My morning begins with it—as might yours.
My olfactory nerves work overtime: Sweet honey, dark chocolate, caramel.
You get the picture.
Before coming on this study abroad tour to UGA Costa Rica and taking all of these coffee tours with my class, I knew almost nothing about what really goes into making coffee.
The extent of my knowledge was grinding the beans, putting them in my French press, adding hot water and waiting for my morning cup.
I was also under the impression that coffee was Costa Rica’s number one export. Nope. Worldwide, Costa Rica sits pretty low on the list, fifteenth in world production, exporting less than 1% of the world’s coffee.
Why is that?
Well, what I’ve learned is that in Costa Rica is that what is prized here is the quality of coffee and not quantity. For Costa Ricans, or Ticos, drinking coffee is a pleasure and in many cases a lifestyle. Like a fine wine, coffee has its very own specific acidity, flavor, and weight. It’s more than caffeine. Drinking coffee here is an experience. Don’t put it past any Tico to invite you into their home for a cup of coffee and a chat, and let’s not forget that it is readily available after every meal. Truthfully, it’s odd to not have a cup.
The making of quality coffee begins with the smallest part, the bean. In Costa Rica it’s the Arabica bean, which is amongst the most sought after coffee beans. It makes up 60 percent of the global production of coffee. Costa Rican have been
harvesting this bean since the 1700’s. It was actually the first country to have an established coffee industry.
Coffee is typically planted in the wet season when the soil stays moist. It takes approximately two to three years for a plant to bear fruit. Because of the amount of time it takes for a plant to produce fruit, farmers prune mature plants in an effort to shorten the production time. Harvesting occurs once a year, beginning in October and lasting until March. Side note, most coffee pickers aren’t Costa Rican, they’re usually migrants, most from Nicaragua, seeking a living wage. One worker can make enough in the six months during harvest season to live off of the rest of the year.
Once all the beans are harvested, they are hand-sorted to remove the green cherries from the red. The ripe cherries are then washed and peeled, with the peels sent off for farmers to use in compost. The beans are then subjected to the drying process, called turning. Nearing the end, they are once again sorted for the parchment to be removed and they are either roasted to be dark, natural, light, medium, or honey.
The final step is packaging. Beans are either packaged whole or ground and shipped to destinations far and near—including perhaps your next cup of morning Java.
So remember, where its coming from—and how long it took to get to you.
As for me, the next time, I brew my coffee in my French press and let it steep for 4-6 minutes, I’ll remind myself of the Cost Rican culture’s take on coffee—it’s about quality not quantity.
Now isn’t that’s a better way to start a morning ?