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Different coffee cultures and industries can be found around. the world, but few take as much pride in their product as Costa Rica. This small, Latin American region produces some seriously noteworthy coffee. So if you are looking to explore a vast variety of flavor profiles, this is the one for you!
We’re here to tell you all about what makes Costa Rica’s coffee so special and provide recommendations on both beans and brewing. With the variety that this nation has to offer, we won’t be surprised if this journey leads you to your new favorite brew. Read on to find out!
Costa Rican Coffee Culture
All Arabica, All the Time
You may have heard us go on about Arabica beans before. But for those of you who’ve miss out on the conversation, know that they are generally considered the superior type of coffee bean. This is because Arabica beans tend to produce a more complex, tasteful, and full-bodied flavor profile.
This is important to know because Costa Rica has actually made it illegal to produce any other type of coffee. Because of their commitment to producing and exporting only the highest quality coffee, the law was passed in 1989.
The goal was to push coffee farmers across the nation to commit to the same idea of excellence that had permeated the general consciousness. While Arabica beans are more difficult to grow, the results are truly worth it. Plus, Costa Rican farmers have gotten this specific production down to a delicious science.
The environment plays a HUGE role in both the growing process and eventual flavor of coffee beans. Thus, Costa Rica’s climate is almost as responsible for the great tasting coffee as their commitment to Arabica. Like we mentioned before, Arabica-producing plants can be a little finicky and delicate. So, it takes a very specific environment to make the move to exclusively produce the strain viable–and Costa Rica has it.
Costa Rican climate is well loved by tourists and Arabica alike. The mountainous regions and temperate weather has created an oasis for the production of premium coffee. Because the temperature remains largely the same (between 63 and 80 °F), the only seasonal distinctions are between the dry and wet seasons.
The vast majority of the coffee farmland is located in the mountainous region of the nation, and the altitude combined with the heavy rainfall ensures a bountiful coffee industry.
Soil, like the weather, intensely impacts the aroma, flavor, and overall body of coffee. So it’s unsurprising that Costa Rica’s soil is just as unique as their climate. Enriched by volcanic ash, the soil lends the beans a richer profile as the beans are more oxygenated than in other regions.
Believe it or not, Costa Rica has an astounding eight distinct coffee growing regions. While they all benefit from the generalities of soil and climate we discuss above, other factors present in these regions lend each one a unique quality. These microclimates are possible due to the variation in altitude, humidity, etc. across the nation.
The eight regions are Guanacaste, Valle Occidental, Valle Central, Tres Rios, Tarrazu, Orosi, Turrialba, and Brunca. The most well know of these is Tarrazu, which tends to produce blends with rich, deep aromas and a more acidic taste.
General Tasting Notes
As mentioned above, Tarrazu is known for heavy, acidic cups. Coffee grown in this region may also have notes of chocolate, orange, vanilla and dried fruit.
Additionally, Brunca’s coffee is known for having milder flavors. The area is rather humid and is most noted for its intricate balance of citrus flavors. On the other hand, blends from Valle Occidental (West Valley) tend towards peachy and apricot notes. Valle Central’s (Central Valley’s) microclimate is responsible for producing a flavor profile that includes chocolate and fruit within a balanced cup with a notable honey aroma.
Though coffee production has been somewhat disrupted by urban development, Tres Rios continues to produce coffee mostly intended for the gourmet market. The Irazu Volcano has enriched the soil of this region, allowing for the production of coffee with a balanced acidity with. tasting notes ranging from allspice and honey nut to orange citrus and plum. The nickname for this region is “the Bordeaux” due to its luxurious, high-quality, and elegant coffee production.
Named after the nearby active volcano, the Turrialba region is known to have a much softer profile, with mild acidity, light body, and a subtle aroma. Furthermore, one of the more mountainous regions, Guanacaste, also produces coffee with notably mild acidity. Beans here also tend to lean bitter with slight salty notes coming from smooth bodied brews.
Lastly, the Orosi region is most noted for its considerably humid climate with vibrant greenery. The. coffee produced here brews some of the smoothest, most balanced cups you’ll encounter.
Best Costa Rican Coffees
Coffee Beanery Costa Rican La Minita
This medium roast coffee by Coffee Beanery has an overall sweet flavor enhanced by notes of caramel, vibrant citrus, and chocolate. This blend of flavors creates a balanced brew with a nice. acidity.
It is a Tarrazu coffee, which we mentioned is one of the more popular varieties from Costa Rica. With the bright acidity, complemented by deeper flavor notes, this brew is a prime example of why products from the region are so well loved.
La Amistad Coffee by Little River Roasting Co.
La Amistad is another sweet medium roast. It is produced on a family run estate that has been in operation since 1938. The name is also the name of the sub-region where the coffee is grown. It has a natural sweetness with a distinctively thick, syrupy body. The milk chocolate and fruit notes bring with them a mild acidity that come together to create a delightfully intricate cup.
The estate is outside of the Tarrazu region near the Panama border and showcases the extent of both the variety and quality that Costa Rica has to offer. Plus, it has a carbon footprint of zero and the roasting company has environmentally friendly practices.
