Organic Coffee Production in Costa Rica

Out of the existing 60 species, and 2,000 varieties of coffee, only three main species of coffee are used for drinking: Arabica accounts for 70% of the world production, Robusta, 20%, and Liberian, 5% respectively. Costa Rica produces exclusively arabica beans. The first global coffee producer is Brazil, followed by Vietnam, which is also the first producer of Robusta beans. Robusta has a strong and deep coffee smell, but its taste is bitter. It is forbidden to grow both Robusta and Arabica close to each other to avoid genetic combinations. In Costa Rica, a coffee plantation is called “Finca”.

Casa del Cafe

A coffee fruit is a sherry or olive-like capsule, which pass from green to red, when it’s ripe, and contains 2 beans. Very rarely, you can find 3 or only 1 bean in it. If there’s only one bean, the aroma in it is more concentrated, and thus, the bean is considered better. In reality, such beans are not sorted apart and are mixed among other ones. As a bush is planted, it takes three years before it gives fruits, then it is harvested every year.

This bush grows among banana trees:

unripe coffee bean

These beans are ready for collection:

ripe coffee bean

The difference between shade-grown, organic coffee and industrial plantation is that, in an organic process, the coffee grows 20% more slowly and it’s richer in aromas, 40% of coffee fruits is lost due to competition between bushes. Shade in shade-grown coffee is often made by planting banana trees, which grow very quickly, up to 6 meters in 6 months, and have large leaves. The soil is fertilized with natural compost and worms.

coffee picker

Today, a bag of Arabica costs three times the price of a bag of Robusta (60$) on the global market. If the Arabica is organic, it can go up to 220$ per bag. Coffee is a commodity: Its price depends more on factors, such as global climate, wars or oil price jitters rather than its consumption as a food product. There is no millesime for coffee: Year is generally not written of coffee bags because coffee is better processed in a short period of time after harvest.

The quality of coffee beans depends on seven factors:

– The type of coffee

– There must be massive rains during the rainy season

– There must be a high temperature

– Coffee likes volcanic soil with minerals

– Altitude: The best coffees are grown between 900 and 2,000 meters above sea level. Below this level, temperature is too high during the day. Pressure is higher, so the bean structure is different and considered less delicate.

– It should be picked by hand, only perfectly ripe beans must be selected.

– Quality roasting process.

 Coffee Roasting

Coffee can be made mild, medium or strong during roasting stage. Just like pop-corn, the beans pop a first time to determine that coffee is roasted to mild stage. A second pop determines that coffee is roasted at the medium stage. To make the coffee stronger, you can leave it roasting a little more. But if coffee is overbaked, then it will be bitter.

How a bad quality coffee can be made tasting better?

If you have a bad quality coffee, you can make it drinkable by adding sugar during its roasting process. Sugar will add a caramel flavor to coffee and remove its bitter taste. How can you see if coffee has sugar in it? There are 2 methods: the first one is simply to look at the ingredients, sometimes sugar presence is clearly written. Look also at the calory content. If it’s higher than 20 kcal per 100 g, chances are sugar has been added. If nothing is actually written, try the second trick – take a glass of cold water and drop a few spoons of grinded coffee. If the powder melts in the water to make a murky brown liquid, it certaily contains sugar. If the powder floats on the surface, then it is pure coffee.



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  • © Sebastian Zelechowski, Moscow 2011
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