In Costa Rica, coffee is more than just a drink—it’s a way of life. Costa Rica has been producing coffee for more than 200 years, and the coffee trade truly made the country what it is today. Railroads, hospitals, theaters, universities, and more were built on the back of this transformative “grano de oro,” or golden bean. Even more enduring are the rituals and recipes surrounding the beloved “cafecito,” coffee.
The country’s coffee bean production is distinguished by its large proportion of small landholders, many of whom band together in cooperatives. Some 90% of Costa Rican coffee producers own small- to medium-sized farms. This historical tendency towards land ownership has contributed greatly towards the country’s relative prosperity when compared with other countries in the region.
Until a generation ago, it was common for even urban Ticos to spend time on a coffee farm during harvest season. According to an old saying, you aren’t Costa Rican until you have picked coffee.
High-quality coffee has been and continues to be both serious business and a point of pride for Costa Ricans. Costa Rican coffee standards are so high, in fact, that it is actually illegal to grow anything other than Arabica beans in the country.
Arabica coffee beans thrive in high altitudes and damp climates—both of which Costa Rica has in abundance. Due to the large number of active and extinct volcanoes, the country has both nutrient-rich soil from previous volcanic eruptions and high-altitude, mountainous areas with a cool climate. It also has a wide availability of foliage, allowing the beans to grow under the cover of shade. With shade-grown coffee, green coffee beans mature at a slower pace, giving them the time to soak up the nutrients and flavors of the soil and develop more complex tastes.
Café Britt takes full advantage of this diverse geography, sourcing green coffee beans from various regions throughout Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has eight coffee-growing regions, each with its own qualities and flavor profiles. While we often release special edition blends from other parts of the country, our standard product offering features coffees from Tarrazú, the Central and West Valleys, Tres Ríos, and the Brunca region.
We take great pride in sourcing beans grown in the highly coveted Tarrazú region. Tarrazú is known worldwide for the exotically flavored Arabica beans it produces. Its hidden valleys and high mountains create the ideal climate for growing coffee beans. Our relationship with Tarrazú farmers spans decades, and our commitment to fairly compensating these farmers for their work ensures that we receive the best beans the region has to offer. Café Britt’s expert roasters then use a special method to draw the caramelized sugar produced in Tarrazú beans to the top and give the coffee its distinctive acidic, chocolaty flavor.
The Central Valley is Costa Rica’s oldest coffee-growing region, as well as its most heavily populated. It is also considered one of the world’s best places to grow Arabica beans, due in large part to the area volcanoes and the rough and unpredictable weather they experience. Our Poas Volcanic Earth blend highlights the strong, earthy flavors that characterize this region.
Another valley that produces coffee for our year-round blends is the West Valley. It has well-defined wet and dry seasons, allowing for more consistent flowering, maturation, and harvesting. It also has plentiful high-altitude areas, another essential element for coffee production.
The smallest coffee-growing region in the Costa Rica is also one of its most well-known. Tres Ríos is often called the Bordeaux of Costa Rica, due to the high quality that it produces despite its smaller size. With volcanic soil enriched by the nearby Irazú Volcano, Tres Ríos also has the highest-altitude coffee farms in the country.
Two of our most special coffees are from the Brunca Region, in the south of the country. Known for its exuberant biodiversity, this region provides the coffee beans for our Organic coffee and Fair Trade coffee options. This beautiful area is ideal for shade-grown coffee production, due to its abundant vegetation and tropical climate. The result is a full-bodied, complex coffee.
Coffee is grown in all seven provinces of Costa Rica, and one of our favorite special edition collections has been the Provincias blends. In order to reflect the diversity of the coffee available in Costa Rica, we developed a line which offers one province, one blend. In addition to more common production areas like Cartago and San José, the collection includes coffee from places like Guanacaste and Limón. Because of the differences in altitude and weather, the flavor produced varies greatly. They also develop differently when brewed based on which roast our Master Roaster has chosen to complement the coffee’s natural qualities.
Founded in Costa Rica, our company has been a leader in the gourmet coffee industry here since the start. More importantly, we have done so while supporting Costa Rican coffee farmers. Our commitment to fair trade and sustainable business practices is what makes Café Britt thrive. We adhere to strict working condition standards and compensate our workers fairly. This ethical practice has the added benefit of allowing us to develop personal relationships with our growers and receive the best coffee beans in return.
Café Britt was one of the first coffee companies to recognize the value of organic coffee, and we led the movement in the Costa Rican coffee industry to popularize sustainable production. We even assisted some of our coffee plantations in their quest to become certified organic by the USDA.
It all comes back to the coffee traditions we have been practicing for decades. We take growing coffee seriously because we know that it represents much more than a beverage. To us, coffee is the best way to enjoy life’s most precious moments—both big and small. Our cultural and culinary passions have helped Costa Rica to become one of the foremost coffee-growing countries in the world.