Coffee production in Costa Rica is a great example of a countries reaction to evolving global specialty coffee trends; introduced in the mid 19th century, coffee was labeled under the archaic grading system of SHD and HB, until a recent regeneration of attitude was established with the government banning Robusta production and initiating environmental protocols that protect ecosystems and the coffee future. This has impacted on the attitude of farmers and mills, sparking the ‘micro mill’ movem
ent, in which coffees are becoming increasingly more traceable and transparent, as small farmers are able to trade independently on the world market and develop direct relationships with roasteries worldwide.
Due to Costa Rica’s diverse microclimates and range of varieties, the country has developed into a vastly varied coffee exporter, with huge amounts of flavour, quality and future potential. Smallholders, who make up around 90% of the 50,000 coffee growers, dominate production, with the remaining 10% produced by cooperatives and estates. The landscape and climate is varied and, with rich, fertile soil and some high altitudes, flavour profiles and harvesting periods differ throughout the country.
The most traditional and well-known growing region is located South of the Central Valley; Tarrazú and Tres Rios harvest shade-grown Caturra and Catuai varieties that offer good body, balance and complexity. The more delicate, floral and acidic coffees come from the higher altitudes of the Western Valley, where farms and micro-mills produce exceptional Villa Sarchi and Villaobos varieties.
Honey processing is a form of the semi-washed process that is very common in Costa Rica. There are different designations such as red or black honey which refer to differences in the amount of mucilage left on the cherry whilst drying or after pulping; and how the beans are dried eg direct sunlight or shaded, and the length of time and conditions under which they are dried.
Over the coming months keep an eye for these new season coffees.
Finca Gloria / Region: Lourdes, Naranjo, West Valley / Altitude: 1300 masl / Processing Method: Red Honey / Varietal: Villa Sarchi (95%) and Catuai (5%)
Finca San Luis by Oscar Chacon / Region: Sabanilla de Alajuela / Altitude: 1450masl / Processing Method: Perla Negra (Honey) / Varietal: Catuai, Caturra
Growing Regions: Western and Central Valley, Tres Rios, Brunca, Orosi, Turrialba, Guanacaste, Tarrazú (1,000 – 2,000 masl)
Varieties: Caturra, Catuai, Bourbon, Typica, Geisha, Villalobos, Villa Sarchi
Processes: Washed, Pulp-Natural and Natural
Harvest: November - March
World Ranking: 14th Largest Coffee Producer in the World
Tasting Notes: clean, simple and well-balanced; medium to high acidity, creamy body, flavours of buttery peach, black tea, berries and molasses sweetness