As a coffee aficionado, there is nothing as pleasurable as a cup of coffee made from the highest quality beans, brewed in the finest possible way.
For me, the coffee in Costa Rica hits that spot every single time as the best tasting coffee.
In this article, I will explain why the exotic climate found in Costa Rica has such a strong influence on the incredible coffee beans they produce and examine some of the country's history.
What Does Costa Rica Coffee Taste Like?
When it comes to Costa Rica coffee taste, there is a wide variety of options. If you spend any prolonged time in the country, you will realize you are spoilt for choice.
When it comes to Costa Rican beans, the region of the country in which they have been grown will be of massive importance.
For example, the Central Valley region is perfect for growing rich, velvety beans with a caramel overtone.
However, most Costa Rican coffee has a citric acidity that you taste straight away, with a fruity mid-palate that settles into a chocolatey, often caramel-like finish.
The region of Tarrazu is often flagged as the jewel of Costa Rican coffee, so if you have to pick a single region to taste, this would be my suggestion.
Fortunately, I have spent many months in Costa Rica, birdwatching, exploring the jungles, and, of course, drinking coffee.
Still, if, like me, you can't afford to fly over to Costa Rica on a whim to buy the finest coffee beans each week, you may be wondering if there are any specific brands that take advantage of the rich caffeinated gold that Costa Rica Produces.
One brand I recommend is Nespresso's Master Origin Costa Rica.
Crafted with Arabica from the high-altitude areas, this pod captures that distinctive honey-processed method Costa Rica is famous for.
It's your perfect 'hey-I'm-ready-to-take-on-the-world' kind of brew that takes full advantage of the country's coffee pedigree.
If you're into more decadent options, check out the beans on offer from Doka Estate or Café Britt.
These guys are like the indie bands of the coffee world, small, passionate coffee roasters bringing the excellent Costa Rican coffee flavor to the world.
They create coffee packing a serious punch with intense flavor using Arabica and Robusta beans.
Short History Of Costa Rican Coffee
The history of coffee in Costa Rica is a short and steamy one. Back in the early 1800s, Costa Rica was very new to the agricultural block.
In 1808, someone in the Costa Rican government had the brilliant idea to plant coffee in the Central Valley, and man, did that idea catch fire!
Many of the Costa Rican farmers in the more distinct growing regions, such as the Central Valley, started doing so well, and the government was so stoked about coffee that they started giving away free land just to get more people to grow it.
Fast-forward to 1830. Costa Rica sent its first coffee export to Panama, and this is where their exporting began.
By the mid-1800s, the beans were making their way all around the world, even as far as England, and suddenly, Costa Rica became known as one of the world powers when it comes to everyone's favorite caffeinated brew.
Grown on small farms with the ideal climate, mild temperatures, high altitudes, and lush soil, the Costa Rican coffee flavor profile quickly made the beans some of the most desirable in the world.
What's The Best Way To Brew Costa Rican Beans?
Costa Rican beans are known for their versatility as much as their variety. This means you can draw out excellent flavors through a range of methods.
If you want to bring out the fruity jungle notes from the beans, we suggest lightly roasting your beans and using a pour-over.
Personally, I like to experience the local methods of brewing coffee, and in Costa Rica, this method is called the cafe chorreado, a simple drip method that utilizes fresh ground coffee and a coffee sock that has been placed on a chorreador.
This is a simple method, but in this case, simplicity works, bringing out the flavor profile of the beans perfectly.
If you like your coffee dark and want to feel more of a velvety caramel mouth tone that lingers on the tongue, roast your beans, or buy your beans dark and use an espresso machine.
This will give you a deep, rich crema that elevates the undertones.
Why Is Costa Rica Known For Its High-Quality Coffee?
Costa Rica has a unique terroir, a fancy French word that essentially means that the soil, elevation, and tropical climate are all perfectly balanced for coffee bean growing.
This is why Costa Rica's coffee is so unique.
Rich Volcanic Soil
Perhaps the most important factor when it comes to growing coffee beans is the soil quality, including pH levels and mineral content.
Due to its volcanic location, the soil in Costa Rica is packed full of minerals.
This means that during the spongy part of their lives, the coffee beans absorb all of those minerals during the growing process.
This gives the best Costa Rican coffee beans their unique flavor profile.
Coffee plants thrive in weather that is not too hot and not too cold, which matches the climate found in Costa Rica perfectly.
Different zones have higher and lower temperatures, but almost all maintain the correct range for optimal coffee bean growth.
While all of the coffee from Costa Rica is of high quality, the country also benefits from a series of micro-climates, allowing for high-quality arabica beans that can be grown on coffee plantations in specifically chosen locations.
This means that a wide variety of flavor profiles can be found across the country.
The higher the altitude is where the coffee beans are growing, the longer they take to ripen. This gives them longer to develop a richer flavor.
Thankfully, Costa Rica ranges from 1200-1700 meters above sea level (3900-5500 feet).
The Costa Rican coffee beans found at this altitude develop more intense flavors due to this prolonged growth period at this higher altitude.
Harvesting, Milling, Processing and Coffee Production Infrastructure
Costa Rica was the first Central American country to recognize the potential of its coffee industry.
Given the consistent quality of Costa Rican beans, the country has invested significantly in its coffee industry infrastructure over the years.
From coffee farms and coffee farmers meticulously selecting only the ripest beans (not the entire cherry) to advanced milling and processing techniques like washed coffees and honey processing, Costa Rica has built a reputation on the world coffee stage.
This is one of the reasons the Costa Rican coffee taste is so well known around the world.
One of the unique processing methods in Costa Rica is honey processing, which imparts honey-tasting notes to the beans.
