Costa Rican coffee is known for its excellent quality and robust flavor. The Central Valley’s rich volcanic soil and cool temperatures provide the perfect environment for gourmet coffee production. Coffee plantations throughout Costa Rica have opened their doors to the public to offer educational, interactive coffee tours.read more close
Costa Rican coffee is known for its excellent quality and robust flavor. The Central Valley’s rich volcanic soil and cool temperatures provide the perfect environment for gourmet coffee production. Coffee plantations throughout Costa Rica have opened their doors to the public to offer educational, interactive coffee tours.
History of Coffee in Costa Rica
Coffee was first brought to Costa Rica in 1798. Plants and acreage were granted to all who were willing to grow crops for export, and coffee production quickly became a major industry, surpassing cacao and tobacco. In fact, Costa Rica was the first Central American country to establish coffee growing as an industry. The economic growth that coffee production brought enabled Costa Rica to develop ports, roads and other infrastructure necessary for continued expansion.
Today, coffee is a sustainable economic and agricultural product in Costa Rica. Coffee is the second largest commodity traded on the international market, second to petroleum. There are two types produced commercially – Arabica and Robusta – but Costa Rica only produces Arabica, as mandated by executive order. In general, Arabica beans produce a sweeter, smoother cup of coffee.
Tours include a walk through the coffee fields where visitors learn about the history of coffee and how it grows from seed to mature fruiting plant. Visitors are often permitted to pick coffee fruits during the harvest season. The processing mill where the coffee is removed from its husk is next, followed by the drying process and roasting mill. Finally, the reward: a fresh cup of roasted coffee.
Cafe Britt’s coffee plantation, Costa Rica’s largest producer of export-quality coffee, offers informative tours in the Central Valley. Located near Heredia, two miles north of Barva, Cafe Britt produces several tasty varieties, including an organic shade-grown coffee. They offer two tours – the Classic Coffee Tour and the Coffee Lovers' Tour – which incorporate theater acting, humor and interesting facts. Doka and Cafe Britt coffees can be purchased in Costa Rican grocery stores and ordered online. (Barva, Heredia; 9:30 a.m. and 11: a.m. year-round, 3:00 p.m. between December 15 and April 30; $20-$49. 2277-1600.)
More than 800 local coffee farmers form Coopedota – the Dota coffee cooperative famous for its Tarrazu coffee. Tours explore the field and wet mill, and explain the processes of cultivating, picking, drying, roasting and storing the delicious coffee fruit. The Coopedota coffee tour is especially popular during harvest season (November to March), when guests are invited to pick coffee and observe expert harvesters work their magic. (Santa Maria de Dota; 7:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday; $18. 2541-2828 or 2541-2728.)
Doka Estate’s award winning Cafe Tres Generaciones is cultivated on the slopes of Poas Volcano. The century-old Doka coffee plantation uses a traditional water mill to power their processing plant, which is designated by the Costa Rican government as a national historical and architectural heritage site. Tours through the plantation focus on the entire coffee process – from fragile seedling to robust roast. Be sure to sample Doka's Peaberry, a special blend cultivated from peaberries – concentrated beans that account for only 5% of all coffee cherries. (Sabanilla de Alajuela; 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m, 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; $20-$29. 2449-5152 or 2449-6623.)
Surrounded by 640 acres of coffee fields, visitors to Naranjo's premier coffee tour travel from a seedling station to coffee fields, and from the wet mill and to the roasting room. The tour also visits a traditional Costa Rican home, and includes sampling some of the plantation's rich coffee blends. For an extra fee, an expert taster schools guests on how to distinguish excellence in coffee roasts. (Naranjo; $22. 2450-3838.)
The Santa Elena Cooperative, also known as Coope Santa Elena, offers one of the area's best tours. Visit a local coffee plantation – just one of many cooperative members – to explore the fields and pick some cherries. Later, a stop by the coffee mill reveals the fascinating processes of peeling cherries, sun-drying beans, and roasting coffee. Taste-testing is included. (Santa Elena, Monteverde; 9:00 a.m.; $22-$30. 2645-5006.)