Costa Rican Coffee: Rich in History and Flavor

If you’ve ever been to Costa Rica, you know that Costa Rican coffee is delicious! For those who have yet to visit, get ready for some of the world’s best! Not only is it rich in flavor, but also rich in the country’s history.

Costa Rican Coffee

Coffee plantations in Costa Rica are beautiful and tours make for a good day’s excursion.

Coffee is not indigenous to Costa Rica, but was imported from Ethiopia in the late 18th century. Shortly thereafter, in the 1800s, the government vigorously pushed coffee production. By giving out land to farmers specifically to harvest coffee, plantations arose around the country. The economy of Costa Rica was quickly reshaped from its colonial, village based roots towards a mass export system. Initially, England was the primary purchaser of Costa Rican coffee. The trade route to London opened the door education abroad for Costa Ricans. Indirectly, coffee exports led to quality Costa Rican doctors and engineers.

Part of the reason coffee production exploded in Costa Rica is soil composition. The acidity in the soil, its natural organic matter, and a blend volcanic ashes creates a mixture highly conducive to the growth of coffee plants and produces the renowned taste of Costa Rican coffee. Costa Rica specializes in coffee arabica, which is the first species of coffee ever cultivated and is indigenous to Ethiopia. In fact, Costa Rica produces only high-grade coffee arabica, as dictated by Costa Rican law.  There are a variety of blends, some of which are extremely potent. The plant thrives at an elevation of 2500 to 4500 feet, which limits production of coffee to concentrated areas of relatively high altitude.

The bright red fruits of a ripe Coffee Arabica plant. The seeds are then taken out and roasted, producing coffee beans!

Coffee production in Costa Rica has decreased by over 1/3 since 2002, which has been linked to the age of plantations and the lack of renovations on them.  As such, exports decreased to 1.2 million bags in 2009-‘10, compared to 2.15 million in 1998-‘99.  Though the decrease in production has had a significant effect on the economy, there are some environmental benefits. The process of harvesting coffee creates waste that’s harmful to surrounding wildlife and to people, especially when it drains into nearby rivers. Additionally, Costa Rica has undergone serious deforestation in the past, so the newfound production rates of Costa Rican coffee has balanced the preservation efforts for the country’s lush wildlife.


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