Drinking some tasty Costa Rica coffee is a must-do while visiting the country. If you would like to take your coffee enjoyment one step further, we suggest participating in a coffee plantation tour.
These tours typically walk you through the entire production process from planting to exporting. Most tours are great for people of all ages. Plus, they include tons of free coffee to drink.
We created this guide to Costa Rican coffee to give you a glimpse into the history, production, and the best places to experience coffee production first hand.
The History of Coffee in Costa Rica
Coffee production in Costa Rica dates back to the late 1700’s. Eventually, Arabica coffee was introduced to the country from Ethiopia. The Costa Rican government realized the possibilities that awaited the country through coffee production.
In 1843 several hundred pound bags of coffee were sent directly to the United Kingdom. The British realized how amazing the Costa Rican coffee was and invested in the production. Until World War 2, the UK was the largest importer of Costa Rican coffee.
Coffee was one of the most lucrative industries in Costa Rica during its peak. In fact, many plantations were owned by Europeans that came to Costa Rica to find wealth in the coffee production.
Unfortunately, the price of Costa Rican coffee is just too high nowadays. Between export taxes and high cost of land, the majority of mass coffee production has moved to other countries.
However, Costa Rica still produces what is considered some of the best coffee in the world, especially in the Central Valley area of the country.
The fertile volcanic soil and cooler climates of the high altitude areas of the country make it a prime coffee growing location.
The Coffee Production Process
The growing process at coffee plantations in Costa Rica is very interesting. However, if you are planning on taking a coffee tour you might want to skip this section. You will likely learn all of this info in more detail on your tour.
Planting & Growing
Coffee seeds are typically first planted in shaded nurseries. One sprouted they are removed from the nursery and planted in the plantation. Typically these shrubs are not harvested until after growing for about four years.
Coffee shrubs produce a small white flower that is sometimes used for perfumes and other fragrant items.
The berries, which will one day be coffee beans, start out as green. When they are ready to be harvested they will turn bright red.
Harvesting occurs on red berries between October and March each year. Most plantations employ cheap labor from Nicaragua for the coffee picking process. The coffee pickers typically move into small houses provided by the plantation during this season.
Coffee pickers are paid by full bucket that they collect.
Processing & Roasting
There are a few different methods for processing the collected coffee beans, but the most common method is to wash, and remove the pulp before letting the beans roast in the sun for up to 10 days.
The beans are then placed in burlap sacks for several months.
Most coffee producers in Costa Rica stop at this stage and package their beans for shipment abroad. The coffee will be roasted upon arriving at its destination.
However, there are some companies that actually sell their own coffee in Costa Rica. These Costa Rica coffee brands will then roast their coffee beans, package them, and send them off to stores.
The Types of Costa Rican Coffee
It is possible to buy coffee of all types in Costa Rica from dark roast to very light roast varieties. Many people say the best Costa Rican coffee is Tarrazu coffee grown in the region near Poas Volcano.
The Best Places to Take a Costa Rica Coffee Tour
The Central Valley of Costa Rica is our personal favorite area for taking a coffee tour, but we may be a bit partial because we live there. You can also find coffee plantation tours throughout the country.
Here are a few of our favorites…
Cafe Britt is probably the leader of the coffee industry in Costa Rica. Britt coffee is sold throughout the country at most grocery stores and gift shops. You will spot them by their artistic Costa Rica themed packaging.
It is possible to visit the Britt Coffee plantation located less than an hour away from the San Jose international airport.
We took this tour a few years ago and had a great time. You can not actually access their plantation but the tour guide will take you on a walk to show you some coffee plants and the process they go through. You will then learn more about the production process and drink several coffee samples. Your guide will teach you all about the different flavor profiles you can experience with coffee.
Overall, it’s a really fun and informative experience. Just be prepared to drink a lot of coffee (if you want to of course).
Doka is a local coffee located about 40 minutes away from the San Jose airport. This is a great place to do a coffee tour because guests actually get to visit the seedling station, coffee plantation, and roasting room.
Hacienda Alsacia is the world’s only Starbucks coffee plantation that you can actually tour. It’s not our top pick to visit, but that’s only because we like to support small businesses here rather than big companies like Starbucks. However, I will say that it is definitely worth stopping here after a visit to Poas Volcano or La Paz Waterfall garden just for a drink. It is definitely the most unique Starbucks experience you will likely ever have.
Finca Rosa Blanca, located in the Central Valley, is a great place to spend a few nights. They offer beautiful rooms in their cute hotel. However, it is also possible to visit just for a coffee tour as well. They produce organic coffee on their plantation.
Although these are our top four coffee tour choices for Costa Rica, there are several other tours available throughout the country. For example, La Fortuna is also an excellent place to take a coffee tour.
If you have the opportunity, definitely take a coffee tour while here.
Our Tips for Visiting a Coffee Plantation
-Spending a night or two at the beginning or end of your trip near the San Jose Airport is a great way to arrange a coffee tour. Britt, Doka, and Hacienda Alsakia are all located within one hour of the airport.
For more ideas of things to do in this area, check out our guide to the Central Valley.
-During the dry season (December through the beginning of May) it is always best to book your coffee tour ahead of time if possible. Things tend to fill up fast during that time of year.
During the rainy season, it won’t be as much of an issue to arrange a coffee tour at the last minute, but of course, if you know your travel plans ahead of time it never hurts to book things in advance.
-If you are visiting a coffee plantation on your own it is usually best to rent a car. Most coffee plantation companies here do not offer transportation to their site.
-Coffee is a great gift to bring back to your family and friends. You can buy some at almost all coffee plantation tours. Otherwise, just head to any bigger supermarket in the country.
We suggest buying Britt because all though it is the most commercial of the coffee brands, the packaging is beautiful and the coffee is delicious.
Let us know if you have any questions about setting up a coffee tour while you are in Costa Rica. We are always happy to help you out. Also, if you had a great coffee tour experience while in Costa Rica we would love to hear about it in the comment section below.
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