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Best Coffee to Bring Home?

Atlanta
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Best Coffee to Bring Home?

When we travel to Costa Rica next week we'll certainly want to bring home some of the wonderful coffee beans to share with our family and friends. Does anyone have any recommendations on the best brands to purchase and where? We'll be in San Jose, Arenal & Manuel Antionio while in Costa Rica.

Thanks!

Tampa, FL
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1. Re: Best Coffee to Bring Home?

Most or at least many people would tell you Cafe Britt. And that would probably be my simple answer too -just "Cafe Britt". But, as many of my friends here will tell you, I rarely give simple answers to anything. So allow me to expand on that a bit.

Buying coffee in CR is not exactly like buying wine in France. Well it is in some respects but not others. Coffee in CR is most often sold by brandnames that have been developed by the major coffee mills. Those mills actually get their beans from a variety of farms in a region(s). It is not, or at least rarely, sold by vineyard, er I mean coffee finca. Oh you can definitely buy coffee at a coffee mill you visit and that mill will have a surrounding farm but there is no way to tell if the coffee you bought came from that field you just visited or another miles, sometimes of tens of miles, away. And the thing is coffee is in other ways like wine, if you're a true connoisseur, in that no one coffee or coffee growing area is considered absolute best from one year to the next. Add to that the fact the grapes, er I mean beans, get mixed in with others from neighboring farms to produce a homogenized product and the brand names become as much a product of marketing as anything else. Not that I mean to compare any CR coffee brand to Ernest & Julio Gallo.

The major EXPORT brands that most people seem to go for are Café Britt, Café Rey, Dota and maybe Naranjo. Of course there are others as well. Café Doka Estates also has a fine coffee which you can buy if you visit their farm but they market almost exclusively as a private label to Starbucks.

That last comment brings me to my next point - where is it best to buy the coffee? A lot of visitors buy coffee just the way many people buy wine in France or California, when visiting a winery, er I mean coffee processing plant. The 2 most popular places to do that near San Jose are Café Britt and Café Doka. There is something appealing about once you get home being able to serve some coffee to your guests and tell them that you purchased right at the farm (or to give such coffee away as gifts to your friends). Just keep in mind that the Coffee you buy there may really have come from someplace else fairly far away in CR. For example, Café Britt, which you can visit in the Poas/Barva Region (western central valley) also sells a Tres Rios (eastern central valley) product and a Tarrazu product (not sure of the region for this last but believe it is a little further south somewhere on the Cordillera de Talamanca.

Another place, I've heard recommended to buy coffee is by simply going into any of the larger supermarkets. This may be the least expensive place to buy it. To be honest, I'm not really sure where you get the best deal -here or right at the farm (promoted heavily at the end of your tour). Walking into a store can be bewildering. Picture as many different types and brands available as in a US store and then increase it. Just keep in mind that many of the brands are local products and not really of export quality (still good but not as great as Dota or Britt, etc.).

This last comment brings me to my final point - once you pick a brnad, what is the best type of coffee to buy? This is a tough question only you can answer as it depends in large part on individual taste. Do you prefer dark roast or light? Are you looking for something decaffeinated or espresso? Most real connoisseurs stay away from the products that have been adulterated with added flavors such as french vanilla, but I'm not that snobby (whatever you like is your business). Some like to mix different flavors in much the same way some people mix different types of orange juices h here in Florida to get the best balance between sweetness, acidity, pulpiness, etc. The thing about CR coffee in general is that it is already pretty balanced, some would say average or boring, but it produces just the type of cup of coffee most americans already like.

The last place, I might suggest to buy your coffee is where I usually do it, right at the Café Britt store at the airport on my way out of the country. I'm not sure how the price compares, probably not the absolute greatest deal. But you can't beat the convenience. No carrying around your coffee in your bags from one place to the next as you tour CR. You just stuff into your bags before you board the plane (or carry it in the special bag they're happy to sell you along with your coffee). And I also like to use up any leftover CR money that way, rather than having to carefully calculate how much US money I need to exchange on my last couple of days in CR.

