Costa Rica has a long tradition of exporting fine green coffees which dates back to the mid-nineteenth century when coffees was first shipped to England. As recently as the 1880s, Specialty Coffee was barely understood and Costa Rica’s production was largely lumped together as undifferentiated SHB and HB.
Today, Costa Rica has responded to the desires of export buyers for greater traceability and is leading the boutique ‘micro mill’ movement which allows a lot to be raced back to a specific farm of plot. The many and varied micro climates found throughout the coffee-producing regions in this small nation located towards the southern extremity of the Central American isthmus provide a wealth of distinctive flavour characteristics. These are determined by bean varietals, latitude, altitude, soil type, rainfall and variation in temperature. Only Arabica is cultivated and the planting of Robusta is prohibited by law. The most widely cultivated varietals are Caturra, Catuai, Villa Sarchi, Geisha, Bourbon and Villalobos.
In common with its Central American neighbours, coffee is most commonly processed using the washed method although some is also prepared as naturals. More recently, the ‘honey process’ – a low water method similar to Brazil’s pulped natural process – is also becoming more widely used in response to demands from buyers, notable in Japan.
The 8 principal growing regions may be defined as:
Tarrazú (33% of production)
This most traditional and well-known region produces coffees with a refined and very high acidity, the result of favourable soil and altitude but also the fully washed process that removes much of the sugars and enhances acidity.
Western Valley (25% of production)
This area produces perhaps the very finest coffees in the country and is one of the newer coffee producing regions. Coffees from this area have featured highly amongst the winners in the Cup of Excellence auctions due to the excellent work of the many micro mills. This has enabled these prized cup profiles to be maintained and further enhanced. Must of the Villa Sarchi and Villalobos varietals are cultivated in this region.
Central Valley (15% of production)
The coffee plantations here are some of the oldest in Costa Rica but are also fast disappearing due to pressure of population and industrial development. Some Bourbon varietal is still cultivated in the Central Valley.
Tres Rios (2% of production and declining)
This region to the north of the capital, San Jose, is fast disappearing and many coffee farms are succumbing to economic pressure and selling up to property developers eager to build new homes.
Brunca (20% of production)
Some fine quality Specialty grade coffee is produced in the highest altitudes but much of the production is HB and grown on large Fairtrade cooperatives.
The remaining 5% of coffee cultivated in Costa Rica is found in Guanacaste, Orosi and Turrialba at lower altitudes of around 600-900m.
We ship our Central American coffees at the beginning of each new crop as soon as they are rested and ready for use. This is typically during the period April to July.