Costa Rican coffee is one of the best roasts you can try out.
Not only is the flavor great, but the history is rich as well. Costa Rica was the first country in Central America to grow and produce coffee for commercial purposes. Eventually, Costa Rica became witness to economic success within its growing coffee industry.
However, unlike other Central or South American countries that produce coffee, Costa Rica’s coffee industry would soon decline as economic demands shifted to other industries. Still to this day, Costa Rica produces some of the best coffee we brew today, even if they don’t produce as much as they once did.
To understand how Costa Rica rose from such success only to a decline in production in the recent decade, it is important we understand the history of Costa Rica’s coffee industry. Rise of competitors, growth in other Central and South American countries, world wars, and economic situations would all have an impact on Costa Rica’s coffee production.
But first, let us have a look at what to expect from Costa Rican coffees. We’ll discuss how it grows, the qualities it embodies, and other interesting facts about this coffee too!
Qualities of Costa Rican Coffee
Coffee produced in Costa Rica is quite diverse. Unlike other countries that keep a wide variety of qualities, like Colombia, Costa Rican coffee has consistent qualities. Costa Rican coffees tend to have a lighter body, dynamic acidity, and sweet, smooth, floral flavor profiles.
Tarrazú is the most well-known growing region in Costa Rica. Coffee beans grown in this area often tend to have a particularly dynamic acidity that can catch even the most veteran coffee lovers by surprise.
Another popular region in Costa Rica is West Valley. While not as popular when compared to other regions like Tarrazú, this region consistently produces high-quality coffee beans. So high quality, in fact, that the region has won the “Cup of Excellence” award year-after-year. Coffee beans that grow in West Valley tend to have a smooth flavor, floral aromatics, and toffee sweetness.
Central Valley is Costa Rica’s growing region that has the most distinct rainy and dry seasons. This allows growers and coffee farmers to explore other processing methods. Due to the dry and rainy seasons, there is great diversity in the processing methods used.
While the flavors can be diverse, the processing method plays a large role. Natural processed or dry-processed coffee beans grown from Central Valley tend to have a heavier body, mild acidity, and bold aromatic flavor profiles and sweetness.
If you want to try out a Costa Rican roast, make sure to check out our list of the most popular coffee shop methods to making the perfect cup HERE.
Growing Facts of Costa Rican Coffee
As mentioned above, Costa Rica’s coffee industry declined over the years after its rise and success. But while its coffee industry declined, it is far from being dead.
Currently, Costa Rica produces less than 1% of the global coffee supply. Still, despite the very low numbers, it is still the world’s 15th largest producer of coffee – and yes, their coffee industry is still producing some of the best coffees in the world!
Costa Rica’s Geographic Diversity
Unlike other coffee-producing countries in South and Central America, such as Brazil and Colombia, Costa Rica only has a small landmass. Yet, interestingly, it still has a high degree of climatic and geographic diversity. For example, coffee that grows in the rainforest regions tends to have significantly different flavors from coffees that grow in the highland regions.
Perhaps, to deal with the rough competition that came along the way and in an attempt to boost their coffee industry, Costa Rican coffee growers distinguished themselves from other growers in the market by growing more experimental with rare coffee plant varieties. Examples of these experimental coffees include Geisha, SL-28, and even local genetic mutations like Venesia and Villa Sarchi.
Because of Costa Rica’s two main climates, rainy and dry season, Costa Rican coffee growers would naturally go for dry-processing and wet-processing methods for processing their coffees. However, they had invented another processing type, the “honey” processing method, which tries to meet the worlds of both dry-processing and wet-processing methods.
When it comes to the “honey” processing method, the grower leaves some mucilage (but not the whole cherry) on the coffee beans while they dry on large patios. This gives their coffee beans a sweetness boost, all among other flavor and quality boosts. Costa Rica’s “honey” processing method quickly spread through the Americas and is currently one of the most popular processing methods.
