Costa Rica’s Longstanding Commitment to Excellence
Costa Rica (kow•stuh ree•kuh) has been known for its high-grade coffee for decades. Coffee fuels the economy in Costa Rica, with roughly 14 million bags of coffee leaving the country every year. Let's put that in perspective, Costa Rica is about 80% of the size of West Virginia. For its size, it produces an incredible amount of coffee. At the rate of 14 million bags of coffee being exported per year, each person in their entire population could produce approximately 450 pounds of coffee. And, not only are they producing coffee in mass quantities, but they also produce some of the most exceptional coffee in the world.
Costa Rica has a long history of being committed to the best coffee, so much so that they banned the production of Robusta and only grew Arabica coffee for thirty years. During this time, it was actually illegal to grow Robusta. In 2018, Costa Rica lifted the ban after experiencing significant crop losses due to disease. But, even with the government lifting the ban, Robusta production has been slow. It could be because, after so many years of not growing it, there's limited knowledge on cultivating it, and the government highly regulates farmers that produce it. Even with these challenges, Robusta production is happening again. It's an interesting development, not because we offer Robusta at Sagebrush, but because Robusta production affects the C-market price, which has a trickle-down effect on specialty coffee prices. Growing Robusta also opens up the opportunity to create hybrids which may help develop stronger, disease-resistant varieties.
Costa Rican Coffee History and Geography
Costa Rica is known to have some of the best coffee flavor profiles in South and Central America. The high-grown altitudes, pleasant acidity, and crisp taste contribute to their many positive coffee reviews. Costa Rica is blessed with volcanic soil and beautiful weather, consisting of sunshine in the morning and rain later in the afternoon. Costa Rica is currently the 14th largest coffee producer in the world, which is actually surprising to me as I would've guessed higher. However, even though they do not produce as much as Guatemala and Honduras, they tend to grow more high-quality coffee beans. I've experienced this in sampling coffees myself. It is much easier to find a standout Costa Rican coffee than in many other countries, and it is much harder to turn a good one away.
Since the early 19th century, coffee has been more than a crop. It is a way of life for the Costa Rican people. After the country declared independence from Spain in 1821, the government handed out coffee seeds to encourage production. As well as distributing beans, the Costa Rican government further promoted coffee by making it a tax-exempt crop which led to the mass exportation of coffee. Exportation began around 1832 and was primarily shipped to Panama and Chile but eventually was directly exported all the way to England. With a remarkable amount of positive feedback from English consumers, an Anglo-Costa Rican Bank was established to provide financial aid to help the coffee industry flourish.
For quite a while, coffee was the sole export product of Costa Rica. Because of this economic boom, the infrastructure of Costa Rica improved tremendously. Railroads were built, hospitals and post offices were fully funded, and the culture progressed by developing theaters, libraries, and universities. Today, 90% of the coffee plantations are owned by producers, keeping the money local and making the beans easily traceable to small-town farmers. Another simple way farmers make money is by offering tours to tourists. It is truly incredible to see how something as small as a coffee bean can completely change the economy and status of an entire country.
Costa Rican Coffee Flavor Profile
Because Costa Rica has a perfect tropical climate for the arabica plant, their beans display an extraordinarily rich, full-bodied, and clean taste. Another source of that rich flavor is the volcanic ash located in the soil, which is a unique characteristic of Costa Rica's land. This trait allows the coffee plant to oxygenate the beans, unlike other coffee-growing soils. As a result of Costa Rica's diverse terrain, many different regions offer far-ranging flavor profiles. The most common source of coffee is the region of Tarrazú. Hidden within the interior mountains of Costa Rica, this part of the valley is known for its acidic taste and thick aromas. Occidental is another common region that produces tasting notes of peaches, apricots, and tropical fruit. Costa Rica's extremely diverse range of flavors makes it a staple in any coffee lover's rotation.