Costa Rican Coffee: Taste, Plantation, Best Products
There is no doubt that Costa Rica produces some of the best coffee in the world. Its temperate inland climate coupled with consistent and good rains and high altitudes provide the perfect environments for coffee plants to thrive.
The complex flavors accompanied by rich aromas and a superb taste give Costa Rican coffee an edge over many other coffee producing countries.
As a coffee lover, barista or connoisseur, it is always great to know where your coffee comes from and what makes it special. Here we discuss the different elements that make Costa Rican coffee beans the best, the most ideal ways to roast them, the best ways to brew them and also highlight 10 best products to give you recommendations.
Flavor Profile – There is a huge variety of flavors to choose from when it comes to Costa Rican coffee as it mostly depends on the particular region of the country the coffee comes from. But with the Costa Rican coffee flavor profile you will mostly get fruit, citrus, chocolate, peach, vanilla or honey flavor notes.
Also, the processing method determines the flavor profile. For example, washed coffee has a clean and mild taste with honey/milk chocolate notes while honey processed Costa Rican coffee has less acidity and a sweeter taste with molasses and honey tones.
Varietals – Costa Rican coffee is 100% Arabica but there are different varietals of the coffee grown across the country. The most common of these varietals are Typica, Caturra, Bourbon, Gesha, and Villalobos.
Processing – You can get both dry and wet processed Costa Rican coffee depending on the region and estate you get it from. Most of this coffee is washed and drum dried, but there is also a lot of honey processed coffee from Costa Rica.
History of Planting Costa Rican Coffee
Costa Ricans have been growing coffee for many centuries now, and the first Arabica beans to be grown in the country we brought over through Ethiopia in 1779. But there are some conflicting accounts as to actually when coffee was first brought to Costa Rica with some historians claiming that it can from Cuba in 1808.
However, it is evident from different historical accounts that in the late 1700s and early 1800s the authorities in Costa Rica put a lot of effort in encouraging more people to venture into coffee production. This efforts even included giving out free land to anyone that intended to start farming coffee.
And by the 1820s the country had already begun exporting coffee beans with Panama being their main market at the time. In 1932, they expanded their market to Chile which would then repackage the coffee before selling it to the Britons.
1933 saw another important milestone for the Costa Rican coffee industry which was the formation of the Institute of the Costa Rican Coffee that was tasked with protecting farmers. And by the 1970s, the coffee produced in the country had increased tremendously.
How It Is Produced
Costa Rica produces around 1.5 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee every year, but like with many other coffee producing areas, the volumes will differ from one year to the other.
In recent years, 2012 was the most productive year for the coffee sector in Costa Rica as it produced more than 1.6 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee.
Unlike other countries like Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia where you can get both Robusta and Arabica coffee, in Costa Rica, it is illegal to grow any coffee that is not 100% Arabica. However, this Arabica coffee is available in several varietals that include Typica, Caturra, Bourbon, Gesha, and Villalobos.
Also, like many other coffee growing areas, most of the coffee in Costa Rica is produced by small scale farmers with farms that are less than 12 acres. There are more than 80,000 of these small scale farmers, but there are also some large coffee estates with hundreds if not more acres of coffee.
Costa Rica's climate and soil are perfectly suited for the growth of coffee, and the country also gets more than enough rain every year.
The rich, volcanic soils are fertile enough to provide a highly conducive environment for coffee growth while the cold mountains and availability of just the right amount of shade make the environment even more conducive for coffee growth.
The high altitudes that are often between 3,900 and 5,600 feet are also ideal for coffee growth and the temperatures in most coffee growing regions in the country range between 63 and 73 degrees.
Major Coffee Growing Regions
But, not every part of Costa Rica has the ideal coffee growing conditions mentioned above. There are 8 main coffee producing regions in the country and each produces beans with their own distinct flavor.
1. Orosi – Orosi coffee is famous for its more balanced flavor profile, but it is also one of the reasons some coffee lovers will criticize coffee from Costa Rica with being too plain. However, if you do not like strong coffee, you will love it.
2. West Valley – With coffee from the West Valley, you can expect to get flavors that can be described as peachy and honey with some vanilla hints. The climate here is never extreme regardless of the season or time of year.
3. Central Valley – The Central Valley region in Costa Rica is characterized by distinct rainy and dry seasons in different times of the year. And the beans produced here are more balanced and with a flavor profile that is more on a chocolaty side and with hints of fruit flavors.
