Regular Café Joe readers know that we care about a sustainable lifestyle, healthy eating, and responsible enjoyment. Our primary focus is and remains the coffee. And in search of the best coffee in the world, we are on a coffee trip to Costa Rica. Why in this Central American state? The location between the Caribbean and Pacific Sea, breathtaking landscapes and cultivation conditions are unparalleled. To pinch in a few facts:
- There are over 400 million coffee trees in Costa Rica, a country with 3.7 million inhabitants. That means there are more than 100 coffee trees on one inhabitant!
- In Costa Rica, especially Arabica coffee is grown, the bean for the particularly good taste.
- The Latin American country is climatically very complex: from the shallow, tropical-hot coastal regions to the highlands, there are seven climate zones!
That sounds very exciting for coffee lovers and reason enough for us to take a closer look at Costa Rica.
COSTA RICA; THE COUNTRY OF TOP ARABICA COFFEE
When Columbus dropped anchor at the beginning of the 15th century on the "rich coast," there was no coffee here. Only about 250 years ago, the first plants from Cuba were introduced to Costa Rica. The government offered cheap land to all interested parties to establish coffee cultivation. The plan worked, and Costa Rica became the first Central American country to grow and produce coffee for commercial purposes, thereby boosting innovation in breeding and cultivation. Today, therefore, we find high-performance companies that can guarantee a consistent quality despite large quantities. Costa Rica is not particularly big among the coffee countries, but extremely efficient: with an average of 1,600 kg of coffee per hectare, the highest yields are achieved worldwide. No wonder coffee travel fans come here - there's a lot to see.
COFFEE CULTIVATION IN COSTA RICA FOCUSES ON THE COUNTRY'S CENTER
Overall, coffee cultivation in Costa Rica focuses on the central region in the center of the country. In the highlands, the climatic conditions are perfect: it is always humid and mild, and temperatures average around 17 to 22 ° C. Although there is a rainy and dry season, rainfall in the highlands does not vary as much as in the rest of the country - it always rains a lot. The cool climate and especially the cold nights contribute to slower growth of the coffee trees. The coffee cherries have more time to mature and can get a more intense taste. This, in turn, leads to better education of the many flavors in the coffee bean. Not for nothing Costa Rica is one of the best coffee in the world.
Coffee connoisseurs swear by quality coffee from Costa Rica, which is primarily Arabica whole bean. Over 300 different Arabica varieties come from here!
The farmer supplies the cherries in the processing plant and pours them into the designated collection containers: 10 caguela corresponds to 200 ltr. = 1/2 fanega, ie 1 fanega = 400 ltr = 250 kg of cherries = 46 kg of green beans. In the Coope Tarrazú, farmers receive 70,000 colones = about $ 140 \ Fanega / 46 kg of green beans, which is equivalent to about US $ 3 / kg. 83,000 ha of coffee land is cultivated (acreage is declining), which corresponded to a yield of 2,050,000 fanegas = 94,300 tonnes in the past season.
Today the coffee is divided according to the following criteria:
- according to the mounting height
- by region (since the 90s)
- after micro lots
- Meanwhile boutique coffee, small lots, Honey, Full Honey, Natural, Yeast fermentation (for countries like South Korea, Japan, etc.) and other criteria
The hardness of the coffee bean (density) says a lot about the quality of the product. It is distinguished in
- Hard Bean Area = 600 - 900 m HB
- Good Hard Bean = 900 - 1100 m GHB
- Strictly Hard Bean = 1100 - SHB
The higher the cultivation area, the lower the productivity, the harder the bean, and the better the quality.
No country in the world has a more transparent coffee economy like Costa Rica. Icafe (Institute de Café in CR) implements and controls strict rules for the coffee industry. The profit margins are set by law. They amount to benefits of 9% and exporters 2.5%. The calculation for the farmers is different and depends on whether the processing takes place in a cooperative (the price is based on the stock market but is set for a longer period for all farmers). It does not matter whether conventional goods or Microlot coffee is delivered. At the end of the payroll period, the difference result is distributed to all owners. If the stock market depreciates, the farmers would also have to compensate. E.g Coope Tarrazú to 140 Us $ / 46 kg = 2 fenagas / coffee cherries.
