Costa Rica Coffee: Positive Change, One Cup At A Time

Coffee is one of Costa Rica’s most famous and delicious exports. But beyond providing your morning fuel, is the Costa Rica coffee industry giving back? In the case of three organizations, the answer is a resounding yes!

Coffee is one of Costa Rica’s most profitable commodities.

The “golden beans” were first brought to Central America in the 1700s and they found ideal growing conditions. The mineral-rich volcanic soils, high altitude, and cool mountain climate were perfect.

When the government realized the economic potential of coffee, they offered free land to any coffee farmers willing to export. Production skyrocketed, and today Costa Rica is one of the most-respected and award-winning coffee producers in the world.

Coffee plays an important role in Costa Rican culture and enjoying an afternoon “cafecito” is a time-honoured tradition.

With the boom of coffee exports around the world and the rise of top-chain cafes, coffee lovers now have more options than ever.

Consumers now value coffee in a different way. Many look for higher-quality experiences and seek more socially conscious brands.

Below are some examples of these ground-breaking brands at work in Costa Rica:

Hacienda Alsacia: Cultivating Change

Recently, the coffee elephant in the room – Starbucks – opened the 600-acre Hacienda Alsacia about an hour outside San Jose.

This is their first and only coffee farm in the world.

Hacienda Alsacia is a working coffee farm, complete with a new visitor center. In a half-day trip from San Jose, you can explore the journey of coffee from seedling to cup.

You can also witness firsthand the work they do with local farmers to promote sustainable practices and develop the next generation of coffee. They set aside 25 acres of Hacienda Alsacia for research teams to help develop the next generation of disease-resistant, high-quality coffee.

Committed to sharing information and resources with coffee farmers around the world, Starbucks has already donated thousands of seedlings cultivated from five new hybrid strains to Costa Rica’s coffee institute.

Hacienda Alsacia also hosts a Farmer Support Center. This center helps farmers learn how to grow coffee in a more sustainable way, using less water and less land.

The research here is ambitious. There is nothing less than the future of your cup of coffee at stake, as climate change forces farmers to adapt their growing practices.

Bean Voyage: Women-Powered Coffee

As big as the challenge of climate change, the coffee industry is also rife with inequality.

Women own 25% of the world’s coffee farms and form 70% of the workforce in the coffee supply chain. But they earn 39% less than their male counterparts.

From lack of financing opportunities and/or training, they also produce lower quality yields, while facing discrimination. This is where Bean Voyage comes in.

Bean Voyage isn’t a coffee company per se. It’s more of a non-profit organization on a mission to support women in Costa Rica’s coffee industry.

The NGO is a collective of entrepreneurs, economists, sociologists, activists, and coffee pros, all committed to training female coffee producers and transforming their businesses.

On each bag of Bean Voyage’s coffee beans, you’ll learn the name and story of the woman who produced it.

I joined Bean Voyage on a visit one of their member’s farms – Cafe Famu in Bustamante, south of San Jose.

Owner Ana Lorna Ureña showed me the various sustainability methods she’s implemented, and how she’s learned to roast her own coffee. Her roasting machine? A reworked BBQ.

It’s astounding that even with such limitations, Ana Lorena could prepare such a good, clean cup of coffee. People like Ana Lorena are inspirations for everyone at Bean Voyage.

Today Bean Voyage has provided over 50 women coffee producers with training and a sales platform to take their brands to the next level.

Bean Voyage is working to increase women-powered coffee in the domestic market, too. Keep your eyes open in your nearest coffee shop or grocery store for the Bean Voyage brand.

Cafe Britt: Biodiversity Conservation

Café Britt Coffee

Café Britt Coffee / Café Britt Costa Rica Facebook Page

The Café Britt coffee brand is ubiquitous in Costa Rica’s grocery stores and airports.

Also, they’re becoming better known for their efforts to support wildlife conservation. Costa Rica is famous for its incredible flora and fauna. Café Britt is committed to environmental sustainability, especially to protecting native animals in Costa Rica.

Mérito Jaguar Blend is Britt’s contribution to jaguar conservation in Costa Rica. They partnered with the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica to improve the tracking of jaguars in national parks.

The sales of the Mérito Jaguar Blend were so successful, Britt has since announced a new line of Hábitat blends. These new blends will support other conservation efforts of indigenous animals.

For the first new blend, Café Britt partnered with the Toucan Rescue Ranch on their sloth conservation work. More than Costa Rica’s most adorable resident, sloths are essential to the health of the forests they inhabit.

Purchases of Café Britt’s Habitat Sloth blend will help provide collars and transmitters to track rescued sloths upon their release.

So how do you get your coffee fix and support Costa Rica? Easy, drink the coffee.

Stop by Hacienda Alsacia and learn more about Starbuck’s efforts to develop and share research on disease-resistant, high-quality coffee.

Try out one of Bean Voyage’s women-powered blends. Ana Lorena’s dark roast is a must! And you’ll also make a powerful statement about supporting small businesses while empowering Costa Rican women.

Or request Britt’s Hábitat blend the next time you pass through the airport cafe. You’ll know you’re contributing to the conservation of Costa Rica’s cute and cuddly sloths.

With our world’s extensive consumption of coffee, selecting the right coffee is a small choice. But still an important choice, one that can impact our future.

Nuala Lawlor is a sometimes-Canadian diplomat, full-time mom/wife, and wannabe journalist living in San Jose, Costa Rica.