Coffee farm, Costa Rica

Coffee Farm

Lucy crushing coffee beans

Lucy crushing coffee beans

Costa Rica coffee is world-famous, grown on terraced plantations on mountains facing the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.  The ideal temperature, moisture, and soil produced plump , red coffee beans that produce rich, flavorful coffee high in caffeine. Coffee is the third largest export in Costa Rica after being the number one export for several decades.  Coffee production began back in the late 18th century and by the 19th century, the government was encouraging coffee growing by giving farms land to plant coffee trees.

China has a free trade agreement with Costa Rica to import coffee which is becoming very popular in the traditional tea drinking nation.  China is the second largest trading partner with Costa Rica, the U.S. is the largest trade partner.

After our cloud forest trek, we boarded a shuttled bus for a coffee farm on a hillside below Monteverde.  On the drive down the mountain, we had a wonderful view of the Pacific coastline to the west and the Puntarenas peninsula.

Puntarenas peninsula from Monteverde

Puntarenas peninsula from Monteverde

Don Juan Laiten

Our host was Juan Laiten, who farms 8 hectares on a hillside of which only 3 hectares are planted in coffee trees.  Juan is part of a local cooperative of small organic coffee growers in the valley.

Juan Laiten, small coffee farmer

Juan Laiten, small coffee farmer

Touring Juan's coffee farm

Touring Juan’s coffee farm

Cherry coffee beans

Coffee beans grow on branches of shiny green plants that are cropped to about 4 feet high.  Farmers prune trees during the year to keep trees from growing too tall.  Pruning makes it easier to pick with beans growing about waist-high.

Immature 'green' coffee beans

Immature ‘green’ coffee beans

Cherry beans ready to pick

Cherry beans ready to pick

Cherry beans, ready for harvesting

Cherry beans, ready for harvesting

The harvest season extends several months with mature berries turning red when they are ready for picking.  Pickers walk down rows daily, lift branches, and pick only mature ‘cherry’ berries.  If a picker’s box contains too many green beans, he is penalized and his pay drops.

Cleaning and husking cherry beans

Mature coffee 'cherries'

Mature coffee ‘cherries’

Milling coffee beans

Cherry coffee beans are dumped into a mill where they are crushed, with the moist husk being separated from the bean.  The cherry husk drops into a bucket where it is taken out and used as compost around the farm.

Crushing cherry coffee beans to remove skins

Crushing cherry coffee beans to remove skins

The white ‘husks’ are washed in the milling process and spill into a bucket where they are examined for whole husks then poured onto wooden trays and laid out in the sun to dry.

Washed beans out of mill, ready for drying rack

Washed beans out of mill, ready for drying rack

Drying beans

Juan explaining drying process

Juan explaining drying process

Tan coffee beans are dried on flat trays exposed to the sun for six or seven days.  When they are dry and easy to crack open, they are put through a soft grinder which crushes the dry husk, exposing a small brown bean with the distinctive crease down the middle.  This is the true coffee bean ready for roasting. Dried beans are taken to the local cooperative where they are roasted and packaged for shipping around the world as ‘fair trade’ coffee.  Farmers who join cooperates agree to use environmentally sound methods and not use pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

Rack of drying beans

Rack of drying beans

Coffee, bananas, sugar, beans,

Juan is a small farmer who also grows sugar cane, bananas, and vegetables for his family.  Tall banana plants shade rows of coffee beans.

Banana tree on Juan's small farm

Banana tree on Juan’s small farm

Almost ready for picking

Almost ready for picking

Coffee tasting with Juan

After walking through Juan’s coffee farm, we went along a jungle trail where he explained that part of being in a cooperative is preserving the natural environment.  Indigenous animals, birds, butterflies, and insects are able to move through the valley and not be ‘boxed’ in by clear-cut, industrial farms.

Juan serving us fresh coffee at his 'hacienda'

Juan serving us fresh coffee and banana bread at his ‘hacienda’

Coming out of the jungle, we came to a small ‘hacienda’ that served as a tasting porch for guests.  Juan had prepared fresh coffee for us to taste as well as fresh banana bread.  He poured steaming cups for us and passed them around.  It was delicious and very fresh, even for me who likes a spot of milk and a little sugar in my morning ‘cuppa.’

Mmm . . . good coffee!

Mmm . . . good coffee!

Freshest coffee we'll ever enjoy

Freshest coffee we’ll ever enjoy

Our setting for the coffee tasting was surrounded by banana trees, and jungle flowers, ginger, hibiscus, wild orchids, and poinsettia.

Surrounded by flowering plants around Juan's 'hacienda'

Surrounded by flowering plants around Juan’s ‘hacienda’

Juan’s cottage

Juan’s family lives in a small wooden building surrounded by tall, native poinsettia plants.   When we walked down the dirt road to our van, I turned around and snapped a photo of the modest setting.  Juan is a true pioneer, eking out a living on a few acres of coffee plants and vegetables he grows for his family.

Poinsiettas plants outside Juan's cottage

Poinsettia plants outside Juan’s cottage

Road into Juan's coffee farm

Road into Juan’s coffee farm

* * * * *

Welcome to our Central American travel adventures.  Please share your comments with us, we’d love to hear from you.

Next:  On the beach at Manuel Antonio

In addition to writing this travel blog, I write fiction — thrillers, mysteries, and suspense novels. I’m currently writing a thriller series based in Milan featuring the anti-terrorism police, DIGOS, as they track down domestic and international terrorists.

My first thriller, Thirteen Days in Milan,  is an ebook at all digital publishing sites as well as a paperback at Amazon and at bookstores by ordering.

The sequel, No One Sleeps, was published as an ebook in December.  The paperback will be available in June at Amazon and at bookstores by ordering.

I’m writing Book 3 in the series, Cadorna Station, and will be researching this summer in Italy. If you’d like to follow my travels and research, sign up for my email newsletter at my web site.

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3 responses to “Coffee farm, Costa Rica

    • Thanks for the note. I’m in Italy now, traveling, researching, writing. I’ll be posting from Milan soon and then Stresa on Lago Maggiore, Switzerland & Germany. Stay tuned, lots of photos and anecdotes to share.


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