The Golden Bean: Benefits versus Pitfalls

Costa Rica began exporting coffee in 1820, at first just to Panama but now, it is being exported to many countries across the globe. In present day, approximately 50% of Costa Rica’s coffee is now exported to the United States. Coffee used to be a major component of Costa Rica’s GDP but accounts for only 0.31% of the current GDP. Still, it continues to provide many important economic benefits.

Although Costa Rica produces only 1% of the World’s production of coffee, which puts them in 13th position in the world, it still produces numerous economic benefits for them. In 2017, coffee generated 305.2 million USD in income. An example of an early economic benefit that occurred shortly after exportation began is that revenue from the sale of coffee was used when constructing the National Theater in San José and when building a railroad to the Atlantic coast. Not only does the sale of coffee produce a lot of essential income for many Costa Rican families but the revenue also helped the country continue to modernize throughout its history.

Since Costa Rica cannot compete with the quantity of coffee produced by other countries, they compete with quality. Now, Costa Rican coffee is regarded as one of the highest-quality coffees in the world. This comes with a few downsides, one of which being that in an effort to make a profit, companies export all of the medium to high quality coffee to other countries where they can get a premium for it. Sadly, after being such an integral part of the coffee process, Ticos are only left with the lowest quality coffee for their own consumption. Typically, this is the coffee made from the cherries that float instead of sink because the less dense cherries (that float) are of a lesser quality. These cherries create coffee that doesn’t taste as good and, in many cases, sugars and other sweeteners are added to make it artificially taste good.

When local roasters, like Cafe 1820, are left with only the low quality beans to produce, they compensate in a few different ways. As I mentioned above, they often include sugar and/or other sweeteners to enhance the coffee. They also create blends of different levels of quality and different varieties to try and give the coffee grounds flavor. I think the Ticos should expect and deserve more after putting so much hard work into creating the final product. Ticos are involved in coffee production every step of the way and it is an integral part of numerous families lives since there are about 41, 339 coffee farming families. When they work constantly to provide the producers the best coffee cherries they can, they deserve something better than instant coffee that just dissolves in hot water. For many Costa Rican families, decent coffee is too expensive for them to purchase because the different companies charge a premium. I think when you realize that the world would not have high-quality Costa Rican coffee without all of the Ticos involved, you might also agree that they should be able to purchase more than something that is 90% artificial sweetener and 10% coffee. Overall, for the plentiful economic benefits that coffee has provided Costa Rican, no one seems to appreciate the Ticos who are actually on the ground working and producing the coffee that is creating these residual benefits.

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