UK Coffee Week is happening this week!
For most people, coffee is a necessity in life. It energises, soothes, warms and comforts us so we can get on with our daily duties.
We don’t need another excuse to celebrate coffee but have you ever considered where it all begins?
One of our very own Smarter team members, Michael, recently took a trip to Central America, venturing deep into the Costa Rican jungles to discover more about the country’s iconic coffee production and why the big guns like Starbucks can’t get enough of the beans from the Rich Coast.
Working at Smarter I’ve come to find that members of our innovative team are one of two things;
• A hopelessly addicted coffee nut, who continually uses the smartphone to turn on the office Smarter Coffee maker and brew another pot.
• Or a precisely refined tea-drinker that must have the water at the perfect temperature, with tea bag left to sit for exactly four minutes.
While we all try to maintain some form of a healthy relationship with our daily coffees – I like many others do stray over to borderline addict.
Thankfully the recent trip to Costa Rica had me spend a day on a coffee plantation, getting some quality time with my addiction as well as discovering a whole new appreciation for what I sip on each morning.
There is a real sense of national pride from Costa Ricans when discussing their coffee industry.
I’m told that the country has the perfect ingredients for making the world’s best coffee. Sitting just above the equator, Costa Rica’s damp, humid, year-round sunny climate plus its rich volatile soil from the many volcanos (there are in fact more than 300 of them) that lay dormant in the country are a winning combination required for the growth of top quality coffee plants.
The deep connection and value placed on the country’s coffee production date back to the 1700s.
Coffee Arabica was introduced to Costa Rica directly from Ethiopia. By the early 1800s, the local government strongly encouraged coffee production as an opportunity that permitted farmers to start-up new ventures of their own that quickly became a major source of revenue surpassing cacao, tobacco, and sugar production.
By 1973, Costa Rica had doubled its yield, placing the small Central American exportation set-up at the top of the list of worldwide productivity, a ranking that was further strengthened by the quality policies promoted by the CAFE (Coffee and Farming Equity).
On the particular plantation we toured north of San Jose, we were amazed at just how manual the process still was, even now in 2018. The same method that has been perfected over hundreds of years, using similar processes to plant, pick, sort bean quality, roast and package was certainly a testament to just how authentic the type of coffee being produced here in this incredible country.
Employment on coffee plantations is seasonal, which can typically last up to six months of the year, with bean-pickers starting the workdays as early as 4am.
Bean-pickers spend their days scouring the plantation in search of red coffee beans, using a large woven coffee basket tied to the waist for collecting. The end of work bean-pickers turn in their collection bags into cajuelas, which are then sorted and measured for total quantity.
Nowadays, the going rate for a cajuela roughly US$2.00, however, increase over the last 20 years or so, it is still difficult to believe that at Costa Rica coffee plantations, a day of hard labour is currently valued between US$25.00-$32.00.
The global change in consumer habits, the emergence of new trends, both in coffee growing and in purchasing preferences, as well as evolving Costa Rican consumer tastes, have posed new challenges for the local coffee industry.
In 2013, Starbucks bought its first Costa Rican coffee farm which served as a ‘global agronomy center’ testing new arabica varieties and develop future blends something the local industry continues to innovate and improve on.
It’s not just big coffee companies supporting Costa Rica’s flourishing coffee economy.
Tourism is also empowering local community-based projects. G Adventures’ Planeterra Foundation is one such initiative that helps raise funds and create market-based projects that empower local people to create, execute and sustain solutions to their community challenges.
The foundation’s work is a core attribute to G Adventures’ longstanding corporate commitment to using travel as a force for global good.
With such a highly-sort after product, Costa Rica’s economy continues to be built on its coffee exportation, giving it a wealth of opportunity that goes beyond just a decent brew. It also has funded schools, roads, housing, and important infrastructure, as well as employment to thousands.
I certainly learned a lot during my time on the plantation and will certainly look more carefully at the coffee I purchase back home!
What is UK Coffee Week?
UK Coffee Week is a nationwide celebration of coffee that raises funds for coffee growing communities.
This year’s week-long event will be raising funds for a new project in the rural Jabi Tehnan district of Ethiopia, Africa.
For more information check out http://www.ukcoffeeweek.com/