So my mom was kind enough to remind me (again) that it’s been a while since I posted, and my excuse is that it is indirectly the fault of café. I had a presentation today about the company that regulates coffee processing in Costa Rica, so between that and the presentations of my classmates, I know more about coffee than I ever conceived of in my wildest imaginings. Also, we took a field-trip to Naranjo to tour a coffee plantation, which was pretty neat. Anyway, long story short, I’ve been busy stuffing my head full of coffee knowledge, and that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
Some highlights from what I learned:
- Costa Rica is known world-wide for the quality of the coffee it exports.
- Costa Rica exports 90% of the coffee grown, which makes up 15% of its total exports.
- Costa Rica does not import much coffee. Basically 100% of the coffee here was at least toasted within the borders.
- The best coffee is from Tarramazú.
- Coffee plantations are pretty.
I learned a lot more than that, but I’m not in the mood for list-making.
Coffee is something that permeates tico culture. I met a tica girl yesterday who said she didn’t like coffee, and all of us (gringos) stared at her for a second, trying to decide if she was really tica. Most ticos drink at least one cup of coffee a day, but most drink at least two. The two traditional times to drink coffee are with breakfast and for cafecito, a sort of afternoon snack. I would compare it to English teatime, not that I have any personal experience with that.
Coffee has been slowly worming its way into my life. At first, when my host mom would ask me if I wanted coffee in the mornings, I would turn it down most of the time. I’ve never been dependent on coffee for energy, and I had no desire to start. I did try it because I wanted to see what all the fuss is about. I’m no coffee connoisseur by any means, but I could tell it was delicious because I preferred it with milk or black, but no sugar.
In the wild days of my childhood, the only time I would drink coffee was when my family went camping at the river, and the only way I would drink it was with 63 packets of sugar and half a container of creamer. It was a fantastic excuse to drink almost pure sugar. I never much liked the bitter black liquid my dad preferred. Now I understand why he likes it so much.
Here in Costa Rica, I gradually started drinking coffee more often (“I’m a bit tired today, don’t want to fall asleep in class, y’know.”). I finally caved and started drinking it every morning. I’ve already bought a bag to take home so I can survive the month until I come back.
I gradually became initiated into the culture of “cafecito.” At first I thought it was strange that my host mom would always ask me if I wanted coffee when I got back from class–I already had a cup this morning! Why would I need another?–but now cafecito is my favorite part of the day. I’m always a bit disappointed when I stay through the afternoon at the university for whatever reason and miss it. It’s such a nice time to sit down with my host mom and whatever brother/cousin/aunt/uncle/friend happens to be there and drink coffee, eat empanadas and toast with guava jelly and white cheese, and talk while rain drums on the roof. This is something that will leave a hole in my life when I return to Texas. Would it be presumptuous if I started inviting my friends over to my apartment for afternoon coffee next year?
Although I haven’t yet developed a refined taste, the ticos know their coffee. Apparently Starbucks is pretty low quality coffee, which I find kind of funny since it’s so expensive. I guess we pay for the syrups. On the other hand, as I’ve mentioned, the McDonald’s here are a cut (or six) above those in the U.S., and most have a McCafé, which is like a mini-Starbucks, complete with a separate counter, coffee-related pastries, and surprisingly high-quality and delicious coffee. I had a caramel frappuccino one afternoon this week when I had to miss cafecito with my family in favor of researching coffee for my presentation, and it was a fantastic experience.
On Tuesday my partner for the presentation and I are going to make essentially coke floats with espresso added. Should be interesting (and delicious?).
I also discovered chocolate-covered coffee beans and am eating them as I write this. Just one more… or two…
It’s a good thing coffee has so many health benefits (right?).