Costa Rica’s innovative coffee producers create a rich variety of flavor profiles, ranging from squeaky clean and citrusy fully washed coffees, syrupy sweet honey processed coffees, to richly perfumed natural coffees.

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Costa Rica Green Coffee

In Costa Rica, processing tools of equal precision are available to a single family and their 10-hectare parcel or an 800-member cooperative. Cultivars, elevation, and soil may be largely consistent across the country, but thanks to a recent processing renaissance, the results are anything but. So, cupping offers each year, and watching producers find their signature profiles over time, is an ongoing delight. 

It’s good to be a Costa Rican coffee farmer. Central America’s highest quality of life and best social welfare are there, along with some of coffee’s smoothest transit, well-maintained logistics, and coffee cultivation resources. Costa Rica’s government has an excellent record of thinking openly and critically about sustainability, both environmentally and economically (the country has no standing military, imagine what that does for one’s budget). Indeed, one of Royal’s oldest relationships in Costa Rica, Roberto Montero of Hacienda La Amistad, donated 60% of his family land to the government for preservation; the result was Parque Internacional La Amistad, Central America’s largest natural reserve.  

Costa Rica’s modern coffee history is largely one of cooperatives. Far beyond processing and exporting, cooperatives in Costa Rica operate banks, grocery stores, equipment sales and mechanics, all for member use. Costa Rica’s coops continue to be considered shining examples of sustainable farmer ecosystems. CoopeDota alone is Rain Forest Alliance certified, has been carbon neutral for 10 years, and has been awarded a government seal for its embodiment of Costa Rican values.  

The dominance of the coops in Costa Rica meant that, prior to 2005, most coffee farmers did not process their own coffee. As demand for traceable and unique coffees grew in the early 2000s, small producers began installing their own compact wet-milling machinery and drying spaces to process their own coffee from start to finish. This “micro-mill revolution” led to a burst of entrepreneurialism among certain farmers. Exporters met demand with micro-lot logistics to market the wide variety now available from Costa Rica’s best farms.

Coffee is produced throughout Costa Rica’s central and southern valleys between high ridgelines, typically in small plots of 10 hectares or fewer. Most of the coffees we offer from Costa Rica come from these regions.

  • Alajuela (West Valley)
  • San José (Tarrazu)
  • Puntarenas (Brunca/Amistad)

Thanks to a decade and a half of processing innovation, these days it is actually refreshingly hard to describe Costa Rica’s coffee profile as a whole. It has become common for producers of all sizes to create a kaleidoscope of profiles ranging from squeaky clean and citrusy fully washed coffees, through a detailed spectrum of light to heavy-handed honey processed coffees, to rich and perfumed naturals. 

FAQ

Growers have long favored the bountiful and shrubby dwarf cultivars of caturra and catuaí, but villa sarchi, bourbon, gesha, and countless others are available to growers through Costa Rica’s Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CAITE), an international research and conservation institute with one of the world’s biggest repositories of coffee genetics 

Like other Central American coffee-producing countries, Costa Rica harvests most coffee between November and March. Coffee ships from Costa Rica starting in January and shipments continue into the summer months.

Most coffee from Costa Rica is fully washed, but arguably no other origin is as synonymous with specialty honey processing these days. Micro-mills and larger cooperatives and estates have become specialists in fine-tuned variations of honey processing, often with a specific cup profile in mind. Naturals and anaerobics are also easy to find and tend to dominate the Cup of Excellence each year.

Costa Rica produces about 1.3 million bags of coffee per year, exporting most of their annual harvest. Coffee cherries are picked by hand, and measured in cajuelas (about 12.5 kg), and fanegas (250 kg). Most coffees are fully washed, where the cherry is mechanically depulped, then fermented, washed, and dried mechanically or on patios. Many smallholder farmers have their own processing equipment, which they will also share with neighboring farms.

While cooperatives have waned in membership since the specialty processing boom in Costa Rica, many are still robust, comprehensive regional businesses providing many resources to remote farming families, not to mention exporting the vast majority of Costa Rica’s organic certified coffee. 

Costa Rica’s value in the specialty market, beyond objective cup quality, comes from its specificity. Micro-mills and individual estates are often perfect matches in volume for small to medium-sized specialty roasters looking for relationship coffee. Producers at the helm of hyper-regional processing operations are usually very experienced and entrepreneurial but also community-oriented. When successful, micro-mills and small estates are ideal small businesses to have as suppliers for roasters who themselves are quality-driven, entrepreneurial and community-minded.