Coffee is King

“La bebida de los Ticos” reads every Cafe Rey sign and logo. Their advertisements refer solely to their brand, but as we have seen throughout this trip, coffee is the drink of the Ticos. In America, we grab a coffee to wake up or to cram all night for a test, but in Costa Rica, the Ticos enjoy and appreciate every cup. They drink coffee for the aroma, the body, and the acidity, not the caffeine. Not only does coffee make up a large social aspect of their lives, the drink also has a large economic impact.

The first boom of coffee farms began in the early 1830s when President Juan Mora Fernandez encouraged coffee production by giving Costa Ricans free land in the mountains to begin their farms. The impact of this decision on the economy was considerable. For the first time, Costa Rica developed a strong middle class. This new economic status allowed for more children to be educated and gave more power to the people of Costa Rica. Before this time, a small group of rich elites made decisions for this country, but with more highly educated people who were making good money, new people now had a voice in the government. The ability to send more children to schools, so they then can find non-agricultural jobs, brought more stability to the economy. Although coffee producing has slowly lost some traction to due tourism and other exports, these producers still have an impact on Costa Rica.

Today, we visited a Starbucks environmental farm, and Starbucks is one of the many companies who buy from numerous small local farmers. I asked what the benefits of buying from small farms instead of large ones are, and the answer was that this helps the democracy or the spread of wealth in the country. If companies like Starbucks only bought from large estates like Doka, a whole class of people would be out of work. The coffee produced from each farm doesn’t even make up a fraction of how much coffee Starbucks buys, but these producers are greatly impacted by Starbucks’ purchases. If large farms began to dominate the market, an elite or extremely wealthy group may form and eliminate all the small farmers. The hard work of these small producers is evident in their impact not the economy as well as Costa Ricans appreciation of coffee.

Although Costa Ricans clearly have a greater understanding of the art of coffee than most foreigners, a lot of their premium coffee is shipped out of the country. This exportation is prevalent in other parts of the agriculture sector as well. Personally, I just see this as a way of doing business. If foreign companies pay more for premium coffee, Costa Rican coffee producers should sell to them. Throughout this trip, we talked a lot about how these producers have goals to be sustainable and to help the environment and community, but the goal of coffee producers is to make a profit. No one starts a roasting facility to help the planet. Also, premium coffee and goods ares still sold in Costa Rica even if they may be harder to find or sold less. I don’t know the Ticos opinion on this, but they don’t seem like the type of people to care too much. For one, a majority probably wouldn’t be willing to pay the higher price for premium, and they seem satisfied with what they have. Coffee will always be a big part of the Ticos lives, and selling to the highest customer will always be a part of business.

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