THE COFFEE TREES: LITTLE SENSITIVE AND THEIR CHERRIES
On the coffee plantations, you get the way of the coffee - from the tree to the roasting - explained directly on the living example. First, the coffee trees are bred, and then the tree is planted. The four years the tree needs before the fruits are harvested are the most critical ones. During this time, the coffee tree must be cherished, cared for, and nurtured. It must not get too much sun, too much or too little rain. Mixed cultures achieve this: Higher trees protect the lower coffee plants with their leafy roof and also provide nutrient-rich soil.
When the time comes, the coffee cherries are harvested. Each fruit, that is, each coffee cherry usually contains two beans. If you squeeze it out and put it in your mouth, they taste slimy and sweet. Not at all unpleasant! Squishy devices dissolve the beans from the cherries. Nowadays, even lemonade or coffee tea is made from dried coffee cherries, which have proven to be another sustainable step.
THE HARVEST: BY HAND
Coffee cherries are often harvested by hand. The so-called "pickers" are low wage earners and mostly come from Nicaragua. The pickers are paid per Lata - this is a metal box whose standard is determined by the state. In a Lata fit around the 30 pounds of coffee cherries, per day, the picker makes about five to eight Latas. Pro Lata receives a worker between 2 and 3 US dollars, sometimes also € 3.50. The hand picking has the advantage that only ripe fruits are harvested.
COSTA RICA COFFEE DRYING
The still green beans are then dried for two weeks under the sun, then another five weeks in jute sack. Only then is the outer bean shell - also called parchment shell - can be removed. A quick snap with your finger - and you have already separated the cuticle from the bean. Of course, machinery takes over this process on the plantation.
In the next step, the coffee beans are machine sorted according to their size. Too small beans fall through the grid. The big beans are selected so that they can be sold as coffee beans and used for various healthy coffee products such as Nespresso Compatible Capsules, Espresso Capsules, Costa Rican coffee, single origin, Whole bean coffee. The smaller beans are set aside for grinding. After the sorting process, the beans are ready for roasting.
THE COFFEE BEAN ROASTING PROCESS
In the drum roaster, the coffee beans are roasted for between 12 and 18 minutes. The first ten minutes of it, the coffee beans are just heated. At some point, the beans break for the first time when they roast under the heat, and first aromas develop. One perceives the "First Crack" as a definite crack. From then on every ten seconds, you have to try to make sure the beans are the right degree of roast. At least after the "second crack," they have to leave the roaster: Then all the aromas have unfolded, and more heat would burn the bean.
Depending on how long the beans are roasted, another coffee is created. The longest roast produces the darkest coffee - with a roast time of 18 minutes you get excellent, dark espresso. The dark beans shine because of the spilled oils and are delicate-bitter, but contain less caffeine than the lighter, lighter roasted coffees. Often the fact is unknown that espresso contains less caffeine than ordinary filter coffee. But no matter what type of coffee you like: The most important thing is always that the coffee beans are freshly roasted.
Costa Rican Cocoa and cane cultivation
In Monteverde, cocoa and sugar cane are grown in the course of the mixed culture. So the floors are used effectively, and the coffee trees get more shade.
The cultivation of cocoa is not unlike coffee cultivation. It is impressive to see huge cacao fruits hanging from the tree - which, in contrast to the coffee cherry, contains not just two but many beans. They already taste raw very, very tasty, are crushed and sold as cocoa nibs. Drinkers may love to sprinkle it over the acai smoothie bowl.
Six interesting facts about cocoa and sugar
- The word "chocolate" is made up of choco (cocoa bean) + latte (milk)
- White chocolate is made only from cocoa butter, the fat of cocoa beans. Because it removes the cocoa powder, white chocolate is not chocolate at all.
- White sugar is always refined and therefore, unhealthy.
- Brown sugar is not automatically healthier and not lower in calories.
- More natural and healthier is the brownish whole cane sugar.
- Sugarcane looks like bamboo. If you press 1.5 meters of sugar cane, you will have about 1 liter of sugar water. This looks green and has a sugar content of 7%.