Panajachel...
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2. Re: Best Coffee to Bring Home?

Nice info from prolijo. I buy bags and bags to take home for gifts and find the grocery stores are definetely the cheapest place to buy. I buy Britt, Volio and others. I like a variety.

IMHO Doka's Tres Generaciones brand is the best in the country. I believe they usually win the annual competitions. You can get it at their place outside San Jose or on their Wes site. They will ship to the US if you visit their beneficio. That is cheaper than buying from their Web site. I keep big bags of Tres Generaciones in the freezer at home. Love it! I think I'll brew up another cup right now!

Tampa, FL
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3. Re: Best Coffee to Bring Home?

Yeah, you're probably right. The local mercado is probably the cheapest way to go and I've gone that route myself on more than one occasion. The key there is that when you go local you're getting the tico prices vs when you buy at the gift shop at the end of the coffee tour (despite buying it closer to the source) or at the airport (where you'd naturally expect to get gouged) you get the higher gringo prices. But there are other factors to consider besides price. If you don't know what you're buying it is much easier to get some educated guidance at the tour gift shop (as well as the airport). And, like I said, there is also the convenience factor of not having to lug around all your gift purchases all over CR (especially if you do the coffee tour in the very beginning).

To confess, I don't really pay as close attention to prices in this area as I probably should as it all seems so cheap relative to what it costs back home (I know, I know a rationalization for overpaying that I always complain about when I hear it from other gringos in CR).

Wayne, New Jersey
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4. Re: Best Coffee to Bring Home?

My personal favorite is the Monteverde Coop coffee. It's not particularly the 'best' coffee in CR, but for me represents the cooperative, eco conscience, fair trade essence of CR. We were just there and picked up about 10Kg to bring home for gifts. I don't know where else it sells, you might find it in Arenal. We bought some once from the only dealer in the US, and the shipping charges were more than the beans.

Durham, Connecticut
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5. Re: Best Coffee to Bring Home?

Well I gotta say that my favorite is Cafe Milagro. They have a shop on the road between Quepos and MA and a newer shop in SJ. I have probably 40 lbs sent to me each year, most for myself the rest for gifts. I actually mix a bag of dark and a bag of light beans and think it is the best blend I have ever tasted.

They often have good specials on the web site and Silvis understands customer service! The shops are a great place to stop to relax and enjoy the day.

Grind, brew, enjoy!

Durham, Connecticut
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6. Re: Best Coffee to Bring Home?

Sorry, it is Silvia not Silvis!!

Atlanta
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7. Re: Best Coffee to Bring Home?

Thanks for all of the wonderful feedback! I believe I now know more than I'll ever be able to retain about coffee! THANKS!

Alberta, Canada
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8. Re: Best Coffee to Bring Home?

Cafe Monterverde.. We brought 6 bags worth home. The sundried beans are freaking amazing. Beats Starbucks/Second Cup/Tim Hortons anyday!! You can get it while in Monteverde at the coop. (be sure to take the tour too :P)

Somewhat on/off topic... anyone have any ideas as to how I could import some cafe monteverde? Need to find a way to ship some to Canada. Just for personal use, best damn coffee I've ever had and am seriously tempted to return to CR just to buy more coffee (among 1203980 other things of course). ideas?

Nothern Virginia
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9. Re: Best Coffee to Bring Home?

I haven't gotten to CR yet (our trip will be in February 2007), but I have ordered coffee online from the finca we plan to visit: Cafe Cristina, near Orosi. Their website is www.cafecristina.com . The coffee is excellent (and I am a coffee snob) and the service, even via email, is warm and friendly. I am really looking forward to going there in person! (I had 20 bags of coffee shipped to me here in Virginia, and I will be out by February, I am sure, so I'll have more shipped home!)

Wayne, New Jersey
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10. Re: Best Coffee to Bring Home?

megalo, the only place to get Monteverde outside of CR is from Montana Coffee Traders http://www.coffeetraders.com/monte.cfm