Costa Rica was the first Central American country to establish a coffee industry after its introduction in the late 1700s. By 1820 coffee had evolved to be a major agricultural export and was further enhanced by the completion of a main road link to Puntaenas in 1846 which allowed local farmers to easily transport their coffee from farms to market.
Icafe (Instituto del Café de Costa Rica), a national coffee association, was established in 1933 as a NGO to further the agricultural and commercial development of Costa Rican coffee. Icafe is funded by a 1.5% export tax on all Costa Rican coffee, contributing approximately $7 million, and furthers research into Arabica genetics and biology, plant pathology, soil and water analysis, and general oversight of the national coffee industry. Icafe serves to guarantee that Costa Rican coffee farmers receive 80% of the FOB price paid for their coffee.
While production levels remain at less than 1% of the world’s total coffee production, Costa Rica is well recognized for its production of relatively good coffee. Despite the country’s small geographic size, Costa Rica has sought to differentiate itself through the diversity of profiles in its coffee growing regions. The high altitudes of Tarrazú contribute to the crisp acidity for which the area is known. A number of Cup of Excellence winners have originated from the Costa Rican varieties Villa Sarchi and Villa Lobos, among others, grown in West Valley. Similarly, the toffee sweetness and soft citrus notes of Tres Ríos coffee create a smoother, milder profile than the more complex Costas. The well-defined wet and dry seasons associated with the distinct weather patterns of Central Valley make for some of the best natural processed coffees from Cost Rica.
More recently, Costa Rican coffee producers have formed groups of small holders to establish micromills in order to better control the processing and lot separation of their coffees. Investing in equipment such as depulpers or demucilaging machines, producers can harvest, depulp, and process their coffees in a variety of ways without relying on third-party mills, which can cut down on operating costs as well as increase the asking price for coffees.
Micromills have been at the forefront of processing innovations that have put Costa Rican coffees in the spotlight over the past decade. Honey processing, a hybrid of a washed and pulped-natural process that originated in Costa Rica, has increased in popularity among fine, lot-separated specialty coffees. Honey processes and the resulting coffee varies from mill to mill based on techniques employed. At some mills, the honey process is achieved by removing a certain percentage of the mucilage before the coffee is dried; other mills leave 100% of the mucilage on all their honey coffees, and instead modify the drying technique to create the various honey style.
Water restrictions within Costa Rica can result in fully-washed coffees being more expensive to produce, leading to an increase in popularity of naturally processed coffee which can also command higher prices and be less complex to produce.
Central Valley, West Valley, Guanacaste, Tres Ríos, Turrialba, Orosi, Brunca, Tarrazú
Caturra, Catuai, Bourbon, Villa Sarchi, Villa Lobos, SL-28, Gesha
Washed, Natural, Honey
December - April