Coffee production has played a key role in Costa Rica’s history and continues to be important to the country’s economy. In 2006, coffee was Costa Rica’s number three export, after being the number one cash crop export for several decades. In 1997, the agriculture sector employed 28 percent of the labor force and comprised 20 percent of Costa Rica’s total GNP. Production increased from 158,000 tons in 1988 to 168,000 tons in 1992. The largest growing areas are in the provinces of San José, Alajuela, Heredia, Puntarenas, and Cartago. The coffee is exported to other countries in the world and is also exported to cities in Costa Rica.
- Size – 51,100 sq km
- Capital City – San José
- Port City – Puerto Limón
- Population – 4,875,00
- Language/s Spoken – Spanish (official), English
Coffee production in Costa Rica
- Population Involved in Coffee – 47,137 families (2017)
- Average Farm Yield – Nearly 70% of the coffee comes from producers with less than 200 exportable bags annual production
- Bags Exported Annually – 1.2–1.5 million bags
Costa Rica Coffee Profile
- Growing Regions – Central Valley, West Valley, Guanacaste, Tres Ríos, Turrialba, Orosi, Brunca, Tarrazú
- Common Varieties – Caturra, Catuai, Bourbon, Villa Sarchi, Villa Lobos, SL-28, Gesha
- Processing Method/s – Washed, Natural, Honey
- Country-Specific Grading – SHB (Strictly Hard Bean, grown above 1,350 meters), GHB (Good Hard Bean – grown from 1,000–1188 meters), HB (Hard Bean), MHB (Medium Hard Bean)
- Bag Size – 69 kg
- Harvest Period – December–April
- Typical Arrival – May–July
History Coffee Costarica
Coffee was planted in Costa Rica in the late 1700s, and it was the first Central American country to have a fully established coffee industry; by the 1820s, coffee was a major agricultural export with great economic significance to the population. National output was greatly increased by the completion of a main road to Puntarenas in 1846, allowing farmers to more readily bring their coffee from their farms to market in oxcarts—which remained the way most small farmers transported their coffee until the 1920s.
Instituto del Café de Costa Rica – Icafe
In 1933, the national coffee association, Icafe (Instituto del Café de Costa Rica), was established as an NGO designed to assist with the agricultural and commercial development of the Costa Rican coffee market. It is funded by a 1.5% export tax on all Costa Rican coffee, which contributes to the organization’s $7 million budget, used for scientific research into Arabica genetics and biology, plant pathology, soil and water analysis, and oversight of the national coffee industry. Among other things, Icafe exists to guarantee that contract terms for Costa Rican coffee ensure the farmer receives 80% of the FOB price (“free on board,” the point at which the ownership and price risks are transferred from the farmer/seller to the buyer).
Costa Rica Coffee Growing Regions
Costa Rica contributes less than 1% of the world’s coffee production, yet it has a strong reputation for producing relatively good, if often mild quality. One way that Costa Rica has hoped to differentiate itself among coffee-growing nations is through the diversity of profiles in its growing regions, despite the country’s relatively small geographical size.
Costa Rica “Tarrazu” Coffee
The Tarrazu region produces some of the best Costa Rican coffee around on a consistent basis. The capital of San Marcos is around 1,350 meters above sea level but the surrounding mountains go up to 1,700 meters, allowing for very high altitudes and the development of the very best coffees. The Tarrazu region is located in the country’s interior mountains, with a minimum altitude of 1,200 meters, and the best coffees from this area is known to be relatively heavy-bodied, exhibiting a complex aroma. Nearly all Tarrazu coffees are Strictly High Grown.
San Marcos de Tarrazu in particular is known to produce a distinguished coffee. La Minita Coffee Farm in Tarrazu is known for its highly rated arabica coffees.
Costa Rica “Monte Crisol” Coffee
One of Costa Rica’s best coffee’s is Costa Rica Monte Crisol, grown in the country’s West Central Valley. Monte Crisol coffee is known for its sweetness, silky body, and fruity brightness. The brewed coffee also exhibits topnotes of blueberry and has a buttery finish.
Costa Rica “Alajuela” Coffee
Alajuela is located towards the Northern-Central region of Costa Rica, and is known for its steep slopes with altitudes ranging from 100 to 2,600 meters. The majority of the coffee is grown and harvested from 1,200 to 1,600 meters and known for its apple and apricot flavor. Caturra and Catuai are the primary varietals.
Costa Rica “Cartago” Coffee
The Cartago region is nearly dead-center of Costa Rica in the valle Del Guarco. The Cartago region grows coffee primarily between 1,200 and 1,650 meters and tasting notes indicate it has great spice and nutty flavor. Caturra and Catuai are the primary varietals.
See more Costa Rica Coffee Growing Regions from Espresso and Coffeeguide
Micromills of Costa Rican
Another development that has helped Costa Rican coffee producers differentiate themselves is the proliferation of micromills, or private wet- and sometimes dry-milling facilities that individual producers or groups of smallholders will build in order to control the processing and lot separation of their coffees. By 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.
Processing and Prep
Micromills have also been at the forefront of the processing innovations that have put Costa Rican coffees in the spotlight over the past decade: Honey processing, a kind of hybrid of a washed and pulped-natural process that originated in Costa Rica, has been more and more popular and prevalent among fine, lot-separated specialty coffees, though the term “honey” and its variations will vary from mill to mill based on their techniques. At some mills, the type of honey process (typically yellow, red, or black) 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.
Natural processing is also rising in popularity, in part because the profile can command higher prices, and because water restrictions can make fully-washed coffees more expensive and difficult to produce.
Coffee Costa rica is measured by volume, rather than weight
One of the Costa Rica–specific production details is that coffee here is measured by volume, rather than weight. Each mill has a receiving area, where cherry is brought and deposited into metal boxes called cajuelas, or “trunks.” Twenty cajuelas equals roughly one fanega, which is the 100-pound unit of measure in which producer receipts are written.
When the cherry is picked ripe, the fruit is both bigger and heavier than if it is over- or underripe, which means it will take fewer cherry to fill a fanega, and will bring a higher overall price to the coffee farmer. The country produces an average of 1.8–2.2 million fanegas annually.