December 30, 2022 4 min read
Costa Rica is one of the world’s top fifteen coffee producers. The country’s rich history is closely tied to the expansion of its coffee market.
It was the first country in Central America to produce coffee for commercial purposes. However, despite what many people might think, the coffee plant is not actually native to Costa Rica.
It all began when coffee beans were imported from Cuba in the late 18th century. Coffee production emerged in soon after, in the early 19th century, and Costa Rica started exporting coffee just a few years later.
The government saw this as a massive economic opportunity and decided to put concerted effort into growing the coffee industry in order to aide with the development of the country. This went as far as offering free land to anyone willing to start a coffee plantation, and predictably, it took off as an industry.
Today, you can’t talk about the development and modernization of Costa Rica without mentioning coffee.
Throughout the history of Costa Rica, a number of events have brought coffee production to a grinding halt.
During World War I, Great Britain, which was Costa Rica’s largest importer of coffee at the time, suddenly stopped importing the product.
In the 1980s, plantations across the country were ravaged by coffee-leaf rust, and for several years it became very difficult for farmers to grow coffee.
Today, Costa Rica accounts for about 1% of global coffee production, making it the 15th largest producer in the world.
Most of this coffee is produced by the country’s many small farmers. In fact, 90% of Costa Rican producers grow on less than 12 acres, or 0.05 square kilometres, of land.
Costa Rica has everything it takes to be a top coffee producer, as the geography is very diverse despite its relatively small size of 51,100 square kilometres (by comparison, the island of Cuba is 111,000 square kilometres). Although it is limited by its size it has very varied terrain, which allows Cuban coffee growers to produce beans that are very diverse, while also allowing them to experiment with growing various varieties of coffee plants.
Some of the best Costa Rican coffee is produced on the country’s rich volcanic soil at high altitudes; an ideal environment for growing.
What sets Costa Rican coffee apart? What are its particular tasting notes?
While the country offers a range of different coffee, its beans are generally acidic, with floral and sweet notes, and a medium body.
Keep in mind that coffee notes will vary depending on the region where the plant is grown, so it can be hard to generalize about Costa Rican coffee.
When it comes to Costa Rican coffee, any aficionado will first mention the region of Tarrazú, the country’s largest coffee producing region, known around the world for its rich volcanic soils and high altitudes.
In the heart of the mountainous province of San José, near Los Quetzales National Park, the canton of Tarranzú produces coffee with high acidity, a full body, and complex aromas; all with a distinct touch of brightness.
Tres Ríos is a town located near the capital city of San José, in the La Unión canton of the Cartago province. This region is perfect for growing coffee also, thanks to its volcanic soil, high altitude, and suitable climate.
The result: coffees with pronounced acidity and high bean density.
This region is subject to the vagaries of changing weather, from heavy rainfall to droughts, which forces growers to get creative and makes for an interesting cup of coffee.
The area produces coffee with moderate acidity, a good body, and a touch of sweetness.
The West Valley may be one of Costa Rica’s lesser-known regions, but it produces almost a quarter of the country’s coffee.
The region’s farmers produce world-renowned beans that have won awards such as the Cup of Excellence, a highly coveted distinction within the coffee industry.
Coffee from this region is known for its sweetness and pleasant floral aromas.
For more information about coffees from different regions around the world, check out our coffee blog!
Sources used for this article:
Espresso & Coffee Guide. Costa Rican Coffee Bean: https://espressocoffeeguide.com/gourmet-coffee/coffees-of-the-americas/costa-rica-coffee/
Espresso & Coffee Guide. Costa Rica Tarrazu Coffee Beans: https://espressocoffeeguide.com/gourmet-coffee/coffees-of-the-americas/costa-rica-coffee/costa-rica-tarrazu-coffee/
Lee Eckel. Costa Rican Coffee: https://www.specialty-coffee-advisor.com/costa-rican-coffee.html
Matt Vassau. Costa Rican Coffee: Get To Know Your Coffee Origins: https://www.drivencoffee.com/blog/costa-rican-coffee-origins/
Embassy of the Republic of Costa Rica in Singapore. History of Coffee in Costa Rica: https://www.embassycrsg.com/history-of-coffee-in-costa-rica.html