Costa Rican Coffee: Spirit of a Nation

This year's best coffee coffee table book.
This year’s best coffee coffee table book.

Costa Rican coffee doesn’t yield the volume of beans for export that other Latin American countries have to offer, but it has a singular allure and beauty, beauty that comes from its personality, and personality that stems from the fact that Costa Rican coffee is personal.

In Costa Rica, producing coffee is still a people centric activity. The slippery steepness of the mountainsides rich with volcanic soil demands that people-not machines- plant the seeds, tend the trees, and harvest the ripe cherries of Costa Rican coffee. It is the rugged hands, strong backs, and nimble feet of people that brings Costa Rican coffee from the lush green mountains to points of export and to places of preparation for local consumption. We coffee drinkers know that sipping a cup of coffee is a beautiful thing, but Costa Ricans know that producing it is a series of actions that is just as beautiful.

Today, the people behind Costa Rican coffee, the ones performing the beautiful ballet of coffee production choreography, are an international mix drawing from Costa Rica’s borders to the north and south. Indigenous Panamanian Ngobes harvest much of the coffee in the Los Santos Tarrazú region, and Nicaraguans comprise a good part of the work force for the harvests in West and Central Valleys. But for all its international employees, the lifeblood of Costa Rican coffee is purely Tico. Families revel under the rays of early summer sun as they harvest together during the first days of summer vacation. Friends and siblings enjoy picking together as a time to socialize. Dogs gleefully bound between the trees, kicking up the fallen leaves after a pruning. The coffee growing hillsides of Costa Rica are alive with the energy and grace of individual personalities and communal determination.

The stunning 216 page, full color coffee table book Costa Rican Coffee: Spirit of a Nation showcases the breathtaking natural and manmade landscapes of Costa Rican coffee country, but it also captures the spirit of the people who make Costa Rican coffee possible. It zeroes in on the hands, faces, and distant silhouettes of the individuals whose work and effort collectively comprises the  spirit of Costa Rican coffee. Absorb the texture of the spirit with the fully bilingual text and pictures worth thousands of words in any language.

The tag line for Costa Rica’s national coffee office ICAFE is “Unique country, unique coffee,” and it is certainly true that there is nothing else quite like Costa Rica or its enticing coffee.

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Turrialba (p. 112) one of Costa Rica's 8 unique coffee growing regions
Turrialba (p. 112) one of Costa Rica’s 8 unique coffee growing regions

Costa Rican Coffee: Spirit of a Nation makes a great visual companion to When Coffee Speaks: Stories from and of Latin American Coffeepeople (with a fat Turrialba chapter starting on p. 31) Pictured here with a cup of Costa Rican Cafe Don Beto grown, processed, and roasted by Roberto Ortiz and served in a traditionally Tico painted tin cup.


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