Over the past two weeks, my group and I have thoroughly researched the coffee making process. This has helped me develop a greater understanding of coffee, as well as a greater appreciation for everyone involved in the coffee making process.
We visited many coffee farms this trip, including Doka, Café Britt, Starbucks, Life Monteverde, and Coopedota. Since my project was focused on the making of coffee, this is one step of the process I paid close attention to. I was aware of the fact that there was a harvest season, but I was not aware of the year-long attention these plants needed. I believe Life Monteverde did the best job showing us this. When we were taken through their farm, we were told about the initial growing before planting, research, keeping away diseases, and the process of pruning. Every single coffee plant needs constant attention, and that takes a lot of work. I gained this appreciation through visiting a small farm in Monteverde, so I can’t believe how much work this would be for a bigger plantation. Taking care of the beans, along with individually picking every cherry when they are ripe is something that is underappreciated. The one thing that stuck with me the most at Monteverde is when the one farmer said he loves what he does because he impacts people’s lives every day, unlike a doctor or a lawyer.
I had a similar amount of focus when going through coffee mills, but I knew less coming into it than I did about plants. Doka did the best job explaining to us exactly how everything happens in a coffee mill. Luckily, they were also our first visit, so we could understand what was going on the rest of the trip. Doka explained to us how it is first separated by ripe and unripe, then by descending size, while peeling off the outer layers. This was very helpful because coming into this trip, I was confused how coffee grew in cherries, but after the milling process, it all makes sense. This gave me a deeper appreciation of how efficient this process, both with the environment and time. I thought if the process was fast, it would use heavy equipment that hurts the environment. They are able to mill the cherries with speed and without hurting the environment. I never thought all of this could happen only powered by water. I was very impressed with how even some of the bigger companies cared enough about the environment that they would use only water, and then reuse it as well.
Coffee roasting comes next, and this one also applies directly to my topic of making. At the first couple site visits, we got to look through a window and see some random large machines. That is all we knew about roasting. Finally, we went to Café Rey and see one in action. It is a very impressive machine, but the one thing I think was the most impressive was the amount of human contact still needed. I figured a machine so complex would not need that much supervision, but the worker had to check on the beans frequently, make sure the machine was roasting right, and choose when to stop the machine. This gives the roaster a lot of power I didn’t expect when I first saw the machine. This shows that these companies care a lot about the quality of the coffee that they make because they make sure their master roaster still monitors the machine, no matter how high tech it was.
Retail stores is not something we covered as much in our project, but it still has a lot to do with the making process. The picking and roasting of quality beans is the most important part of having quality coffee, but people at retail stores still need to know what they are doing. For a regular drip coffee, the baristas need to know how to brew the coffee by pouring hot water over the beans, they need to clean the machines frequently to ensure freshness, and they need to know when their coffee is too old and shouldn’t be consumed. For the specialty drinks, it is a little more obvious what is important in terms of making it. The baristas need to brew the espresso well, steam the milk with the right amount of foam, add the right amount of syrup, and accurately add whatever else ingredients that are needed in that specific drink. Formerly being a barista for a little, I already had a lot of appreciation for all the work they have to do. But, once we went to the barista school at Coopedota, the barista helped me realize how much making coffee means to some of these baristas. She really cared about coffee and what she did, it was more than a job.
Finally, the none of this matters unless there are customers that want the coffee. Since the whole making process of the coffee is done, the only thing I can think that applies to my topic of making here is the presentation of the coffee. Coffee is more than just a product, it is an experience. To gain loyal customers who want to come to your shop, you should have a nice shop; prepare the drink quickly; and make it look good through latte art, good looking mugs, and presenting the drink in a clean fashion, which would depend on what kind of drink it is. As a consumer myself, I used to not be much of a coffee drinker, but seeing this whole production take place while immersing myself in Costa Rican culture, I definitely have a new-found appreciation for coffee.
This project on making has helped me learn a lot about the coffee industry, but more importantly, it has helped me appreciate everything the Ticos do here. It has been a great opportunity studying abroad here, and I am so happy I chose to do this!