Costa Rica: It’s Bean Good


I will never look at a cup of coffee the same way after these last two weeks. I think that I have gained a deeper understanding of the hard work and expertise that goes into each individual cup.

Something that really surprised me was how sustainable the coffee farming process is. It is a zero waste process; all the plant material discarded throughout processing is used for some other purpose. For example, the skin from the fruit is used as a fertilizer, the the honey can be used to make liquor, and the parchment can be used to fire the roasters. Knowing this, I have a deeper appreciation for the commitment that coffee growers have to the environment. I truly appreciate how Tico farmers treat the Earth with respect and care, and it makes me appreciate Costa Rican coffee even more.

Coffee mills remove the coffee beans from the coffee fruit, and then process the green beans to get them ready for roasting. Like we saw at Doka, this process is not powered by electricity, but by hydropower. The machinery itself is very efficient, and produces no carbon emissions. I liked seeing how coffee producers harnessed their natural resources to make the coffee production process as low impact on the Earth as possible. This made me realize that sometimes, older technologies and farming techniques are much more efficient and greener than newer ones.

Coffee roasters sometimes use the parchment or wood from coffee plants to fire their machines. In addition to this, they try to support environmentally friendly farms. This is sustainable because, when they support the green farms, they support green coffee farming in general, and encourage sustainable practices. Also, places like Café Britt have educational programs to teach others about sustainable practices in coffee farming. In Costa Rica, there seems to be a big idea that, if a business is not sustainable, it will not be able to keep its place in the market. I now understand the important decisions that roasters have to make; they need to source their products from places that are environmentally conscious to keep customers and remain in business.

Retail stores and cafés push to buy sustainable coffee. People often want to buy environmentally friendly coffee when they recognize the importance of it to the Earth. A lot of large retail stores, such as Starbucks and Green Mountain, go to Costa Rican farmers to get their sustainably sourced coffee. From now on, after seeing the work that green coffee growers do for the environment, I want to be extra cautious to support these farmers when I buy my coffee.

Environmentally conscious customers seek out coffees that are certified Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, or that have other such labels. After touring Life Monteverde and learning about its sustainable practices, I realize that a lack of these certifications does not necessarily mean that a company is unsustainable. Life Monteverde, for example, follows all the Fair Trade requirements, but cannot afford the official certification because it is a very small farm. This is something I did not realize prior to this trip. I really really admire the work that Life Monteverde does for the environment, and I would not hesitate to buy from them. I now realize that sustainability of coffee extends far beyond the certifications, and is determined by the practices at each individual farm.

I believe that I have gained a much deeper appreciation for the drink than I had before. I can look into my cup, and think about the hard work and innovation that went into it, From now on, I know that my relationship with coffee has changed. To me, it is no longer just a part of my daily routine, it is a way of life.

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