Café Britt’s Tres Rios
Cafe Britt is known for being one of the best brands for Costa Rican coffee. We could probably put their whole line of coffees on this list, but for now we’ll just talk about their Tres Rios blend.
This is a rich medium roast coffee with a beautifully pronounced plum flavor that is indicative of the region. Playing underneath that are more subtle notes of sweet honey, nuts, and citrus. The acidity is very mild, which makes this an absolute pleasure to drink.
The intricacy and depth of this coffee is truly something to delight in. So while the Tres Rios region is not the most well known, it’s not surprising to find out its specialty is luxury. However, if you’d prefer a dark roast, try the Tarrazu coffee by the same brand.
Dark Costa Rican Tarrazu by Coffee Bean Direct
Speaking of dark roasts, this one by Coffee Bean Direct is also an excellent choice. Coffee Bean Direct is one our frequently mentioned brands here at Roasty, and it’s because they are really up to snuff on their beans.
This Tarrazu coffee has a more pronounced acidity and fuller body than the others we’ve listed. The most prominent flavor is the gentle, lingering smokiness. That is complemented by notes of citrus, dark chocolate and honey. If you are looking for something heavier yet still complex, this one is a must try.
Plus, the coffee beans are slow-roasted immediately before packaging, so you know you’re getting the freshest beans you could want.
Volcanica Costa Rica Peaberry
Another premium option from the Tres Rios region. This medium roast is sourced from the La Isabela Estate and is both Shade Tree Grown and Rainforest Alliance Certified. Plus, Volcanica is known for selling fresh, high-quality beans.
This Tres Rios peaberry coffee has a much brighter flavor profile than the other we have on this list. It is well loved for its intense fruit flavor that is complemented by subtle, sweet notes of citrus.
Starbucks Reserve Costa Rican Coffee
So, while we don’t normally recommend a lot of in-store big brands, this one was actually worth the mention. Starbucks Reserve has released several high quality Costa Rican coffees over the years that are single origin and honestly great,
Due to the efficient supply, they are also (thankfully) quite fresh. The one most recently introduced into circulation was their Costa Rica Naranjo. It has bright citrus notes of pomelo and lemon with a creamy milk chocolate sweetness. The website, linked above, also has helpful information regarding the co-op that developed the coffee industry in Naranjo within West Valley region of Costa Rica.
Thus, you should definitely keep an eye out for Costa Rican reserve coffee next time you find yourself caught inside a Starbucks. It might just surprise you.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is Costa Rican coffee processed?
Costa Rican coffee is processed in one of three ways: washed, naturally-processed, and honey-processed. Each of these methods lends the beans different qualities.
This is the most common processing method across the board. After entering a wet mill, the fruit around the coffee beans is removed. These coffees tend to be cleaner and milder, with notes such as honey, chocolate, and bright fruity flavors.
This method is growing in popularity due to both the resulting flavor profile and the cost inefficient of the washed method in some regions. These coffees will have more pronounced fruity flavors such as berry, citrus, and grape. The body of the resulting brews also tend to be more syrupy.
For this method, the fruit around the bean is only partially removed. This leaves part of the innermost layer (called mucilage or honey) intact. This layer dries on the bean and ultimately lends the beans a sweeter flavor with less acidity. You may notice honey and molasses notes.
How should you brew it?
Because most Costa Rican beans are washed, they brew well in a variety of method. So, feel free to use whatever equipment you happen to have on hand. However, if you happen to be deciding between a couple. different methods, here are our recommendations.
The most commonly suggested brew method for any specialty coffee, using a French press will help bring out the flavors of a medium. to dark roast Costa Rican coffee.
On the other hand, if you come across a lighter roast that you’re into, the pour over method is a better choice. It will help emphasize the clean sweetness of the brew without losing the more delicate flavors.
If you are wanting to go for a more authentic brew process, try the “coffee in a sock” method. If you have been researching Costa Rican Coffee, chances are you’ve come across a couple mentions of the Chorreador Style. It is essentially a traditional Costa Rican drip coffee maker.
The Chorreador is a pretty simple mechanism similar to a pour over tool. You fill a bag (bolsita) with your grounds, put it in the wooden stand, and pour hot water over it. Once the water drips through the grounds and into the cup below, you’ll have an excellent, authentic brew.
If this sounds like something you’d like to invest in trying, we recommend CRWOODCRAFT’s Chorreador. It is sleek and handmade. Plus, it’s durable and the method itself low to zero waste. You can get it here:
How much coffee does Costa Rica export?
As of 2015, Costa Roca was the 14th largest coffee growing country. Considering their size, that’s pretty impressive. That year, the produced 215.6 million lbs of coffee and exported 61% of it. However, that’s still only about 1.1% of the coffee grown worldwide.
Since then, Costa Rica’s coffee industry has fluctuated. Still, it remains one of the biggest parts of the country’s economy.
So there you have it! Everything you need to know about Costa Rica coffee plus some stellar coffee recommendations. Whether you’re looking for mild acidity and bright flavors or a rich, lux mix of dark heady notes, Costa Rica has you covered.
We hope you enjoyed exploring the rich coffee culture of Costa Rica as much as we did!
¡Pura Vida! & Happy Caffeinating!
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