The Coffee Tour

May 12

Today we had a tour at Cafe Britt. I have to correct what I said yesterday, it is NOT a working plantation, it is a roasting company. They buy from small estates all over Costa Rica, but only good quality Arabica that is either organic or shade grown. Unfortunately, many small farmers that don’t use chemicals cannot afford the certification to label themselves “organic” as it is quite expensive. Interestingly, “shade grown” can mean either shaded by tall trees or shaded because it is in the cloud forest. Either way, that’s how these farmers combat the #1 enemy of coffee, which is fungus.The other problem they face is a borer worm, and they use wasps from Guatemala which parasitize & kill the borers quite successfully.

We saw plants in various stages of bloom/cherry and learned about the growing cycle. It takes 3 years for a coffee plant to start producing, but then it will bear fruit for 25 years or so. I was surprised to learn that a single plant can be in multiple stages at once – flowers & small berries, and green berries & berries ready to harvest. That’s why coffee is harvested by hand, so that only the ripe cherries are picked & the green ones are left to mature. We saw their roasting plant, and took a trip to an unused wet processing plant to see the equipment that is used to get to the coffee bean.

Lunch was included and the timing was perfect, as it started pouring just as we sat down to eat. The final part of our tour was a demonstration by a barista on how to use various methods to make coffee, espresso, and frothed milk. I did not know you could use a french press to froth milk!

It was still raining when we got back to San Jose, so I went to the gym and Mick went in search of coffee filters. For some reason, you cannot find the little cone-shaped filters anywhere, and we are almost out.

For dinner, we went back to Kalu, which has the boutique where I bought the bag last time. Our meal was delicious. Then the gentleman next to us struck up a conversation, and it turns out his family has a coffee farm in the Orosi valley. So we chatted about coffee and he told us more about how the small farms work.

Tomorrow is our last day in San Jose. We will do some shopping now that we have scoped out the best prices for t-shirts and a few other things.

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