... The Coffee Production ...
by Infocostarica Staff


Coffee production began in 1779 in the Meseta Central, an area with near perfect soil and climate conditions for this type of plantation. A native plant of Ethiopia, the blend introduced to Costa Rica  had been first cultivated in Saudi Arabia and is therefore known as the Arabica. Coffee growing soon surpassed cacao, tobacco, and sugar in importance and by 1829 it had become the major source of foreign revenue. As a nonperishable commodity in an age of slow and costly transport, coffee proved an ideal product and shortly thereafter became the nation’s major export, a position it has maintained until recent years, creating a producers wealthy elite that dominated the governmental circles all through the second half of the 19th century. Exports to neighboring Panama began in the late 1820s. After a load was sent directly to Britain in 1843, the British began investing heavily in the industry, becoming the principal purchaser of Costa Rican coffee until later World War II.

The Coffee Production - imagen 1

The largest growing areas are San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia, Puntarenas, and Cartago provinces. Costa Rican coffee is high in both quality and caffeine content and it is often blended with inferior varieties. Local coffee, set at a much lower government-controlled local price, is tinted to prevent diversion to the export market. Coffee production depends upon cheap, seasonal labor, most of which has come from Nicaraguan immigrants that cross over due to Costa Rica's low unemployment and higher standard of living . Workers receive only around 60 ¢ to $1.50 per basket picked. Each cajuela weights around 15 lbs. And a good worker can fill as many as 12 per day.  Although it seems incredibly low, this rates are proportional to other agricultural salaries, whose minimum is set by government mandate.

The hand picked berries are trucked to beneficios (processing plants), where they are scrubbed and washed to remove the fruity outer layer and dissolve the gummy substance surrounding the bean.  the pulp is returned to the slopes as fertilizer and was sometimes dumped in rivers, until  a recent enforcement of health laws put a stop to most of it. The moist beans are then laid out to dry in the sun in the traditional manner. The leather skin of the bean is then removed by machine-rubbing, and the beans are sorted according to size and shape before being vacuum-sealed to retain the fragrance and slight touch of acidity characteristic of the great vintages of Costa Rica.

A major blight struck in 1983. As with any plantation crop, one of the major drawbacks is that the income is subject to price fluctuations. When the world coffee prices plunged 40% after the collapse of the world quota cartel system, Costa Rica joined Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador in 1989 to create a coffee retention plan. Under the plan, their coffee is sold in installments so as to ensure price stability. The export tax on coffee, first initiated in 1955, was abolished in 1994.

It is curious to note that most of the coffee plantations that surrounded the Great Metropolitan Area (San Jose, Cartago, Alajuela, Heredia) are rapidly disappearing as rising real estate prices push the farmers to sell, giving in to the expansion of the urban cities into the traditionally agricultural countryside.

It is curious to note that most of the coffee plantations that surrounded the Great Metropolitan Area (San Jose, Cartago, Alajuela, Heredia) are rapidly disappearing as rising real estate prices push the farmers to sell, giving in to the expansion of the urban cities into the traditionally agricultural countryside.