A Short History of Costa Rican Coffee
The first coffee plants in Costa Rica originated from Cuba, the first plants arriving in 1779. Although plants arrived in the late 1770s, commercial production did not begin until 1808.
After 12 years, in 1820, Costa Rica began its first-ever coffee exports. This came one year before the entire Central American countries declared a joint independence from Spain.
The coffee industry of Costa Rica was not a slow growth, though. It was during the 1800s that marked the rapid growth of the Costa Rican coffee industry, mainly due to the Costa Rican government’s incentives and their hope to be more independent from the Eurocentric economy.
This strategy and approach did work! Eventually, coffee exports were sent all over the American countries, and in 1843 and 1860, Costa Rican coffees arrived in Britain and the United States.
The income coming from the coffee industry brought modernization to the country, which was at the time, part of the Federal Republic of Central America. Through modernization, improvements were made such as road improvement in rural areas, construction of railroads, and establishment of cultural centers in their capital city, San Jose, including the National Theater. This was all made possible, thanks to their booming coffee industry.
But, this didn’t last forever, as Costa Rica’s coffee industry will eventually face their own struggles.
While Costa Rica’s coffee industry was enjoying its rapid success, the global coffee industry was soon changing. Eventually, new coffee producers from across the world, not just in the Americas, would enter the coffee market.
Various diseases would soon find its way to Central American regions, and the eventual World Wars would change the economics of coffee, such as how people purchase their coffee.
Costa Rican Coffee and The Modern World
As the 1900s entered, some Central and South American countries entered the coffee production market, taking some of Costa Rica’s share of the pie. In 1900, Brazil was moving the coffee market as well; this causing frequent price fluctuations for Costa Rican coffee farmers. Costa Rica’s neighbors such as Honduras and Guatemala would eventually join the market as well. This further added pressure to the Costa Rican coffee industry.
Then, the World Wars took place, having a detrimental impact on the industry in Costa Rica. Specifically, World War II had a significant impact on Costa Rica’s coffee industry. Prior to the war, Costa Rica was England’s #1 supplier of coffee. But during the war, because of shifted economic priorities by England, the country stopped buying coffee from Costa Rica. This seemed to mark the end of Costa Rican coffee’s golden age.
Disease plaguing the coffee industry
After added pressure in the coffee market and World War II, another challenge hit Costa Rica’s coffee industry – disease. In the 1980s, Central America’s coffee farms awoke to the spreading disease that killed millions of its plants and stunned the industry for years to come.
Thankfully, the region was able to recover by the mid-1990s. Coffee production was able to return to its lively state, but unfortunately, the price did not. At this point, it is already clear that the coffee industry in Costa Rica was not as profitable as it was before.
Despite the drop in Costa Rica’s coffee industry, it still continued to produce some of the best coffees we can have today.
But, as for the losses from its former cash cow, Costa Rica shifted from coffee to tourism and the real estate industry to boost its economy again. In fact, some of their coffee farms sold to real estate investors in hopes of gaining profit again.
Try it out — Honey Cinnamon Iced Latte
If you are looking to try out some Costa Rican coffee, try out this honey cinnamon iced latte as well. It’s refreshing, tasty, and bold in flavor. If you enjoy this cup of coffee, make sure to check out our recent post on 10 other easy and delicious homemade coffee recipes HERE.
- 1 cup of chilled coffee
- 1/2 cup creamer or milk
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 tsp cinnamon
How to make it →
- Brew a cup of your favorite coffee and refrigerate it until it is chilled.
- Grab your favorite glass and add the ice.
- Gradually add the chilled coffee and milk/creamer, stirring, until it is smooth and combined.
- Add in the honey and cinnamon.
- To finish, sprinkle some more cinnamon powder on top and enjoy!
After learning about Costa Rican coffee, do you think its time to give the roast a try? Shop our Costa Rican coffee HERE.