Visiting both ICAFE and Café 1820 was a different and enjoyable experience today since we were able to see the coffee industry through an alternate lens. At ICAFE we toured the laboratory and innovation aspects of coffee and then at Café 1820, we saw a real coffee production process for a locally consumed product.
ICAFE is a government funded agency that conducts research and development as well as many tests for the coffee of Costa Rica. This place was fascinating as the country puts so many resources towards perfecting and innovating within the coffee industry. Since coffee is an important export for Costa Rica, the export tax placed on coffee overseas goes towards funding this institution. In order for coffee to be exported with the Costa Rican name, the Instituto de National de Café must guarantee that the coffee is fully Arabica and upholds the country’s quality standards. Coffee produced in Costa Rica only makes up about 1% of the world’s coffee market, but it is some of the most expensive coffee for purchase. The institute learns about diseases that affect the growth of this costly product and develops new ways to improve conservation and production efforts.
ICAFE develops technologies and machines for coffee roasters to adopt so that diseases are less prone for the physical plant and less waste is accumulated. The Instituto de National de Café’s many cutting-edge designs are now implemented throughout coffee farms in Costa Rica. One of the newer technologies that we saw today was called the biomass oven. This design converts waste such as wood from the field, pulp from coffee cherries, and leftovers from sugarcane into energy. The heat produced is used to for the drying process stage in coffee production. This is a mechanical method to dry the beans to prepare for roasting and although it is not preferred for highest quality consumption coffee, it is a more efficient method for research. They also use a system that rids water used in coffee production of its oils and waste. The organic water is poured over grass and only pure water is filtered through so that the pollution emission is minimized.
Coffee farmers may seek help from ICAFE if their plants are growing incorrectly, if their process is wasteful, or if they are looking for ways to improve in regard to efficiency of production. ICAFE is developing these new designs and perfecting old practices so that coffee can continue to be a prominent export and valuable contributor to the Costa Rican economy. This institution shares their designs with farmers and roasters to help them prosper in their field and uphold Costa Rica’s place in the coffee market. My perception of this industry continues to expand as there are several elements contributing to produce one beverage!