4. Tarrazu – Tarrazu region produces some of the best quality coffee in the whole of Costa Rica. What makes the coffee great is the fact that the beans have some of the most desired flavor tones which include chocolate, orange, and vanilla. Coffee from Terrazu is quite expensive.
5. Brunca – With the high humidity and tropical climate in Brunca, you get coffee with flavor profiles that are characterized by notes of citrus.
6. Guanacaste – The Guanacaste region is characterized by a mountainous terrain with high altitudes which means you get stronger coffee than most other parts of the country. Coffee drinkers often describe the smooth coffee beans produced here as having a light acidity, slight bitterness, and some salty notes.
7. Turrialba – Because of the active volcano in Turrialba, this region has some of the most fertile soils in Costa Rica and they grow some mild tasting and great smelling coffee beans. These beans also have very minor acidity and you can rightfully describe them as delicate.
8. Tres Rio – Like Turriabla, the soil in Tres Rio is also very fertile also due to the active volcano in the area. With these fertile soils, you always end up with milder coffee beans with a lighter and more balanced flavor.
How It Is Roasted
Well, like with any other coffee beans, you can roast your Costa Rican coffee beans how you like if you prefer to buy them as green beans. However, there are certain roasts that always go well with beans from certain regions.
With Costa Rican Coffee you cannot go wrong whether you go for a dark, medium or light roast as the beans seem to take either of these roasts well.
If you prefer a dark roast, these coffee beans will give you a nice and smooth dark roast with some amazing flavors while a medium roast helps to provide a pleasant sweetness and emphasize a full body and the light roast provides a clean taste with sweet and mild acidity.
Best Brewing Methods
Given that the majority of Costa Rican coffee beans are washed, you can brew them in a variety of ways. But the traditional way of making coffee in Costa Rica will entail using a coffee sock which is a cloth filter that looks like a sock and is suspended on a wire frame to drip coffee into a mug.
Other great methods of brewing this amazing coffee are espresso, pour over and the French press. With pour over, you can highlight the mild acidity in the coffee while with espresso and French press you can highlight the balance of flavor and body when using medium and dark roast coffee beans.
Summary of Facts about Costa Rican Coffee
1. Costa Rica is the 13th largest coffee producer in the world
2. The country produces more than 1.5 million 60kg bags of coffee and exports most of it
3. 90% of all coffee farmers in Costa Rica are small scale with farms less than 12 acres large
4. Most coffee berries are hand-picked
5. It is illegal in Costa Rica to produce any other coffee besides 100% Arabica
6. Costa Rica produces about 56.438 ounces of coffee per hectare which is the highest in the world
7. There are over 93,000 hectares of land planted in coffee
10 Best Costa Rican Coffees
Peaberry is always one of the most sought after coffee types, and if you are looking for one from the fertile soils of Costa Rica, this one by Volcanica Coffee is a perfect choice.
Volcanica Coffee is one of the best Costa Rican coffee brands, and this reputation stems from the fact that they never compromise on anything from the bean selection to the roasting and packaging. Hence, you can be confident that with this particular coffee, you will get nothing but the best quality.
The Peaberry coffee beans are from Tres Rios, a region with some of the most fertile soils in Costa Rica, and they are single sourced from one estate for consistent quality. Coffee from this area is famed for being milder and sweeter.
Also, the coffee grows in more conducive environments under nice tree shade, and the beans are medium roasted to give you the perfect balance of flavors, acidity, and aroma.
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If you are looking for some of the finest Costa Rican coffee, you cannot go wrong with the rare beans from Terrazu region like these ones. The high altitudes and volcanic soils in Terrazu ensure that the beans have some of the best flavors and aromas.
These whole beans are also single sourced from one estate to ensure maximum consistency and uniformity. And because they are masterfully roasted to a medium roast, they also preserve the full natural taste and flavor.
For the cup notes, these coffee beans will offer a more balanced flavor, medium body and acidity and also have crisp, apple and the distinctive toasty Terrazu flavor notes.
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If by any chance Volcanica Coffee does not work for you, Café Britt has you covered with this equally high-quality Terrazu Costa Rican coffee.
The whole beans coffee come in a 12-ounce pack and at a more affordable price tag given the top-notch quality, and the beans are 100% single sourced Costa Rican beans with no blends.
These coffee beans come in a dark roast that makes them perfect for making espressos and for coffee lovers that want to get maximum flavor from their coffee beans.
Also, these are hand-picked to ensure only the ripest beans end up in your cup. And the three-layer packaging further helps to preserve coffee freshness for the longest possible.
