Coffee is No Longer King in Costa Rica
The last decade has definitely seen great change in Costa Rica’s coffee economy. Currently, coffee production accounts for less than 1% of the country’s GDP. In 2006 the figure was 2.7% and has quickly decreased since then. Computer chip production and tourism generate the bulk of the Costa Rica’s revenue. In 2000 Costa Rica exported 1.9 million 60 k bags of coffee. A generous projection of 2010 production puts exports at 1.2 million bags. There is a trend here.
With reduced production, many of the country’s larger wet mills have closed their doors. Many of the mills that were once busy during harvest season are now simply collecting dust as truckloads of coffee cherries pass by. The micro beneficio’s day has come. While I believe there are some that would attribute this to an increased demand for smaller micro lots of coffee, my inclination is that this is more of an effect of reduced production. The logistics of how coffee is processed has changed. Numerous large mills simply are no longer needed.
Production in Costa Rica can be as diverse as the country itself. Whether it is a farm, region, or micro climate, or the process by which it is milled, all coffees are unique in many ways. Finding your gem takes time and work and with a little extra care customers will appreciate it.
This trip focused on the Tarrazu Valley and its various array of coffee options. I spent time visiting private estates near San Marcos with a grower who mills his own family’s coffees in a number of ways. Whether the coffee is “Honey” processed, washed or semi washed, equal amounts of time and care were taken. There was a cooperative wet mill that serviced over 80 different smaller producers that could have produced as little as 10 exportable bags of coffee. Four different COE winners were produced at this mill. There was the usual time spent at La Minita from which more and more lights continue to stretch across the valley at night. La Minita was and continues to be a magical place from which one develops a serious appreciation for coffee and its intricacies. Then there was a small amount of time spent with our friends at Cerro del Fuego (Costa Rica Organic). I was left wanting to spend much more time there. A short jaunt through the farm of Rafael and then a trip to the Organic fertilizer project, followed by a BBQ at Minor Corrales’ house was just not enough. Next year I am sure we’ll change up the schedule a little bit.