At our hotel we asked about a coffee tour. And guess what, our host’s father owns a farm just up the road. Apparently 90% of all coffee production in Costa Rica is done by farmers with less than five hectares.
We understood this was going to be a short drive in a 4×4 with a nice view at the top. But something must have been lost in translation. Francisco arrived, complete with his machete, and asked us if we had enough water and bug repellent for a two hour trek.
At first his farm looked to us like dense jungle on a very steep hillside. But with us panting for breath, Francisco soon revealed a large area of coffee bushes – they look like small laurels with tiny white flowers.
He explained, prior to the 1980s there were many more bushes here. Since then government grants have encouraged farmers like him to re-forest their land. So for Francisco the coffee (and the bananas) are now just a small cash crop.
Coffee growing was introduced into Costa Rica in 1779 direct from Ethiopia. In the 20th century it was fundamentally important to the economy, and locally grown beans were considered some of the best in the world. But today it accounts for around 11% of exports – well behind electronic chips.