We’re fortunate to have become friends with two families who have coffee farms in Costa Rica. The Rodriguez’s small farm above Heredia was our introduction in 1993 to how coffee was grown and picked in Costa Rica and more recently in 2007, and 2015 we’ve spent a few days on our friend Jim Alafaro’s estate at Río Jorcó in the hills of Tarrazu – the most famous and revered of Costa Rica’s coffee producing regions. Anyone who’s interested can visit a farm to see the harvest and processing on a coffee tour in Costa Rica.
Coffee farming is labor intensive. The rough, steep and variable terrain of the volcanic mountain slopes where the highest quality coffee thrives makes it very difficult to operate machinery so hand tools are still used.
Nearly every coffee farm in Costa Rica was established as a family operation and many like the Rodriguez’s and Río Jorcó Estates can trace their roots back to grandparents or great-grandparents who homesteaded and pioneered the land in the 1800’s. Clearing the rain forest by hand, cutting roads with shovels and teams of oxen, terracing the hillsides and planting coffee for export to the growing European market.
Jim’s family has absorbed other small farms as their owners saw their children head off to jobs in the city. They have also started initiatives to help the remaining farmers break into the world of exclusive premium sourced roasts that command higher prices because of not only the region they come from but the specific growing conditions encountered on tiny plots that may only produce a few fanegas (a uniquely Central American measure of coffee cherries that equals 250 kilos).
Each plot is kept separate from growing through picking, processing and roasting all the way to the cup in the coffee shop in Amsterdam, Paris or New York.
Below are a few of our photos from a couple of decades of visits to these two coffee farms showing the first part of the coffee process – growing and picking. Each of the photos links to a detailed description if you’d like to learn more.
See also the photo albums for processing the coffee from red ripe cherries to green beans and the ritual that is cupping (or tasting) coffee.