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
- Region: Tarrazu
- 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
- Body: Round
- 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.
Most large brands like Starbucks (through the Reserve program) will sell Costa Rican coffees as a single origin rather than a blend, offering a pure tasting experience. Their bright, citrusy flavors make them popular in many branded blends though, even though the blend may not specifically mention it.
Note: “Villa Rica” is a coffee organization from Peru, not Costa Rica.
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, and the best coffees from this area is known to be relatively heavy-bodied, exhibiting a complex aroma.
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.
Heredia, Alajuela 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.
Other, less common coffee producing regions include:
- Central Valley
Costa Rica Coffee Plant Varietals
Costa Rica’s Villa Sarchi varietal is derived from the Caturra varietal and the Bourbon varietal.
Sarchimor and Timor Coffee Plant Varietals
Due to traits inherited from the Timor varietal (which is itself a hybrid of Coffea canephora var. robusta and Coffea arabica), Sarchimor has a significant resistance to the coffee disease coffee leaf rust as well as the stem borer. The Sarchimor varietal grows in India as well as Costa Rica.
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.
Women’s Coffee in Costa Rica
The IWCA (International Women’s Coffee Alliance) has a chapter in Costa Rica known as the WCACR (Women in Coffee Alliance of Costa Rica). Started in 2005, it now has 17 company-members from 7 regions that include roasters, exporters, millers and growers.
A common misconception about “Women’s Coffee” is that it strictly supports women. This is infact untrue – while a premium is paid directly to women, the entire family is involved in most operations including the husband. The nature of the women’s coffee movement is to ensure women are given access to money generated from the work they do on their farms, which is more frequently spent on household necessities for the family, than would otherwise be spent if paid directly to the men.
Bird Friendly Costa Rica Coffee
Coffee from Costa Rica may be available as certified Bird Friendly, which has additional requirements for farms to have a certain coverage and variety of taller trees in which birds can nest. A lack of taller trees to shade coffee means that birds are left without safe nesting grounds, and biodiversity is impacted.
Wholesale coffee operations with a pure focus tend to clear larger trees, whose shade slows the growth of coffee beans and reduces output of the coffee plants. This slower growth means that coffee develops less flavor and a lower quality coffee, but the higher yields means more money. Bird Friendly coffees can be argued to be generally higher quality coffee than non-shade-grown coffees, but this is not an absolute rule.