Why you don’t want to miss out on doing a Coffee and Chocolate Tour while in Costa Rica
A lot of us are pretty removed and disconnected from food production, especially when it comes to coffee and chocolate. We crave and indulge in these items, but rarely give a second thought to how they ended up on our tables.
Did you know that it takes up to 5 years for a cacao tree to start producing the fruit that can be used to make chocolate?
Most of us don’t know how a lot of our food is produced, but isn’t it nice to know a bit more about what you’re putting in your mouth?
Costa Rica is one of the best countries to learn about Coffee and Chocolate production
Costa Rica isn’t one of the biggest producers of either coffee or cacao in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an important part of their economy. It’s just because Costa Rica is a relatively small country and can’t compete on export quantity with countries like Brazil or Vietnam
The majority of the producers in Costa Rica are small-scale farms, run by farmers who really love the product they’re growing. They are eager to share their knowledge and will tell you with passion about the techniques they use to produce coffee and chocolate.
In Costa Rica, there are around 43,000 coffee farms and approximately 3,500 families growing cacao. Many of these families also produce their own chocolate that you will be able to taste after doing a tour.
In most towns in Costa Rica, you’ll be able to find a coffee and chocolate tour, often sold as a combined tour. It’s a great way to spend the day, learn about how they’re produced, how they’ve influenced Costa Rica’s history and of course try some samples!
In this blog post, you will read about why you shouldn’t miss out on this amazing opportunity to visit a local farm, and let the locals explain to you with all their heart and passion how coffee and chocolate is made.
Everything you want to know about – Coffee tours in Costa Rica
How is coffee produced?
We don’t want to spoil the whole process for you, otherwise what’s the point of doing the tour! What we do want to do is give you a little background knowledge.
A coffee plant can take up to 5 years to grow before it starts producing berries. Each healthy tree can then produce up to 2,000 berries a year. These are then harvested, processed to retrieve the beans and then roasted.
Why Costa Rica is one of the best places in the world to do a coffee tour
During a coffee tour, a local expert will take you on a journey around the farm. The farmer will explain to you about the history of coffee in Costa Rica, the history of the farm and how it operates.
Visiting these coffee farms can be done all year round, but if you’re visiting between October and May you might be extra lucky: you may even get to do some harvesting yourself!
Costa Rican coffee is considered some of the best in the world due to its exceptional quality and near-perfect growing conditions.
No matter which region you take a tour in, it’s going to be good. The main coffee producing regions are:
- West Valley
- Tarrazu (the largest region which produces up to 35% of the nation’s coffee)
- Tres Rio
- Central Valley (the first coffee in Costa Rica was planted here)
Facts about coffee production in Costa Rica
- On average, Costa Rica produces around 1.5 million bags of coffee each year.
- The types of coffee produced are all of the Arábica variety. These beans tend to be smooth and sweet, with notes of roasted chocolate, berry and citrus flavours.
- Costa Rica was actually one of the first Central American countries to establish coffee as one of its big industries. Its warm climate of subtropical and equatorial regions help to make it an ideal place for growing it.
Our 3 favourite coffee farms in Costa Rica
– Don Juan’s Coffee Farm – Monteverde
Don Juan’s Coffee Farm is one of the most popular coffee farms in Monteverde. The farm dates back all the way to 1937, so you could argue that they’re pretty experienced when it comes to growing coffee.
It’s a family-run and ecotourism business, so you know that your money is going towards helping small-scale producers.
The tour will take you on the full coffee production journey, right from the humble red cherry at the very start, to the delicious cup of coffee at the end.
The family are also avid producers of chocolate and sugar, so this combined tour takes you on insightful journeys for all three products.
How to visit?
A number of tours run every day, lasting for 3-hours. The cost of an adult ticket is $33.
It’s less than a 10-minute drive from Downtown Santa Elena where most people stay in Monteverde.
TIP: Also check out our Monteverde travel guides and 13 more amazing activities in and around Monteverde.
– Finca Rosa Blanca – San José
Finca Rosa Blanca is situated high in the mountains, on the slopes of Poás Volcano and Barva Volcano. Using their 30 acres of rich soil, they produce high-altitude organic coffee that simply tastes amazing!
The farm is focused on sustainable practices, using no pesticides or petrochemicals, just employing effective and natural methods to help the organic coffee flourish.
It’s also more than just a coffee farm. You can stay in their homely and beautifully decorated inn for a few nights, relaxing and soaking in nature.
How to visit?
– Hacienda Alsacia – San José
Hacienda Alsacia farm is one to visit if you’re a Starbucks fan. It’s their first and only coffee farm in Costa Rica.
Their mission is to make growing coffee more profitable for small-scale farms, develop the next generation of disease-resistant coffee, and share information and resources freely with farmers around the world.
Although Starbucks is a big corporation, you’re still helping the little guys and encouraging more big companies to create partnerships with these small-scale farmers.
How to visit?
The tour around Hacienda Alsacia lasts for 1.5 hours and costs $30 per person.
The 240-hectare farm is located an hour from San Jose, at the base of the spectacular Poás Volcano.
