The True Tico Coffee

Coffee became a huge crop for Costa Ricans in the mid 1800’s with the rise of Juan Mora. Juan Mora started a land reform where if you go out and claim land as yours in an unoccupied area, the government will give it to you to grow coffee on. This led to a huge growth of coffee growers, and the creation of a powerful middle class populated by coffee barons. These coffee barons all had a voice in the government because they were land owners and they challenged the standing politicians’ opinions. This led to a large period of governmental reform where the coffee owners ushered in new laws and governmental programs that helped to support middle and lower classes. As time has gone on, coffee has had many more positive effects on Costa Rican society such as being a powerful force for sustainability as well as a leading industry in their economy.

The three leading areas of Costa Rica are ecotourism, electronics, and coffee respectively. Ecotourism is a rapidly growing field; especially as global attention becomes more and more focused on the innovative programs that Costa Rica is proposing such as the becoming the first carbon neutral country in the world. The ecotourism field has largely grown because of coffee’s huge role in their economy. With the help of ICAFE, Costa Rica’s coffee oversight institution, coffee farmers began a large push for the sustainability factors that are behind the majority of the ecotourism destinations. On this trip, the majority of the coffee plantations and roaster we have visited have talked about their sustainable practices that they have implemented from the incentivization from ICAFE. Additionally, the coffee industry has an organic label, which goes at a higher price than ordinary coffee, another incentive for companies to grow and produce coffee with few to no pesticides and natural fertilizers. ICAFE also has put in place requirements that coffee farms must have so many trees per amount of land, reducing deforestation. Farmers will want to use the trees as effectively as possible because they want their farms to be efficient. This leads to the implementation of windbreaks and shade trees which are both sustainable practices, reducing pesticide use and erosion as well as increases crop production.

Costa Rica exports the majority of the goods it produces; electronic parts, fruits, and coffee. As expected, the goods they export are primarily the higher quality ones. This is especially common with respect to coffee. Gourmet coffee grown in Costa Rica is oftentimes too expensive for Ticos to buy with regularity due to many protections for workers and the environment and therefore all most all of the gourmet coffee grown in Costa Rica is exported to larger markets. Ticos have other brands of coffee left for them to buy that are also of higher quality than their counterparts in the United States. Today we visited café Rey roasters and their coffee is very common to see for sale in Costa Rican supermarkets because it is a traditional blend that is simple yet of high quality. Additionally, the fruits and other crops that are exported to other countries can still find their way into Costa Rican markets. They are plentiful and staples in the Tico diet.

The quality that the Costa Rican’s have available to them is what they should be expecting. They put their best stuff on the market so that they can make the most money. Since many Ticos work in small agriculture and tourism, their incomes are not large enough to be able to regularly afford luxury items such as gourmet coffee or organic fruits. This is one of the reasons that I believe there is not a large presence of gourmet coffee in Costa Rica, because they know internationally there is a larger market for gourmet items. The medium quality coffee in Costa Rica, such as Café Rey, is much higher quality than their counterparts in markets in the United States, and the smaller gap between high and medium quality in Costa Rican coffee is another reason that Ticos should accept the quality of coffee that they receive.

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