Costa Rica Coffee Facts: What You Need to Know
If you drink Costa Rican coffee, you already know it tastes great. But what else do you know about this small country’s remarkable coffee industry?
Keep reading for some fascinating Costa Rican coffee facts. They’re guaranteed to impress your friends and make you appreciate that delicious java even more.
Costa Rica Kicked Off Central America’s Coffee Industry
Coffee was introduced to Costa Rica in the late 1700s, making it the first coffee-growing Central American nation. Given the ideal growing conditions, it’s no surprise the crop has been thriving ever since.
Coffee became a major source of revenue surpassing cacao, tobacco, and sugar production as early as 1829.
Because of such a head-start, this country produces some of the best coffee in the region. Although countries like Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras now produce more volume, they can’t match Costa Rica's quality of coffee beans.
Costa Rica’s Coffee Growing Regions
Geographically, Costa Rica is a thin strip of land surrounded by coastline, with a mountainous center ideal for growing the high-quality coffee beans. More than 80% of the country’s coffee farms are blessed with high altitude, volcanic soil, and perfect weather.
Each region produces coffee beans with their own distinct flavors. The main ones are:
- West Valley
- Tres Rio
- Central Valley
Coffee farmers first planted coffee in the Central Valley, the location of the capital, San Jose. However, the highest-regarded Costa Rican coffee comes from the largest region, Tarrazu, which produces up to 35% of the nation’s coffee. In particular, Tarrazu’s La Minita is known worldwide for exceptional coffee.
If you visit this country, be sure to sign up for a coffee tour. Go to a coffee farm to see how they grow coffee. Don't forget to visit some coffee plantations, called beneficio, to see how these processing plants operate. Make sure to sample their products, too.
Coffee Processing Methods Used In Costa Rica
They use three processing methods in Costa Rica: washed, natural, and honey.
- Washed coffees taste clean and mild. Flavor notes include honey and milk chocolate, with a bright fruit character.
- Natural coffees are rising in popularity because they’re less resource-intensive and offer unique flavor profiles. They have a syrupy body with stronger fruit flavors.
- Honey processed coffees are sweeter with less acidity. They often taste of honey, molasses, and fruit.
In general, Costa Rican coffee farmers leave the cherry coffee beans as long as possible, allowing the bean to receive more fruit character.
Robusta Coffee Was Illegal!
In 1989, the Costa Rican government passed a law prohibiting the planting of low-quality Robusta beans.
The goal was to position the nation as a global leader in premium Arabica coffee, the highest quality of coffee beans.
However, compared to the robust Robusta, Arabica plants are more susceptible to changing weather patterns and pests. In 2018, the state reversed the law to spare farmers undue hardship. Yet the crop continues to be almost exclusively Arabica (1).
The Current State Of The Costa Rican Coffee Industry
Nearly 10% of Costa Rica's population is involved in coffee production, which makes up 90% of the country’s produce. About 90% of the coffee is destined for export each year. However, this is still less than 1% of the world’s crop (2).
Compared with many growing regions worldwide, Costa Rican coffee industry is quite advanced. Much of this is due to Instituto del Café de Costa Rica, the national coffee association. The association is funded by an export tax on coffee, which allows them to conduct scientific research into coffee production (3).
Costa Rican coffee tastes like chocolate and ripe fruit, among other flavors. Expect flavors of honey and citrus from light roasts, milk chocolate, and red fruit from medium roasts, dark chocolate, and nougat from darker roasts.
Yes, you can bring coffee home from Costa Rica, and you certainly should! It’s much less expensive to buy locally, and it makes a beautiful gift for any friends at home.
Costa Ricans prepare their coffee using a unique brewer called a chorreador, or coffee sock. This simple cloth filter produces a rich drip coffee, to which many Costa Rican people add milk. They rarely use sugar because the coffee is so naturally sweet.
- Alvarado, L. (2018, February 13). Costa Rica Will Lift Ban for Planting of Robusta Coffee. Retrieved from https://news.co.cr/costa-rica-will-lift-ban-planting-growing-robusta-coffee-lower-quality-arabiga/70585/
- Coffee in Costa Rica. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.anywhere.com/costa-rica/tours/coffee
- A Visit to CostaRica’s Icafe. (2017, March 19). Retrieved from https://www.baristamagazine.com/costa-rica-icafe/