Costa Rican Coffee
A highly rated Costa Rican coffee, typically of the coffee plant varietal Caturra (Coffea arabica var. caturra) and sometimes Catuai, has a great body, often full, and a rich, robust flavor and crisp acidity. In particular the best high-grown coffees of Costa Rica are distinguished, and notable for their good body and fruity and bright acidity with a clean and crisp taste.
Growing Altitude: 1200 – 1800 meters above sea level
Arabica Variety: Typica, Caturra, Catuai, Villa Sarchi, Bourbon, Gesha, Villalobos
Harvest Period: December – February
Milling Process: Washed, Drum Dried
Aroma: Intense, Fragrant, Brown Sugar
Flavor: Citrus, Tropical Fruit, Apricot
Acidity: Lively, Bright
Costa Rican coffees are generally believe to have some of the best coffee flavor profiles in south/central America, with high grown altitudes and a pleasant acidity, leading to great coffee reviews. Its defining tasting notes include a brown-sugary sweetness, citrusy notes and apricot-like fruity flavors.
When buying Costa Rican coffees for home use, we recommend getting whole bean, fresh roasted coffees direct from coffee roasters. Buying a branded product that sat on a shelf for weeks or months at a grocery store or in Amazon’s warehouses will be relatively bland and stale, not allowing you to experience the full flavors of these premium coffees.
Costa Rica Coffee Growing Regions
Costa Rica is a relatively narrow country flanked on both sides by oceans, with long coast lines, but still reaches ideal coffee growing elevations.
Costa Rica “Tarrazu” Coffee
The Tarrazu region produces some of the best Costa Rican coffee around on a consistent basis. The capital of San Marcos is around 1,350 meters above sea level but the surrounding mountains go up to 1,700 meters, allowing for very high altitudes and the development of the very best coffees. The Tarrazu region is located in the country’s interior mountains, with a minimum altitude of 1,200 meters, and the best coffees from this area is known to be relatively heavy-bodied, exhibiting a complex aroma. Nearly all Tarrazu coffees are Strictly High Grown.
San Marcos de Tarrazu in particular is known to produce a distinguished coffee. La Minita Coffee Farm in Tarrazu is known for its highly rated arabica coffees.
Costa Rica “Monte Crisol” Coffee
One of Costa Rica’s best coffee’s is Costa Rica Monte Crisol, grown in the country’s West Central Valley. Monte Crisol coffee is known for its sweetness, silky body, and fruity brightness. The brewed coffee also exhibits topnotes of blueberry and has a buttery finish.
Costa Rica “Alajuela” Coffee
Alajuela is located towards the Northern-Central region of Costa Rica, and is known for its steep slopes with altitudes ranging from 100 to 2,600 meters. The majority of the coffee is grown and harvested from 1,200 to 1,600 meters and known for its apple and apricot flavor. Caturra and Catuai are the primary varietals.
Costa Rica “Cartago” Coffee
The Cartago region is nearly dead-center of Costa Rica in the valle Del Guarco. The Cartago region grows coffee primarily between 1,200 and 1,650 meters and tasting notes indicate it has great spice and nutty flavor. Caturra and Catuai are the primary varietals.
Heredia and Tres Rios Regions
Coffees from Costa Rica’s Heredia and Alajuela regions are known for their full body and rich, robust flavor and acidity. Tres Rios is near the coast of the Pacific Ocean and is known to produce bright coffees with a sweet, mild flavor. These regions range from 1,200 to 1,650 meters in alitude.
Costa Rica Coffee Plant Varietals
Other coffee plant varietals grown in Costa Rica include Caturra, known to produce a full-bodied, bright coffee, Catuai and Mondo Novo.
Costa Rica’s Villa Sarchi varietal is derived from the Caturra varietal and the Bourbon varietal.
Sarchimor and Timor Coffee Plant Varietals
Another coffee plant varietal grown in Costa Rica is known as Sarchimor and is a hybrid between the Timor varietal and the Costa Rican Villa Sarchi varietal (Coffea arabica var. villa sarchi).
Costa Rica Green Coffee Grading
The green coffee grading system of Costa Rica coffees is altitude based, and grades by hardness, which is affected by altitude. More precisely, it is affected by how long the coffee cherry (fruit) takes to mature on the coffee plant. In general, higher regions producing denser, and thus harder coffee beans, which are considered better. Local brokers and distributors in the region work with green coffee importers to bring unroasted coffees into the United States and Canada. It’s then sold in 132-lb bulk coffee bags to large scale coffee roasters.
Costa Rican coffees are also generally available as Fair Trade and Organic certified. The Rainforest certification is also popular in Costa Rica.
The Costa Rican grading system includes the following classifications:
Strictly High Grown (SHG) / Strictly Hard Beans (SHB), which grow higher than 1,200 meters above sea level;
Good Hard Beans (GHB), which grow at elevations between 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) and 3,900 feet (1,200 meters), and
Medium Hard Beans (MHB), which grow at elevations from 500 meters to 900 meters.
A potential new export from Costa Rica is the dried coffee cherry itself – known as cascara – which is a potential export alongside the coffee beans themselves that can help boost revenues for farmers. The coffee cherries are typically discarded (sometimes used for fertilizer) but is actually a highly nutritious product that can be made into things like cascara lattes.
Best Costa Rica Coffee Brands
The majority of brands you’ll find selling a Costa Rican coffee will be locally based – out of North America or Europe or Australia. Brands specific to the country (Costa Rica) itself are sometimes exported but due to the importing process and supply chain involved with grocery stores and distribution facilities, are never fresh due to the weeks or months it takes roasted coffee end up on shelves. That’s why it’s always better to buy from a company that imports green beans and roasts it locally.
Costa Rica Green Coffee Bean Production
2016: 1,486,036 = 196,156,752 lbs
2015: 1,633,630 = 215,639,213 lbs
2014: 1,407,752 = 185,823,290 lbs
2013: 1,443,758 = 190,576,069 lbs
2012: 1,657,814 = 218,831,395 lbs
Costa Rica Green Coffee Bean Exports
2015: 994,740 = 131,305,680 lbs
2014: 1,144,610 = 151,088,520 lbs
2013: 1,236,560 = 163,225,920 lbs
2012: 1,380,100 = 182,173,200 lbs