It’s Harvest Season in Costa Rica

It’s Harvest Season in Costa Rica

February 2016

It's Harvest Season in Costa Rica

The fruity smell of ripe coffee cherries means that our favorite time is coming soon: coffee harvest season. In Costa Rica, the harvest comes once a year, and it's full of tradition. We’re dedicating this article to the pickers and the process that make Café Britt’s coffee the country's finest.


What Is Harvest Season?

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Costa Rica has one harvest season a year.

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Season: October - March.

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It's the season when mature coffee (red cherries) is hand-picked.

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The busiest time of the year for coffee farmers and pickers.


It All Starts With The Pickers

Coffee picking in Costa Rica is an honored and cherished tradition that thousands take part in every year. Locals are joined in the tradition by traveling families from Nicaragua and Panama to harvest the country’s most famous export.

Men in front of two pick-up trucks

One of the reasons Costa Rican coffee has earned its reputation is through the expertise of these pickers. During the harvest season, they wake up very early in the morning and head to the farms, arriving before the sun rises to ensure they can pick as many beans as possible. At the end of the day, they are paid according to the amount of cherries they have picked. Costa Rica’s Fair Trade laws ensure that the pickers are paid at or above the going market rate.

Man carrying a coffee-picking basket

The Right Way to Pick a Coffee Bean

Coffee picking is physically challenging work that requires specialized knowledge and skill. Because coffee cherries ripen at different times, pickers must be able to identify the stages of the fruit and only pick the ripest ones.


In Costa Rica, the best way to distinguish a cherry that is ready for picking is by its brightness, and pickers search for the brightest red cherries. There are two commonly used harvest methods:


  • Selective Harvest:
    In this method, pickers determine the ripeness of a cherry by its appearance and texture. When the fruit is ripe, it will be slightly squishy and bright red. Pickers will only harvest the cherries that are ripe and leave the rest on the tree to ripen.
Close-up of person picking coffee cherries
  • Stripping Harvest:
    When using this method, pickers will sweep an entire branch, removing both the ripe and unripe cherries. This is best toward the end of the season when most of the beans are ripe, and it becomes too time intensive to specifically pick out only the ripe cherries.
Close-up of person picking coffee cherries

A Day in the Life of a Coffee Picker

A coffee picker’s day starts with an early-morning arrival to the coffee plantation. When they arrive, the foreman,gives them their assignment for the day. The pickers then attach a basket to their waists. When it is full, they empty it into a larger bag and fill it again.

Ripe coffee cherries in baskets

A very good coffee picker fills 20 cajuelas a day. A cajuela is an official unit of measurement established by the Costa Rican government, and it’s used only for coffee.


At the end of the day, the foreman measures the number of cajuelas picked by each worker and pays them. Strict regulations ensure that the pickers receive a fair wage for the day’s work.

Person dumping ripe coffee cherries into a bag
Man handing a large bag to a person in a truck
Truck carrying large plastic bags

After they have received their payment for the day, the pickers return home to rest and relax before doing it all over again the next day!

Two men walking on a path in a forest

We hope that knowing the hard work and dedication that goes into picking coffee beans that get you going in the morning brings you more joy and appreciation for your favorite beverage!

Have any questions? Our Coffee Experts will be more than happy to help

Call: 1-800-GO-BRITT

(1-800-462-7488)

E-mail: [email protected]

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