Over the past two weeks, I have been researching the industry, culture, and environment in Costa Rica and seen first hand how it has impacted Costa Rican coffee trade. Our group specialized in sourcing. Sourcing involves buying the best raw products for each step in the business to ensure a high quality, profitable final product. Understanding sourcing at each step has allowed me to understand coffee and the culture around it on a much more hands on level.
Coffee farms need to source plants, water, labor, and fertilizer. Plants can be obtained in seed form, from a nursery, or existing plants can be maintained through processes like extreme pruning. It is officially recommended that farmers obtain plants from ICAFE nursery’s because they claim higher quality. Many farmers like reusing their own beans or practicing extreme pruning because it is cheaper and self-sufficient. Water is sourced naturally. There is a rainy and a dry season. Most coffee farms are located on mountains, so steams are rerouted using irrigation systems to transport water to the crops. Labor is performed by migrant workers. In Café Doka, 80% of these workers are from Nicaragua. The coffee farms give their workers housing, food and childcare, since they usually bring their families with them. The final thing that farms need to source are fertilizers. This can be obtained naturally through compost or artificially with the help of ICAFE. In farms like life Monteverde, they use a mixture of different manure, plant waste, and fungi. ICAFE analyzes soil samples and recommends the exact mixture of nutrients the soil needs. So, for coffee farms, farms need to source plants water workers and fertilizers. Understanding the care that goes into naturally suppling these raw products, and the transformation they go through really makes the coffee experience feel more personalized and unique.
Coffee milling is the process of changing the coffee berries into green, dry beans. The only thing that needs to be sourced for this is the coffee cherries. These are handpicked from seasonal workers, as mentioned above. Again, this impacts the coffee experience because as a consumer, I now know that every bean of Costa Rican coffee I consume has been handled carefully by a real person, not a machine.
Coffee roasting and exporting involved sourcing when the managers pick which beans they want to buy. Typically, roasters source from multiple different farms to keep up with the demand of their customers. Roasters look at several different characteristics of beans before they purchase. This includes age, quality of the beans, and the environment in which the beans were grown. Some roasteries produce their own beans as well, and in that case, they use the beans from their farm and don’t source anything. Knowing that the people in charge look at every detail of the bean profile before selecting it for roasting shows how much this country values a complex profile for their cup of Joe.
Retail stores and cafes source the packaging materials and the art. Café Britt put a lot of emphasis on this. They put tons of resources and time into creating the perfect attractive airport shop in every country that they reside in. The designs for the products are crafted by local artisans in the country. The plastic is sourced by outside suppliers because it is not fiscally smart to produce plastic on the sight. The attention to culture and inclusion of local artisans in Café Britt’s business model really appeals to me. I appreciate the global consciousness of their product.
Customers source the coffee from the shelves on the stores. You can buy Costa Rican coffee in Costa Rica, in airports, at tourist destinations, in hotels, or on the internet. The value of the product ultimately comes back to the customer because without them, there would be no way to continue producing it. The customers set apart Costa Rican coffee from the rest of the world.