People all over the world are drinking 2,500,000,000 cups of coffee in one day. A person drinking 2.5 cups per day, as it is common, consumes 6.9 kg of raw coffee per year. Most people buy their coffee at the supermarket, but do they even know what it takes to have it nicely packed and ready to drink? Do you know where your coffee comes from?
History of the Coming of Coffee to Costa Rica
The first coffee shop opened in Damascus in 1530, and after that more coffee shops arose in Cairo and surroundings. The first ones in Europe appeared in Italy in 1629, more exactly in Venice. In 1750, coffee arrived to Costa Rica and there was transported by oxcarts.
In the early years of coffee harvest, the coffee plants were being gathered by hand. There is only one harvest per year, from December to March, so it’s a seasonal work. Today, the field workers are mostly replaced by machines, as they are cheaper, but not necessarily more profitable. There are red and green beans and the machines can’t distinguish one from the other, so they mix them up, which changes the taste of the coffee. The good coffee manufacturers know that it’s better to harvest the beans by hand, so they pay employees until today.
1 basket full of beans brings the field worker 3$, good field workers can succeed 17 baskets per day (= 51$). To gain 1.5 kilo of coffee at the end (the content of a normal package), 11 kilos of beans need to be collected.
The Roasting Process
Coffee beans are savable for 1 year when they are dry, but they should be covered while being stored to protect them from insects and animals. As coffee plants are self-fertile hermaphrodites, there is no need to let bees come close to them, they’d only destroy them.
Once enough seed has been harvested, the coffee beans are bathed in water. The ripe beans sink to the ground and the other (green) ones swim (they are taken for instant coffee).
Afterwards the beans are peeled and the paring is recycled and used for dunging. Once they are dry, they can be roasted and should be packed as soon as possible after roasting because of their 3 natural enemies: light, oxygen and water. A light roast gives the coffee a softer flavor, a heavy roast a more intense one.
Now, if you want to become a coffee expert, memorize the following rules:
Rule number 1: NEVER pour boiling water over your coffee, this will burn it! You can spot burned coffee by its black color (and its bad taste). Only use hot water in which the bubbles are already gone.
Rule number 2: Fresh coffee swims on top, if it sinks down to the bottom of the cup its old! If you buy coffee from a new brand, make the test!
Rule number 3: Store your coffee in a dark, dry and cool place, but not in the refrigerator! The whole beans will keep more of their flavor as the powdered form.
Rule number 4: Pulverize your coffee only short time before drinking to get the best taste out of it!
About Café Britt
As you know a lot about coffee by now, we are recommending you to participate in a coffee tour of Café Britt, Barva, Costa Rica, to learn more interesting details about the brown beans and to attend a coffee roasting process from as close as you can get to it.
This year, Café Britt is celebrating its 25th anniversary (was founded in 1985). They consider themselves as “the first gourmet coffee roaster in Costa Rica” with the aim of bringing the good coffee to the people. Before Café Britt opened, the focus of the country was only on exporting coffee to Europe and the United States, but now there are multiple stores and coffeehouses all over Middle and South America. For example, there are shops in Peru, where the coffee is roasted by Britt but grown in Peru, reflecting the culture of the country.
Café Britt focuses on organic and Fair Trade coffee, they try to use as little chemicals as possible. To preserve the harvest of coffee beans as well as the environment, they employ sustainable agriculture techniques. The plantation is accordant with international environmental standards by maintaining an ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certification.
Coffee Tour in Café Britt
Café Britt had the pioneering idea of the first tour through the process of coffee manufacturing. They started their regular tours in 1991, when they opened their factory to the public. Before that, coffee was a luxury good for visitors from the States and Europe and Costa Rica focused on exporting its coffee rather than bringing it to perfection.
The purpose of the tour is to get people familiar with coffee of Costa Rica and its importance to the country. Only 20 minutes away from San José, taking place four times a day, 365 days of a year, everyone who is at least a little interested in coffee will be able to join a tour.
All tours are given by actors, they are interactive and very entertaining. You are led through the process of gaining the coffee beans until the roasting part, and you are shown how to distinguish good coffee from bad coffee. You also get to taste all different flavors of Britt coffee and you can try their chocolate specialties at the end of the tour.
The tours have changed in 25 years, shifting towards an even balance between information and having a good time. So the last thing you can expect is a boring paper.
The Classic Coffee Tour has a reasoned structure, following the life-cycle of gourmet coffee. It begins with your first cup of coffee and a little bit of the coffee’s history. Step by step, you will be guided through the procedure of growing, harvesting and roasting coffee. Starting with the growing cycle, led through the process of careful collection and selection of the finest beans, you will learn the difference between instant coffee and fresh coffee . Get familiar with the different aromas of the coffee from the several areas in Costa Rica, where coffee is grown. Learn how Costa Rica’s unique climate and diverse landscapes provide perfect growing conditions for gourmet coffee beans.
Later you will discover how different roasting techniques affect the beans and the taste of the coffee in the end. Take a look behind the scenes and watch the work of the experts from the inside.
Get to know what it means to “break the cup” by using techniques to taste coffee, to identify and grade the characteristics that qualify a gourmet coffee.
At the end of the fascinating insight in the world of coffee, you can visit the souvenir shop to snatch some good deals (e.g. buy five packets of coffee, get one free) that will remind you of your Costa Rican coffee adventure!
Photo Credit: Andrea Stein for TCRN
For more info on coffee tours and products click here