Costa Rica - A History of Quality Coffee

Although coffee beans nowadays are grown in every part of the world, Costa Rican coffee is considered to be some of the most exceptional. Thanks to its fantastic aroma and concentrated flavors, it has become a favorite for coffee lovers all around the world. Maybe it is due to the excellent weather conditions or perhaps – the hard work and love of Costa Rican people, you won't find better coffee beans than in the colorful country. To learn more about the secrets behind the production and how it has developed throughout the years in Costa Rica, keep on reading this article.


You might know what your favorite Costa Rican coffee is. But do you know the story behind it? Throughout the years, the stunning country has been a leader in coffee production. There are eight regions that are involved in the coffee-making process. Each area has its own unique flavors and characteristics, therefore you have the chance to taste different kinds of coffee beans although they come from the same country. Of course, by learning more about each region, you may appreciate the tasty drink more. After all – there is so much history and culture behind it!


It all started with...


So, how did the story of coffee in Costa Rica begin? For the first time, the black drink appeared at the end of the 1700s – more than 200 years ago. The Arabica coffee was first planted in Central Valley, which had the perfect conditions. A relatively cool climate, high altitude, and fertile soil – all of these aspects were key to making the black drink as yummy as it was. Soon enough, the Costa Rican government came to the conclusion that growing coffee has a lot of potential. Therefore, they encouraged farmers to take up the production. In return – they were offered free land. That is when the production of coffee had a massive breakthrough.


Although Costa Rica was well known for its sugar, cacao, and tobacco, by 1829, coffee exports overtook the lead. At first, it was traded to Panama and Chile, and after that – sent to England. Then, in the mid-1800s, an unusual thing happened – English captain William Le Lacheur Lyon sent huge packages of Costa Rican coffee to the United Kingdom. Due to this, coffee became an interest of everyone. What is more, England received the most significant part of Costa Rican coffee exports up until World War II.


Of course, the production of coffee had a major impact on the overall economy of Costa Rica. The industry created a wealthy class of growers and traders. Thanks to the money earned, it was possible to modernize Costa Rica and build the railroad to the Atlantic coast. Nowadays, coffee made in Costa Rica is still popular all over the world. Whether you are located in Barcelona or Las Vegas, you will surely find a pack of the yummy drink in the local shop.


How are coffee beans grown in Alajuela?


Alajuela is part of the Costa Rican Central Valley. Since the area has well-defined rainy and dry seasons, it makes for the perfect location to produce coffee. Surrounded by San Jose, Heredia, and Alajuela, the region typically creates coffee that has hints of chocolate and fruit flavors. Sometimes you may even notice a subtle smell of honey which makes the drink that more special.


Traditionally, banana, citrus as well as poro trees were grown near the coffee fields so that there are enough nutrients as well as shade for the coffee beans. But, of course, nowadays, there are hybrid plants that do not require shade. Therefore they can be planted more closely. However, beans like this need a lot more fertilizer which makes the production process a bit more expensive.


How is the coffee made in Alajuela today? Of course, it depends on the producer. Some prefer to use hybrid plants, while others have returned to the traditional way of producing coffee. Usually, the plant is grown in a nursery until it is one year old. Then, it is taken to the field.


At least two years have to pass until you can harvest berries. In Central Valley, it is typically done from November to January, therefore it is the perfect time to pay a visit to the gorgeous country. For some Costa Ricans, it is a lovely tradition that brings the whole family closer. They pick coffee together and use the earned money to purchase Christmas presents.


Traditionally, Costa Rican coffee was often mixed with other coffees so that it would be more suited for worldwide export. Now, coffee producers focus on having certified organic beans that are shade-grown. That is what makes the black drink so special and yummy.


What effect do the altitude and soil have?


There are many factors that impact the quality of coffee. However, the altitude, climatic factors as well as the type of soil, have the biggest difference. The altitude at which a bean is grown has an effect on the flavor of the beans. Usually, coffee that is produced at higher elevations is of higher quality. Its flavor notes seem to become more complex. This is because there is better drainage at high elevations, which reduces the amount of water in the fruit. That makes the flavors more concentrated. Our coffee is grown at the altitude of 1300-1445 meters, therefore you may expect it to be an aromatic yet delicate drink.


Since the soils are enriched with volcanic ash, they have a bit of tropical acidity. This combination makes it nutritious. The excellent distribution of roots, humidity retention, and proper oxygenation also are part of the many reasons that make Costa Rican coffee of such high quality because these characteristics add strength to the plant.


Costa Rican coffee – a sign of quality


There is no doubt that Costa Rican coffee is exceptional in taste, but did you know that it is considered to be one of the best in the world? That is no surprise, though. In Costa Rica, it is actually illegal to produce any type of coffee other than 100% Arabica – that means it is prohibited to plant low-quality brands. Therefore, you may say that lousy coffee is literally against the law.


Perhaps one of the secrets of Costa Rican coffee is the fact it is hand-picked by hand. As we already mentioned before, there is a great tradition behind the process. Coffee makers in Alajuela know that the best brews can't be created in a rush. That is why they only pick and process coffee beans that are the ripest. Costa Ricans believe that each coffee bean is unique, individual, and full of potential. If you allow them to fully mature, you are guaranteed to have incredible flavors.


Now that you have learned more about the coffee history in the beautiful South-American country, perhaps it is time to enjoy a hot cup of delicious Costa Rican coffee?