Forgive me if you are beginning to yawn as I droll on and on about Costa Rica. I hope instead you find learning about a foreign culture as fascinating as I do. This is my passion. If someone would pay me more than Craig to travel the world to write travel guides while living in foreign countries, well, I’d not bat an eye, pack up the kids, stop to pick up Kira and go on our way for adventure after adventure. (Craig says he wouldn’t mind) I can assure you however NO one will do that. But you my friends, You get it for free! Aren’t I so blessed to share my passion regardless of who else cares? I am. Thank you for coming with me.
We visited a coffee plantation the first day. It was one of our favorite up close and personal experiences in their tropical wonderland. We drink coffee. We drink a lot of coffee en la manana. We are so particular about our coffee that our grinder costs more than our coffee maker and the two shall never be one. Craig is the KING maker of the coffee. He has a routine science I desperately do not wish to disturb, however late he arrives home from work. All of our house guests who love coffee give him rave reviews.
My job is to select the beans. I’m the shopper he is the maker. I turn my head the other way at buying Starbuck’s beans. Sorry. They don’t really carry the best. And on this trip we learned why Costa Rica and Hawaii produce the BEST coffee in the world. (I’m sorry to my friends in Columbia, you make good coffee too.)
Coffee is an important export that shifted the economy of Costa Rica, but it is interesting to note it is not native to the country. Permit me to share some history we found fascinating. I’ll be generic if that is ok. In the early 1800s five of the Central American countries formed a federation but they needed money so they applied for a MAJOR loan from England. It was granted and divided five ways, so each country had to pay back it’s share. Well Cost Rica was the first to pay back and then even withdraw to independence from the federation because of Coffee.
A man travelled to Jamaica and tasted his first coffee there. It energized him in an unnatural way and so he thought he’d like to bring it back to Costa Rica, so he returned with 20 coffee plants. He spread the word about it, and in 30 years he was exporting it. They say the economy bloomed like the coffee plant and stabilized the country. They were the first to pay off their debt because of coffee. Now however Costa Rica exports over 300 hundred products to over 100 places and Coffee is fifth on the export list.
I think somehow, somewhere the country has it’s own shrine to the coffee bean for giving it an independent break. It might be better if they just thanked God for giving them the ethic to work and persevere. Many do. Anyway…
There are some important reasons why the coffee in Costa Rica is as good as it is:
- they hand pick each berry from november to february
- the plants can grow for 60 years producing, but they replace them every 25 years
- the coffee is grown in volcanic soil, and this is the absolutely vital bit that no one else can reproduce.
Here are some more facts we learned and found interesting:
- most countries shake the trees and take any and every bean that falls, rather than the best selected beans
- a coffee berry is red like a sour cherry and just the same size when it is ripe
- it takes 250,000 people to harvest the coffee between november to february
- the school “summer” break is during this time originally to allow children to earn money harvesting as they have no seasons in the country other than the rainy and dry.
- each person collects 25 pounds per basket and about 12-15 baskets a day
- workers are independent, at the end of the day the trucks come to buy the yield from individual workers. Anyone can work.
- in old times ox carried the beans to the sea using brightly painted carts, and it took months to deliver. These carts are a major symbol of the Costa Rican heritage
- They export the beans before roasting because people like to buy when they can smell the roasting. They do roast some and sell it but it is not the most common way. We observed the roasting process.
- The best coffee after it is peeled and washed from the vinegar like substance under the skin is then SUN dried out in large yards and raked. I saw this on the side of the road in Africa, so now it makes sense. If it isn’t done within 24 hours of picking it ferments. That’s some terrible coffe I am sure.
Of course I brought home a few pounds of coffee. And I drank my share in the morning con leche while I blogged and enjoyed the people walking by in the fresh air on the way to their day’s work. Now, as I enjoy my Costa Rican coffee I am thinking I will need to investigate how to buy only coffee from Costa Rica because they have the same standard for excellence that I do. A few more dollars spent will be worth it now that I am educated.