In Costa Rica, Central America, the coffee cultivation began after Costa Rica became an independent country from the Central America Federation, around the years of 1838.
Very soon after that, coffee became the main export crop to the European markets and the most important product in the history of Costa Rica, as a nation. This was a very big step within the national economy. The infrastructure needed to export coffee to Europe lead to the creation of the large coffee plantations controlled by a few wealthy land owners.
Currency Printed by Costa Rica Coffee Plantations
Soon after, coins began to circulate with a coffee plant engraved on one side and on the other side of the coin a 6 pointed star as a symbol of a free state, independent of the Central America Federal Republic. The owners of the big coffee plantations, because of their convenience, used to paid their workers with a kind of money called “boletos”, a private token used as money that began to circulate instead of the regular currency. Due to a lack of regular currency, and besides it was very convenient for the cafetaleros or owners of the plantations who also have a kind of “comisariato” (commissariat) where they sold some goods, like food and clothing so the workers don’t have to go to a far away cities to buy groceries and some of their necessities. Some of the big coffee plantations, even have their own elementary schools, were the children of the workers attended. The “boletos” also could be exchanged for regular currency. These “boletos” are not in use any longer.
Central Valley Costa Rica Coffee Plantations
In the second century, the main coffee plantations began in the “Central Valley”, where it developed very fast. The volcanic soil over there, is very rich and well drained and the cool air found at higher elevations causes the coffee cherries to ripen more slowly, giving the final brew a rich and delicious flavor like the all coffee that is harvested in the Tarrazu zone, like the “Arabica” and “Volcanica Coffee”, which are very rich and mellow, and full bodied. Costa Rica has one of the best coffees in the world.
As a very young child, some of my vacation time was spent in the country site, by the mountains where big coffee plantations are. I remember the rows and rows of coffee trees when they were in full bloom. They were and are, beautiful, they looked like fallen snow flakes covering all the coffee trees, and they have an exquisite fragrance. Weeks later the blooms fall down to give way to the green coffee cherries who several months later become the beautiful red cherries, with two green seeds inside ready to be harvested.
Crop Pickers in Costa Rica Coffee Plantations
The coffee plantation workers collect the red coffee cherries by hand, directly from the plant into a big straw basket that it is attached with a belt to their waist. With their free hands, they grab branch by branch and hand pick all the red cherries on each branch. When the baskets are full with the coffee cherries, they bring them to a place close by, were the coffee beans are dropped into a measurement box called “cajuela de café” were the coffee beans collected are measured by basket, or weight. The full baskets usually hold about 20 liters or 20 pounds of beans.
The coffee picker is paid according to the amount or weight of the coffee cherries collected. Then the coffee grains or berries, are put in oxcarts pulled by trained oxen and taken to the “beneficio de café” or processing plant or refinery, where the coffee berries are washed and soaked for about two days in big tanks of water, the red skins are washed away with fresh running water, then put to dry up on big cement patios called “beneficios de café”. This is called the “wet process”. When the coffee beans are dry they are raked and sent to a mill were the remaining of the silver skin is removed. After that procedure, the cherries are put along a conveyer belt, where by hand the workers remove anything that does not look right, like pebbles, or broken beans. Finally after all of this proc
ess, the coffee cherries are collected, and the dry coffee beans are put on special jute or burlap bags. These bags have the name of the country and the right “I.D.” engraved on them, and can hold about 100 to 130 pounds or more, ready to be transported.
Processing Coffee at Costa Rica Coffee Plantations
The coffee beans roasting, it is usually done in large batch dryers which spin and heat the beans at about 550-F. They are different kinds of roasting, like cinnamon, regular roast, city roast, dark roast, French roast, etc.
The coffee grains are very well processed so we all can have the fine and great product that we enjoy so much drinking.
Costa Rican coffees are big coffees: full of body, with bracing and rich acidity and a classic flavor and aroma to a blend. The coffees from the Costa Rica coffee plantations exemplify the famous saying from Costa Rica Pura Vida which means pure life.