Costa Rica has been exporting coffee to other countries for about two centuries now, and there are some major benefits of this exportation on the economy. For one thing, Costa Rica is known for its coffee, and thus can sell coffee at a premium price. When we visited Icafé today (Costa Rica’s national institute of coffee, which oversees coffee production in the country), I learned that Costa Rican coffee can be sold for up to 60% more than market price . Costa Rica is known for producing premium quality coffee because unlike other countries, they only produce Arabica coffee which tastes better than other varieties such as Robusta. Every coffee farm and roaster we’ve visited in Costa Rica has emphasized coffee quality over quantity, which shows in the taste of the premium coffee we’ve tasted as well as the price it is sold for. While Costa Rica’s reputation when it comes to coffee is good and has had many benefits for the Ticos, it is interesting to note that the coffee roasted and sold domestically in Costa Rica is mostly lower quality than the premium grade coffee that is exported. It makes sense that Costa Rica would choose to export the best product so as to make the most revenue, but I also wonder if the Ticos should be able to consume higher quality coffee. From personal experience in my homestay, the locally bought coffee is far from bad, but I don’t think it would be a bad thing for the Ticos to have the option of also consuming higher quality products.
Today we visited a local roaster called Café 1820 that sells 99% of its coffee in Costa Rica (and the other 1% in neighboring countries like Panama). I learned that a bag of Café 1820 coffee costs about half the price as a bag of Café Britt coffee, so it makes sense that the Ticos would prefer the Café 1820 coffee. Also, Café 1820 commonly adds sugar to the lower quality coffee beans before roasting to enhance the taste of the coffee and compensate for its lower quality. I do think that Costa Rica seems to have a system of coffee consumption that works for its citizens and economy, so as long as people are content I don’t think it’s necessary to change the system.
Benefits of Costa Rica’s coffee trade are numerous. For such a tiny country, Costa Rica has been able to make a name for itself in global markets because of its high quality coffee. This ensures jobs for the Costa Rican people who run and work on coffee farms, as well as migrant workers who come from Nicaragua to pick coffee. Icafé and the government of Costa Rica regulate the wage paid to coffee pickers to ensure a living wage. Also, many Nicaraguans who come to Costa Rica are provided with housing, education, and affordable food by farms such as Life Monteverde. The coffee trade has also provided Costa Rica an advantage when it comes to tourism. Many coffee farms and roasters such as Doka, Cafe Britt, and Life Monteverde have coffee tours that tourists can pay for. This provides companies with an extra source of revenue and drives both the tourism and coffee industries, two of Costa Rica’s main industries.
Another benefit of coffee for Costa Rica’s economy is the research done by Icafé. As we learned on our tour today, Icafé does cutting edge research in its laboratories to benefit Costa Rica’s coffee exports, but they also do research for other countries. Icafé is funded by a tax on coffee producers, but this ultimately ends up being beneficial to the economy because the tax dollars are put right back into research on things such as coffee plant diseases, which ultimately enhances Costa Rica’s crop and ensures the high quality customers expect.