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Costa Rica's Coffee Culture

Today we took a winding drive up out of the valley through the mountains and over into the valley of Santa Maria de Dota, part of the region of “Los Santos.”  90% of the population here makes their living from growing coffee. Even people’s backyards and sideyards are coffee plants. From the distance you can see the slopes covered in coffee plants, steep slopes as far as the eye can see. The coffee producers all belong to a cooperative, Coopedota (Dota is the name of the region) that was started in the 1950s by 9 farmers and has grown to over 700 members.  The cooperative helps the farmers earn a better price for their coffee by centralizing production and marketing to large buyers such as Starbucks, which purchases only high elevation, high quality coffee and pays a premium for it.

Coffee tour through the processing plant Storage of coffee at 11% humidity
While the coffee in this region is not all shade-grown (which has a host of benefits for the environment and the quality of the coffee), the representative from Coopedota, Adriana, said that they have begun to promote shade-grown coffee and have the goal of becoming organic in five years. Already they utilize all wastes from the process by using the pulp and skins of the coffee cherries as fuel for the big drying ovens, they create ethanol for fuels, and have biodigestors that create methane to be used for fuel as well. They have a new organic fertilizer program which will help the farmers to use agricultural wastes to create fertilizer, which is not only natural but much less expensive than the synthetic fertilizers, allowing for a chance at better profits. Water used in the process of cleaning the coffee cherries is reused several times before being returned to farms for watering, rather than being used once and wasted.

drying machines The peel and outer skins used for fuel

We learned about the interesting process at the “Beneficio,” or processing plant, and while it is not coffee harvesting season so we could not see the process in action it was still really interesting.

In the afternoon we took a little hike on the private reserve at Savegre Lodge along the river through the forest to some beautiful waterfalls, which ended off the day nicely.

Jack and Charlies souvenirshiking to the waterfall

Tomorrow we’re off to the Alexander Skutch Biological Corridor, where I used to live so I’m really excited about seeing everyone again. James and Usha are really looking forward to spending a couple of days with Luis Angel and his family in their cabin at “La Finca Escondida” (The Hidden Farm) where we will be treated to lots of tasty home-cooked meals and a great wealth of knowledge about the birds and nature of this lowland rainforest and farming area. There’s no internet in the rural community so I’ll see you in a few days when we’re on the coast at La Cusinga Ecolodge!

Category: coffee tour, Costa Rica

  • Great article.
    I’ve been in Costa Rica in the past, and it’s true that the coffee industry it’s really important, specially in the countryside.
    Thanks for the article.

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