Coffee plays a big part in Costa Rica’s history and culture, and remains a big part of it today, including being a giant chunk of support for the country’s economy. Currently about 28% of Costa Ricans are employed in the agricultural sector, with the largest growing areas of coffee cultivation being San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia, Puntarenas, and Cartago. As if 1992, 168,000 tons of coffee were exported in the country.
In 1779, Arabica coffee was first brought to Costa Rica by the Europeans, and began growing in the Meseta Central, which had ideal soil and climate conditions to support coffee growth. By the 19th century, the Costa Rican government was encouraging coffee cultivtion, and was offering farmers plots of land if they wished to harvest the plants. By the early to mid 20th century, coffee was a vital crop to Costa Rica’s economy. So vital, that if the price on the global market dropped for coffee, it deeply impacted Costa Rica’s economy.
Much of the coffee production in Costa Rica relies on cheap and seasonal labor, often provided by Nicaraguan immigrants. When coffee is ready to harvest, it is picked by the workers and transported to local processing plants to have the pulp be removed and go through the washing process. These processing plants are called ‘benedicios’. Afterwards, the beans are laid out to dry in the sun and then sorted by size and shape. Currently, mechanical drying is starting to take place of the manual and time consuming sun drying, however.
In the country, the best and most notable coffees are grown at altitudes between 1200 and 1700 meters, with lower quality coffee being grown below 1200 meters. Coffee is grown in 6 regions, with Tarrazu providing the most sought after coffee. West Valley grows between 1200 and 1650 meters altitude, Tarrazu between 1200 and 1700, Tres Rios between 1200 and 1650, Orosi between 900 and 1200, Brunca between 800 and 1200, and Turrialba between 600 and 900. The latter of the regions is known to produce the poorest coffee with a weak body and normal acidity.
Costa Rican’s have a unique and tasty way to brew coffee, called Chorreador. The coffee is ground and placed in a sock-like sack held up by wood over a coffee cup. Boiling water is then poured over the coffee, and it slowly drips into the coffee cup. This results in good bean extraction, a stronger taste, and a very fresh cup of coffee. It’s also known to have quite a kick, more so than other brewing methods such as a drip brew or French Press.
Key Costa Rica Coffee Profile Notes
Grow Regions: West Valley, Tarrazu, Tres Rios, Orosi, Brunca, Turrialba
General Cup Profile: medim body, clean, strong aroma, floral notes
Grow Altitude: Between 900 and 1,700 meters