Costa Rica is situated in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the North, Panama to the South, the Caribbean Sea to the East and Pacific Ocean to the West. It has a long-standing reputation for its stable democracy, diverse economy and high education rates which, alongside an abundance of rich, fertile soils, diverse ecosystems and varied, volcanic typography, contribute to the country’s standing as a leader in quality coffee production.
Coffee arrived in Costa Rica in 1779 from Ethiopia, where it was first cultivated in the Central Valley. Following the nation’s independence from Spain in 1821, the Costa Rican coffee industry has developed into a progressive and market driven coffee producing nation with the ability to react quickly to changing cultures in the global market. The government has played an important role through promotion and incentives to assist in this development. In 1933 the Instituto del Café de Costa Rica, or Icafe, was established to provide agronomical support and marketing assistance in coffee production in the country.
|Annual production:||1.5 million bags|
|Altitude range:||600 – 1700 masl|
|No coffee farmers:||50,000|
|Harvest times:||December to April|
|Key growing regions:||Central Valley, West Valley, Tarrazu, Orosi, Brunca, Turrialba, Guanacaste|
|Typical varieties:||Bourbon, Castillio, Typica, Caturra, Villa Sarchi|
|Grading system:||Graded by Altitude. SHB (Strictly Hard Bean) 1200 masl and above; GHB (Good Hard Bean) 1000 to 1200 masl; HB (Hard Bean) 500 to 900 masl|
|Processing type:||Washed, Honey and Natural|
Coffee is grown predominantly throughout the central and southern areas of the country, most notably in the regions of Brunca in the south, the Central and West Valleys, Tarrazu, Orosi, Turrialba and Guanacaste in the middle parts of the country, which is known for its uniquely variable weather systems, microclimates and rich volcanic soils. Most of the coffee grown in Costa Rica is produced by smallholder producers, each with little more than 5 hectares of land. Most coffee is processed through cooperative or privately-owned micromills, which are dotted throughout the growing regions. These mills can accept coffee cherries and process coffee on behalf of the producer, usually employing lot separation, allowing for full traceability. Costa Rica is renowned for its experimental processing methods, spearheading the move towards Honey-processed coffee.
Although washed coffee has traditionally dominated, Natural and varied Honey-processing (such as White, Yellow, Red and Black Honey) have, over the past 15 years, come to define the country’s reputation in quality. The most prominent varieties in Costa Rica are those of Caturra, Typica, Bourbon and Catuai, however more unique varieties such as Geisha, SL28 and Villa Sarchi are becoming more common.