There are two types of coffee available in Costa Rica: export quality (grano d’oro, literally the “golden bean”), typically packaged by either Café Britt or Café Rey and served in good hotels and restaurants; and the lower-grade blend, usually sold for the home market. Costa Rica’s export-grade coffee is known the world over for its mellowness and smoothness. The stuff produced for the domestic market, however, is another matter entirely; some of it is even pre-sweetened, so if you ask for it with sugar (con azúcar), you’ll get a saccharine shock.

All coffee in Costa Rica is Arabica; it’s illegal to grow anything else. Among the best brews you’ll find are La Carpintera, a smooth, rich, hard bean grown on Cerro de la Carpintera in the Valle Central, and Zurqui, the oldest cultivated bean in the country, grown for 150 years on the flanks of Volcán Barva. Strong, but with a silky, gentle taste, Café el Gran Vito, grown by Italian immigrants near San Vito in the extreme south of the country, is an unusual grade of export bean, harder to find than those grown in the Valle Central.

Several small coffee producers run tours of their plantations, allowing you to see the coffee-cultivating process up close and to try their home-grown roasts on site. For places that offer coffee tours in the Valle Central, home to five of the country‘s eight regional varieties, For more information, see Anyone for coffee?; for places around Monteverde.

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