History and Tradition of Coffee in Costa Rica

History and Tradition of Coffee in Costa Rica

Coffee has been a staple in Costa Rica's history for almost 200 years, and the impact its had on the country is undeniable, yet seldom highlighted abroad. Costa Rican coffee represents care, effort, prosperity, and a better future for the next generations. Not only do Costa Ricans proudly share their exquisite coffee via exports throughout the globe, but they also enjoy drinking coffee themselves at all hours of the day. At New World Tropical, as a Costa Rican-American company, we strive to honor and highlight the details of this intricate relationship between Costa Rica and their Golden Grain (coffee beans!) so we can continue sharing the best coffee with coffee lovers around the world.


A Bit of History


Costa Rica's coffee industry began in in the early 1800s, when a Spanish priest named Felix Valverde persuaded farmers of the then Spanish province to begin growing the crop. He set up his first plantation in the bustling capital and province of San Jose. Today, this region, the Central Valley, is still considered among the best for growing coffee plants. Costa Rica's rich and fertile volcanic soils, relatively uniform temperatures, and characteristic dry and rainy seasons proved to be incredibly favorable to growing coffee plants.


Later, coffee was cultivated on large estates near cities like Cartago and San Jose so that it could be transported easily to the markets. The rest of Costa Rica's land didn't see much agricultural activity until later in the century when new markets opened up for coffee production as demand grew internationally.

After its independence in 1821, the country was the first Central American nation to develop its coffee industry, and it continues to be known worldwide for its high-quality beans. With the aid of officials and forward-looking leaders like Mariano Montealegre, Juan Mora Fernandez, and Braulio Carrillo, the government provided strong support to help the coffee industry thrive, including free trade agreements with other countries, distributing free coffee plants. The government set land aside for the specific purpose of growing coffee, and a whole railroad system was built from the heart of the country to the Atlantic coast to make it easier to export coffee to Europe, especially Great Britain.

Costa Ricans had such a coffee fever that you were given legal ownership of empty land if you grew coffee on it for at least five years. Coffee grew in popularity tremendously, to the point that it became the only export of the nation between 1846 and 1890.


Tradition of Quality


Fast-forward to more modern times after coffee exports propelled the nation into economic prosperity and stability as an exception in a region characterized by regime changes and conflict. Costa Rica became known for its high-quality and flavorful coffee. This characteristic quality stemmed from strict standards and traditions that regulate the type of coffee plants grown, how they're grown, and how the coffee berries are harvested and processed so that the absolute best beans get to your cup.

Throughout the last centuries of coffee growing, Costa Rican farmers, businessmen, and government officials have sought to improve and optimize the growing and processing of coffee while maintaining the renowned recognition and reputation of the work and care that goes into each harvest. Some of the most significant improvements in the industry during the 1900s include transitioning away from using ox carts to transport coffee, implementing the beneficiado system to allow farmers to pool their individual harvests together and reduce costs on processing and shipping, and settling on the Caturra and Catuai strains of the Arabica coffee variety to ensure superior quality.


A monumental addition to Costa Rica's coffee industry was the creation of the National Coffee Institute (ICAFE) in 1933. The ICAFE was founded to regulate and standardize coffee practices in the country, while ensuring fair and sustainable practices, fair wages, and fair prices. The ICAFE promotes Costa Rican coffee abroad and also invests in research and development to prevent diseases, improve practices, and improve agricultural and industrial technology related to coffee.

The ICAFE supports the entire coffee supply chain in Costa Rica from growers to roasters and exporters and ensures the traceability and quality of every single bag of coffee that leaves the country (including ours!). This ensures that the coffee that you are receiving has been ethically grown, processed, and roasted by industry actors adhering to the highest agricultural and industrial standards that have propped up Costa Rica's country brand of exquisite coffee.


Why Traceability Matters


As you travel the world vicariously through the warm cup of your favorite coffee, you should take the time to learn not only about where your coffee is coming from, but how is that coffee coming out of its country of origin.

In Costa Rica, coffee is valued and cherished as a deeply engrained staple in kitchens, get togethers, celebrations, and social events. In addition to love of coffee, we care about the wellbeing of farmers and their families, and we care about the environmental footprint of agricultural practices and its effects on the Costa Rican biodiversity. To us, and to most Costa Ricans, these concerns are real and we take active steps to maintain good business practices.


At New World Tropical, by aligning to ICAFE protocols and standards, and partnering with certified and registered suppliers in Costa Rica, we ensure that we know where our beans come from and how they are getting to us. We believe there is great value in highlighting the sustainable, ethical, and fair practices that go into each small batch that we deliver so that you are able to make the best decision when choosing to support a small coffee business fueled by the care, skill, and effort of hard-working Costa Ricans.


Experience the Legacy


In 2020, the Costa Rican government declared coffee one of the national symbols, echoing once again that the 200-year-old industry and crop are of national public interest and important contributors to the nation's prestige, tradition, and history. Although Costa Rica is commonly thought of as a country with beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, and incredible biodiversity, part of its rich history and culture has flourished thanks to the economic activity related to the Golden Grain. The coffee industry has been thriving since its inception and continues to do so today.

New World Tropical is proud to be a part of this history, and we hope that our small-batch, single origin Costa Rican roasts allow you to experience a bit of the nation's rich tradition and legacy of exquisite, premium coffee.


1 comment

  • Stephen D

    So insightful! What a good overview of the backstory behind this coffee

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