Costa Rica Baby
What it means when you say you want Costa Rican Coffee beans
There are few places in this world that conjure up more romantic images of coffee drinking than the landscapes of South America, complete with coffee harvesters in the background. But it’s not always so romantic and perfect. We chose Costa Rica as our coffee bean focus this month and decided to explore the region to discover what drinking coffee in Costa Rica really means. We were slightly shocked with our findings…
Costa Rica is a place on many people’s bucket lists, for various reasons. Few people would actually admit that they would like to travel to the region purely to explore its coffee fields and coffee trade, unless they were being financed by a coffee bean conglomerate that they happen to work for. Most people travel to Costa Rica for the night life, the scenery and the fun. Yet we found that beneath all the tourist hype and sell there lies a rough, oftentimes uninviting exterior to this country. In fact, just around the corner from that bar you had to check out is a neighbourhood that sleeps destitute and unclothed, hungry and alone night after night. This is the Costa Rica we don’t usually hear about on the coffee advertisements.
Coffee drinking in Costa Rica, as in many other coffee-central hubs of the world, is akin to drinking water. It is so commonplace in fact that – unlike what we have found in Australia – most people couldn’t care for it. When trying to decipher what sorts of beans take the fancy of Costa Ricans one is met with vacant looks that spell ‘wwwhat?’ Coffee is coffee is coffee and I have long thought that in our first world parts we have way too much time to spend thinking about it. Yet in a place like Costa Rica one would hope that at least some of the enthusiasm was shared…apparently not.
So what does coffee and coffee beans mean to Costa Ricans? After looking closely at what was really happening we realized it wasn’t a case of locals not caring about coffee – after all it is the livelihood of some 28% of the population. It was more a case of the fame going to their heads. Costa Ricans have become somewhat nonchalant about coffee, coffee beans and coffee drinking. Producing some of the finest beans in the world, having a reputation for supplying the beans that make the ‘classic cup’ of coffee, Costa Rica has taken the next step and not really looked back. Forget the boutique farms, the fair trade chic and the single origin organic; Costa Rica begun focusing on the multinationals quite some time ago increasing the production ten-fold yet also impacting the environment considerably more. In essence, coffee means money, coffee drinking is done daily and taken for granted and coffee beans have their own national holiday to mark the importance of the bean to the national economy.
If you are on the look out for a Kodak moment in Costa Rica whereby you sip your coffee overlooking green fields of plantations, you’d better have your instagram handy as well! There are more dusty roads than serene outlooks and the people don’t mince their words just to keep you coming back. Coffee is a way of making a living in a way we cannot truly understand in Melbourne where our marking points for making money from coffee beans is based on successful cafes that have been designed by leading architects. In our coffee overload world we have reached a point where we cannot understand why people wouldn’t get excited to the point of orgasm at the thought of single origin, fair-traded, organically grown, handpicked, boutique roasted coffee beans. Perhaps Costa Rica is the perfect place for a cuppa after all.