don’t just taste a simple coffee. You dive into an unmatched sensory experience, where each cup tells the story of a people, a climate, and a unique soil. You’ll discover how the climatic nuances of our mountains, the fertility of our soil enriched by volcanic ashes, and the ancestral expertise of our farmers combine to give birth to an exceptional coffee.
As you plan your next trip, let Costa Rica reveal its best-kept secrets to you. Come experience for yourself why our coffee is considered one of the best in the world. Let yourself be enchanted by the aromas and flavors of our coffees, and take with you a piece of our heritage.
In Costa Rica, every cup of coffee is an invitation to celebrate life, nature, and passion. We await you to share together this unforgettable experience. Come, taste, and live the legend of Costa Rican coffee.
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