It's a method where the outer skin of the coffee cherry is removed, but some or all of the mucilage (the 'honey') remains.
This process, combined with the natural coffee flavors resulting from the country's soil and climate, makes for a delightful and delicious cup of coffee.
To experience this high-quality coffee, many coffee shops worldwide source beans from Costa Rica.
Whether you prefer a medium roast or a dark roast, the Costa Rican coffee industry ensures that you get nothing but the best from their beans.
What Is The Typical Flavor Profile Of Costa Rican Coffee?
The flavor profile of Costa Rican coffee varies depending upon the region in which the beans are grown, but in general, they share the same traits.
First you have the sour acidity. This isn't like sour milk, but more like a sparkling and bright acidity that cuts through your taste buds.
After one sip, don't be surprised if your eyes open a little wider and you feel a little more alert instantly.
In terms of flavor, Costa Rica is a jungle paradise, full of rich fruits and exotic plants, and their beans are no different.
There are hints of berries, fruits, and mango, especially if you are drinking coffee made from beans in the Tarrazu region.
Coffee beans enjoy the same climate that Cocoa beans do, meaning that Costa Rica is also a paradise for chocolate lovers.
This blends into the coffee beans, too, with many regions, such as the Central Valley and Brunca regions, producing beans that have a chocolate or caramel, creamy body.
Coffee Growing Regions In Costa Rica
Ah, the Central Valley, think of it as the cradle of Costa Rican coffee. The beans here offer a complex profile, hitting you with hints of chocolate and fruit.
The Central Valley is often considered the birthplace of the nation's coffee industry.
Have you ever had a coffee that feels like a citrusy summer day? That's Western Valley for you, always with bright acidity and notes of tropical fruit.
This area is known for its sunny climate, and this sun exposure influences the beans, leaving them fruitier.
Tarrazú is the Costa Rican heavyweight champion. Its coffee is famous for a bright, full-bodied cup with tangy, almost wine-like undertones.
Tarrazu is fondly known as the jewel of Costa Rican coffee due to the intensity of the flavors.
Turrialba beans have this unique mild flavor and gentle aroma, making them the easygoing buddy in the Costa Rican coffee regions. This is down to the close proximity to the Caribbean slope.
The Brunca region gives you coffee with a nutty twist, sporting medium body and clean finishes that'll leave you craving chocolate and caramel.
Brunca is located close to the southern border of Costa Rica.
Tres Ríos beans match acidity, medium body, and a lingering fruity finish. These beans are found a stone's throw from the capital and are popular with locals and tourists alike.
Here, the coffee boasts a balanced body with a smooth, almost caramel-like finish. It's like a hug in a cup, with a gentle profile that matches the gentle slopes that rise and fall throughout the region.
Imagine toasted bread and coffee had a baby; that's Guanacaste coffee, nutty and warm. Guanacaste is on the Pacific slope.
Trying coffee from both the Pacific and the opposing Caribbean slope can be a fun experience for any coffee lover.
Here, the beans craft a brew that's as captivating and intense as a classic Spanish drama.
Beans grown in this region promise a deep, luxuriant richness complemented by a velvety texture, making each sip a theatrical experience.
Common Questions About Costa Rican Coffee
Why is Costa Rican coffee more expensive?
Costa Rican coffee tends to be more expensive due to several factors, including high labor costs, stringent quality control, and environmental regulations. Costa Rica abolished large-scale monoculture coffee farms to promote biodiversity, leading to smaller farms that often utilize traditional methods for cultivation.
Costa Rican Coffee vs Colombian - What's The Difference?
Costa Rican and Colombian coffees are both highly regarded, but they have distinct flavor profiles and growing conditions. Costa Rican coffee is often characterized by bright acidity, medium body, and citrusy or fruity notes. It's usually grown in volcanic soil in regions like Tarrazú, contributing to its unique flavor. Colombian coffee, on the other hand, is typically full-bodied with a broad flavor range that can include nutty, fruity, or chocolatey notes.
What is the most popular coffee in Costa Rica?
In Costa Rica, coffee from the Tarrazú region is often considered the most popular and prestigious. Tarrazú coffee is known for its bright acidity, full body, and complex flavor notes, often including hints of citrus or berry.
How do the growing conditions in Central America influence the flavor profiles of Costa Rican coffee compared to other coffee regions?
In Central America, especially Costa Rica, the fertile volcanic soil and perfect growing conditions play a crucial role in producing a flavorful cup of coffee. Many coffee connoisseurs argue that the reason why Costa Rican coffee stands out is the combination of heavy rainfall and dry seasons, which gives the coffee plant an ideal environment to thrive.
Why do many coffee connoisseurs prefer the Arabica beans from Costa Rica over low-quality Robusta beans?
Arabica beans, especially those grown in Costa Rica, are often lauded by many coffee connoisseurs for their superior taste and aroma. One of the primary reasons why Costa Rican Arabica is preferred is its cultivation in fertile volcanic soil and warm temperatures, which are key in producing beans with slight acidity and vibrant floral flavors.
Conclusion - Try Coffee From a Tropical Paradise!
Whether you are planning a trip to the paradise of Costa Rica or simply love coffee as much as I do, Costa Rican coffee is some of the best coffee in the world.
While some people prefer the nuttier notes of a Colombian brew, or the floral notes of a Kenyan bean, Costa Rican coffee, with its vibrant, often floral, almost jungle-like flavor profile, will always have a place in my heart.
So go try it, and as they say in Costa Rica, Pura Vida.
“My view from my cabin in Monte Verde. You can watch the entire water cycle as it rolls up the valley. It is easy to see why Costa Rica is the optimal location for coffee growing.”