TIP: If you have a stopover in San Jose, or you’re spending a few days in the city, there are plenty of other things to do in the capital of Costa Rica.
Everything you want to know about – Chocolate Tours in Costa Rica
How is chocolate produced?
A large proportion of the world is obsessed with chocolate. It’s our guilty pleasure. Most us get caught up in that delicious taste while we don’t even know how it’s made.
Chocolate begins with a cacao tree that needs hot temperatures, rain and a bit of shade to flourish. Each tree produces pods that contain between 30-50 seeds – the cacao.
When the cacao pods turn a ripe orange/yellow, they are harvested. The beans are then exposed to light and fermented, before being dried for at least 7-14 days.
After this drying process, the beans are roasted and the shells are separated from the nibs. These nibs are then grounded and placed under extremely high pressure to produce cocoa powder and cocoa butter.
And voila, this cacao butter is ready to be transformed into a delicious chocolate bar.
That was our own whistle-stop tour, but we can guarantee you that the actual chocolate tours do a much better job. The farmers can show you how much it takes to create the tastiest chocolate.
Cacao plays an important role in Costa Rican culture
Cacao, which is used to make chocolate, was a prized possession for some indigenous communities in Costa Rica. Fun fact: it was even being used as a form of currency up until the 1930s.
It’s still an important part of Costa Rican culture, where cacao is used in traditional recipes and serves as a form of income for a lot of families.
Our 3 favourite chocolate farms in Costa Rica
– Bri Bri Indigenous Village and Chocolate Tour – Puerto Viejo
Cacao is considered to have spiritual benefits by a number of indigenous communities, one of them being the Bri Bri community.
Today cacao serves as an important source of income for the community. Even though production for them has increased, they have maintained their sustainable and natural cultivation practices.
During a tour, you will not only learn how chocolate is made, you’ll also get to understand the Bribri culture, learn about the cacao plant and how cacao is used in traditional recipes.
How to visit?
From Puerto Viejo, you can book a tour that lasts around 6 hours for around $87.
– Don Juan’s Coffee Farm – Monteverde
We already mentioned Don Juan’s Coffee Farm as one of the best places to take a coffee tour. Just like the coffee tour, we can’t leave out this family run business from the list of our favourite chocolate tours in Costa Rica. They offer a 3 in 1 tour that includes chocolate and sugar cane production.
They’ll take you through the entire chocolate making process, from seed to the chocolate bar. Some lucky members of the tour will also get to grind cacao beans and make their own chocolate bar.
And then the favourite part: Getting to taste several types of chocolate yourself!
How to visit?
There are a number of tours run every day which last for 3-hours. The cost of an adult ticket is $33.
It’s less than a 10-minute drive from Downtown Santa Elena where most people stay when visiting Monteverde.
– Rainforest Chocolate Tour – La Fortuna
A lot of people visit La Fortuna during their trip to Costa Rica. It’s commonly seen as an adventure hub, but it’s also a great place to learn about chocolate.
Rainforest Chocolate offers a ‘hands on’ tour, where you’ll be involved in the production of the chocolate, whilst learning about it too. You’ll get to harvest the fruits, grind them and help to make the traditional cacao drink of Costa Rica’s ancestors.
The organisation is focused on combining responsible tourism with sustainability and quality practices that help to improve the standard of living of the community.
How to visit?
Rainforest Chocolate Tour is located only a 5-minute drive from the centre of La Fortuna. You could even walk there if you don’t have a car as it takes only 30 minutes from the centre.
Multiple tours run throughout the day and last for approximately 2 hours. Adult tickets cost $30.
TIP: The waterfalls and volcanoes that surround La Fortuna are the perfect playground for exploration. If you are someone who likes to add some adventure to your trip, make sure to check out these 17 amazing things to do in Costa Rica.
Rounding it up
Learning what it takes to produce coffee and chocolate is a fascinating experience. After the tour, you’ll get to wow your friends with the knowledge you’ve gained, that they probably didn’t know!
When choosing a tour, we’d recommend looking at the companies website to ensure that they’re sustainable, ethical and someone you want to give your money to. The ones we recommended already are, but that doesn’t mean all others are bad.
Joining any sustainable coffee or cacao tour is a great way to support the smaller farmers in Costa Rica!
If you want a combination tour, we’d recommend the Don Juan Tour in Monteverde. This way you get to learn about three important exports in Costa Rica.
Our favourite tour though has to be the Bribri community and chocolate tour. You’ll get to experience an incredible and insightful day where you will learn about the products that are an important part of Costa Rica’s culture.
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Kate is a writer, (ex)Management Consultant and avid traveller. She recently returned from a 2-year career break exploring the world and decided corporate life wasn’t for her. She’ll soon be testing life as a digital nomad. She’s visited over 40 countries and fell in love with Latin America in particular. Her travelling has inspired a passion for yoga, salsa, hiking and Spanish.
Aleksandra is a writer and editor who recently moved from Hong Kong to London. She’s worked and studied in four countries (and counting) and picked up a new hobby in each of them. She’s a big fan of long train journeys so you can count on her to take the scenic route, finding a few hidden gems along the way.