In Costa Rica, the obsession with coffee is difficult to overstate. People drink about six cups per day, still believing they might have another. A sizeable chunk of the labor force works in the coffee industry, and although coffee shop culture was slow to take off here, Starbucks—which did not make this list for obvious reasons—has recently opened a couple of shops.
Coffee has been important in Costa Rica since the 18th century, when the “grano de oro” (golden grain) grown in the Central Valley began to fuel the economy. Today, some of the best coffee in the world comes from Costa Rica and the crop continues to be one of the country’s main exports. But where to drink it, you ask? Well, everywhere. The reason cafés are only just becoming popular is that Costa Ricans think of coffee as something to drink wherever they happen to be standing, so why designate a special place? That said, there are certain cafés, plantations, and coffee-themed hotels that provide a full coffee experience. Here are my favorites.
Coopedota Coffee Cooperative
Based in Santa Maria de Dota, this cooperative of about 800 farms was the world’s first to go carbon neutral. The farms operate on low energy and water consumption and generate energy from organic waste, offsetting all of their greenhouse gas emissions. On top of that, some coffees produced from these farms have won international accolades in cupping competitions. You can sample the brews and even take a tour of the processing and roasting plants.
Café Brumas de Zurqui
In the picturesque mountain town of San Isidro de Heredia, this European-style coffee shop sells cups and bags of premium coffee, including the beloved Tarrazú. Grown in the Zona de Los Santos, Tarrazú in 2013 was named the world’s best coffee. The shop is also clean, orderly, and air-conditioned, with impressive artwork and lots of delicious pastries and snacks.
For a lesson in the history and process of making coffee, hit Doka Estate in the quaint Póas region, where the road curves past organic strawberry farms, authentic souvenir shops, and coffee plantations. The Vargas family has owned and operated the Doka farm since 1940, and their engaging tour includes breakfast, Peaberry and French roast samples, and a stop at the family roasting factory—the oldest in the country.
Hotel Finca Rosa Blanca
Situated in the mountains of Alajuela, this romantic inn doubles as a coffee plantation and offers tours of its 30-acre organic farm, processing plant, and roasting house. You’ll learn about how the shade-grown coffee matures slowly without being exposed to any agrochemicals or pesticides, and is nourished by compost for a rich, earthy flavor. The 2.5-hour tour leaves at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Café de los Deseos
Surprisingly, frozen coffee hasn’t really become a thing in Costa Rica. But on a hot day in San José, there is one place to go for a Frappuccino-style beverage—Café de Los Deseos. The artsy café in Barrio Aranjuez serves up its café frio in a tall glass with chocolate and whipped cream. Take a seat with one of these, relax, and gawk at all the hipster Ticos.