From Panthers to Ticos

1. We learned a lot about different farming techniques and aspects from traveling to various plantations. Summing up the different approaches, we saw coop farming (Dota), family owned (banana) and large scale farming (pineapple farm, Doka). Co-op farming was unique in the sense that it was made up of 900 small farms and was, more or less, the backbone of the community. Large scale farming was pretty much what I expected with occasional use of pesticides and they were made up of mostly a migrant workforce. Family owned was a very local and much smaller scale operation. We saw how integrated their life was with the farm. Their kitchen was quite literally on the plantation and most of their dishes included some food from their garden.

2. We observed processing mills and exporters from a few of our site visits. At Doka, we especially honed in on processing of the beans. We saw the floating method to separate the good beans from the bad ones. I was honestly surprised to see that the process is so meticulous and somewhat outdated? I thought it would’ve involved more high tech machinery. They also dry their beans naturally in the sun which made me appreciate a single cup of coffee a lot more. At the pineapple farm, we learned how intricate the process is from picking the fruit to exporting it. I thought it was interesting that they only pick pineapples from the crown and refrigerate them at exactly 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, I learned a few handy tips for picking pineapples at home.

3. Coffee roasting and marketing came mostly from our visit to Café Britt. They’re, essentially, the last step of coffee production before selling to the customers. They are in charge of roasting the imported beans from farms and marketing the final product to customers. They have more of a “Disney” experience for mainly tourists. We noticed that Café Britt is especially focused on marketing to tourists when they talked about their packaging. They base it off the area’s attractions and what they think tourists would consider a souvenir. They also market their products in travel hubs like airports.

4. Customers was an interesting part because I feel like that’s all of us. We learned how various companies market and make their product for the customers but at the end of the day, we are the customers. We were there to not only learn about their businesses, but to also buy into their companies. They strategically gave us many samples of coffee, chocolate, pineapple, etc. to get us hooked. Towards the end of our tours, most of the sites had some sort of gift shop or store. The family banana plantation even had small pieces of art for sale on the patio. We also had the opportunity to buy Café Britt products not only at our tour, but all over Costa Rica… similar to Starbucks. It made me more conscious about my consumer habits since I now know the behind the scenes of all these companies… higher price doesn’t necessarily mean higher quality and convenience doesn’t mean quality.

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