Costa Rica takes its coffee very seriously. Who knew? Certainly not me. Like many people not in on the not-so-secret secret, I lumped the area from Mexico down to South America into the selfsame second-string Arabica percolator. It turns out that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Perhaps it’s the conquering Spanish influence? (Or am I just grabbing at straws?) One thing is certain: Costa Rica has a perfect climate and terroir for growing coffee cherries, from volcanic soil that lends itself to a robustly roasted espresso, to the Tarrazu highlands, which produce an earthy, chocolate-inflected bean across shade-covered hills. Tres Rios could very well be called the country’s “coffee basket” since so many of the beans grown in the region are exported by companies like Starbucks, who depend on a consistently smooth, mild blend. (CR ranks 13th among the coffee producing countries across the globe for gross production; again, who knew?)
Cafe Britt has been responsible for turning the native appreciation for coffee into a more modern love of contemporary coffee culture, with a chain of cafes that feature local art, chocolate covered everything, and enough frozen faux coffee-cino-type drinks to make an espresso fan blanch. For the most part, they have been successful – and I have to admit that despite all the unnecessary tchochkes, their beans are admirable and stashed in my bag for the flight home.
So, too, is this curious contraption: a traditional Costa Rican device for making filter coffee. Before the advent of the percolator, you would have found one of these in every home. Place ground coffee goes into the filter pouch, add not-quite-boiling water and let it drip through and into the cup below: tada. Easy peasy, plus the cotton is not as absorbent as a paper filter cone, so you get more of the natural oil that gives a good cup of joe its balanced flavor. I can’t wait to try it out for myself.