Café Brit is not one of the most reputable coffee bean brands by chance as they always seem to know what every coffee drinker wants. These particular beans from the Tres Rios region will be perfect for those that prefer a lighter and less acidic medium roast.
These are traditionally grown coffee beans that are sun-dried and will offer a complex balance of flavors to allow you to enjoy rich and flavorful coffee whether it is cold or hot.
And besides the amazing flavor, taste, and aroma, these Café Britt coffee beans are also shade grown for a more delicious taste and also for more sustainable farming.
By roasting these coffee beans carefully to a medium roast, Coffee Beanery aims to ensure that you always get a perfect balance between the coffee’s body and acidity.
This coffee has for a long time been considered one of the most exquisite in the globe and the specialty coffee is also 100% Arabic like most other high-quality Costa Rican coffee.
And despite this being a full-bodied coffee, it does not have any annoying bitterness, and the sweet aromas will ensure you enjoy every part of the process from brewing to drinking your coffee. This coffee is also generally smoother and milder which means almost anyone can enjoy it.
For a well-balanced, clean and bright cup of coffee, these Costa Rican coffee beans by the Little River Roasting Company will be perfect.
These fantastic coffee beans come in a medium roast which helps to ensure you get a perfect balance of flavors and acidity. And the medium roast will cater to different tastes and brewing methods.
As for the flavor and aromas, you get a chocolaty and syrupy flavor with a pleasant fruity finish, and this is also a full body coffee that will appeal to any taste buds.
And coffee lovers will also be happy to know that the whole beans are roasted in small batches for consistency and packaged in 100% compostable bags.
Here is another great Terrazu coffee that will be perfect for those that prefer pre-ground and ready to use coffee. And the Costa Rican coffee has been designed to cater for different coffee lovers and brewing styles by blending medium and dark roasts.
Like with most Terrazu coffee, the beans are hand-picked to ensure only the ripest get selected, and they are expertly sun-dried to ensure they preserve maximum flavor.
And with the dark roast blend, you always get full-bodied coffee and a pleasant chocolate flavor and aroma that will leave your scents yearning for more. Also, it is worth noting that the coffee beans are sustainably sourced.
For those that love the high-quality coffee by Little River Roasting Company but prefer to go for pre-ground coffee instead of whole beans, here is an ideal option for you.
The coffee grounds are medium roasted to ensure they preserve all the good aromas and flavors, and you also get a full-body cup of coffee.
The flavors are chocolaty with hints of syrup and medium acidity which means the coffee can appeal to almost any coffee lover. Also, there is a fruity hint on the flavors as the coffee is shade grown under fruit trees.
To help ensure consistency in the roast, the Costa Rican beans are also roasted in small batches and the grounds packaged in a multilayer and 100% compostable pack.
Cafe Britt also has good options when it comes to pre-ground Costa Rican coffee, and this particular coffee is from the fertile soils of Tres Rios.
The company only uses 100% Arabica beans which are single-sourced from one estate to ensure you get the finest quality coffee and consistency in every cup.
This coffee comes in a medium roast which is always perfect for many coffee lovers as it strikes the perfect balance between flavor and acidity. And to make things even better, this ground coffee is also well-packaged to preserve the flavors and aromas.
For the environment-friendly coffee lovers, this coffee is also perfect as it is shade grown to preserve the habitat and is generally farmed more sustainably.
Heavy coffee drinkers or those that prefer to buy coffee in larger batches will love this naturally shade grown coffee by Javataza Coffee as it comes in a more budget-friendly 5-pound pack.
Being shade grown, you can be sure that the coffee is more flavorful and will be easier on the environment as it cuts down the need for more fertilizers and pesticides.
The coffee is also 100% Costa Rican Arabica coffee, and it comes in a medium roast that helps to preserve most of the flavors and aromas.
Generally, this is also a silky and sweet flavor coffee with a complex fragrance and will leave a smooth aftertaste that will make you want to take another cup.
Costa Rica might be a small country but it is still one of the top 20 coffee producers in the world. Better yet, the country produces high-quality Arabica variation, and so you can never go wrong with this coffee.
But knowing what makes this coffee stand out is just the first step because you also need to know how to choose the best Costa Rican coffee beans from the many options out there. However, with the products we highlight above for recommendations, this should be easy.
Also, remember to choose the perfect roast for your Costa Rican beans and make sure that you brew them well whether it is with the traditional coffee sock, French press or with an automatic espresso machine.