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If you can’t offer the most coffee, you may as well offer the best. That’s the attitude that has brought the best Costa Rican coffee beans to the attention of the most choosy coffee lovers.
Their beautiful mountainous regions and delicate rainforest offer the perfect locations to grow amazing Arabica coffee, and they take full advantage of that ability. Coffee has been a part of Costa Rican culture for centuries. In recent years, coffee has become less central to the Costa Rican economy
In this article, I’ll give you a list of the best coffee beans Costa Rica has to offer, where you can buy them, and a few reasons why Costa Rica has earned their reputation as a top-tier coffee producer — from their processing methods to the fact that it is literally illegal to grow bad coffee in the country.
Want to skip the talk and just find the best Costa Rica coffee beans you can buy today? Here’s my shortlist.
What is Costa Rican coffee like?
Costa Rican coffee is known for its quality, and I’ll explain how they earned that reputation soon. The flavor and other characteristics of the coffee will depend on the origin region of the coffee as well as what processing method is used on the beans.
There is just an impressive amount of coffee variety available from this tiny nation (~5 million inhabitants). There are few nations that can match Costa Rica for quality or variety, and quite possibly none that can match them in both.
Costa Rican Coffee Culture
History of Costa Rican coffee
Coffee production in Costa Rica started in 1779, after the import of Ethiopian coffee beans directly from the source.
From the beginning, the government was a strong influence on the coffee market, strongly encouraging production on a scale large enough for export. They even offered plots of land to any farmers that were willing to harvest the coffee crops.
By 1829, coffee production in Costa Rica had surpassed cacao, tobacco, and sugar, becoming a vital part of the country’s economy. This continued until the mid-20th century when fluctuating market prices and a major blight resulted in changes to both the country’s economy and the worldwide coffee market.
By the end of the 20th century, coffee production had become a much less significant — although still important — part of Costa Rica’s economy.
The chorreador: Costa Rica’s unique coffee maker
The impact of Costa Rican coffee culture extends to the coffee brewing process, too! The traditional coffee brewing process — still alive and well in the country — involves a unique coffee maker known as a chorreador The name derives from the Spanish word for “to drip”: chorrear.
Actually, the process involves three pieces of equipment.
- The chorreador itself, which is a wooden stand that suspends the coffee filter.
- The bolsita (little bag) is the elongated cotton filter that holds the coffee grounds.
- A circular piece of wire or a wooden rim that attaches to the chorreador and is used to hold open the bolsita.
Its use is very similar to a modern drip coffee maker. You place a coffee cup or pot under the bolsita. Fine to medium grounds are scooped into the bolsita, and hot water is poured over the grounds. As the water drips through, it is collected in the cup or pot.
Costa Rican Coffee Production
Costa Rica is the 15th-largest producer of coffee worldwide, producing about 90,000 metric tons of coffee each year. That’s a huge excess for such a small country, so they are able to export 90% of that production.
Coffee used to be one of Costa Rica’s largest exports, but in recent years their economy has refocused on higher-tech goods like pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and software. Coffee now makes up only about 2.5% (by value) of the country’s exports.
Costa Rica provides about 1% of the worldwide coffee production. So why talk about a country that produces so little coffee? Because they’ve learned how to stand out in a crowded market. Costa Rica decided a long time ago that you don’t have to be the biggest to be the best. If you can’t be Toyota, why not try to be Ferrari?
Growing the wrong coffee is illegal
Many countries have a strong preference for Arabica coffee beans. Robusta beans are usually blended with Arabica if they are used at all, and Liberica and Excelsa beans rarely even enter the conversation. Most coffee drinkers love their 100% Arabica roasts, and I can’t blame them — Arabica beans produce more complex, full-bodied, flavorful coffee.
Costa Rica goes a step beyond the norm: Since 1989, it has been illegal to grow non-Arabica coffee beans in the country. This law was the country’s attempt to enshrine its commitment to producing and exporting only the highest quality coffee.
Honestly, it’s not a bad way to go. Costa Rica can’t hope to compete with other Central and South American coffee goliaths like Brazil, Guatemala, and Colombia on total production. Costa Rica
Focusing on quality allows them to try to ignore most of the giant coffee brands and compete directly with Brazil’s best coffee beans and the other high-quality brands in the region. When you produce only 1% of the world’s coffee, branding yourself according to quality instead of quantity seems like a pretty good strategy.
How does Costa Rica process their coffee?
Costa Rican coffee is still almost entirely hand-picked — as it has been since the beginning — but they are starting to incorporate some technologies into the process.
Their coffee is processed using one of three different methods — washed, naturally processed, honey processed — each producing distinct qualities in the resultant beans.
This is the most popular method in use. The coffee cherries are fed into a wet mill which removes the fruit and leaves just the beans. The washed method produces a clean and mild flavor, and the beans often have notes of honey, chocolate, or fruity flavors.
The washed method is not cost-effective in some regions due to the large amount of water used, so they have increasingly turned to alternative methods — particularly natural processing. In this process, the whole coffee cherry is left to dry in the sun, with the cherry fermenting around the bean. Natural processing is popular for the resultant flavor profile — which tends to have pronounced fruity flavors including berry, grape, and citrus — and the rich, syrupy body it induces in the final brew.
The honey processed method is always between washed and naturally processed. The beans are partially de-pulped, but some of the inner layers of the cherry cling to the beans since they aren’t washed. These partial cherries are left to dry and ferment in the sun, much like in natural processing. Honey processed beans tend to be sweet and only slightly acidic, often with hints of honey or molasses.
Costa Rican coffee growing regions
Costa Rica has eight distinct growing regions, which is pretty impressive for a country of its size. If you want to know what Costa Rican coffee is like, a lot of it comes down to which region your coffee comes from.
- Valle Occidental — Valle Occidental is famous for the hints of apricots and peach flavors in their coffee beans.
- Valle Central — Valle Central (or Central Valley) is where Costa Rica’s first coffee was planted due to its near-perfect climate conditions.
- Tres Rios — Tres Rios is adjacent to the capital and is known as the ‘Bordeaux’ of Costa Rica because of the quality of their coffee. Coffee production here has been slowed due to urban expansion, which is resulting in some of the best coffee Costa Rica has to offer — and some of the best coffee in the world — becoming harder and harder to find. Tres Rios’s coffee has a balanced acidity and flavor notes of orange, plum, allspice, and honey nut.
- Tarrazu — The most famous coffee-growing region in Costa Rica, Tarrazu is beloved for the heavy aromas and distinct acidic taste of their coffee. The flavor notes are varied, including chocolate, vanilla, orange, and dried fruit.
- Brunca — Brunca produces some of the most moderately-flavored coffees in the country, but the citrus notes do stand out.
- Orosi — The very humid client of Orosi produces smooth and balanced flavors that are widely loved.
- Turrialba — Mild is the word to describe Turrialba coffee. Their coffee has a subtle aroma, mild acidity, a light body, and an overall soft profile.
- Guanacaste — Guanacaste is one of the most mountainous regions in the country, and their coffee is smooth-bodied, somewhat bitter, lightly salty, and mildly acidic.
Best Costa Rican Coffee Beans
Overall best Costa Rican coffee beans: Artifx Cafe Deep Cloud Forest Monteverde
- SINGLE-ORIGIN, MONTEVERDE, COSTA RICA Arabica coffee - Dual-Process, Dual-Roast.
- GROWN IN HARMONY WITH NATURE on the edge of the Cloud Forest, using sustainable practices.
- OUR CUSTOM BLEND OF WASHED AND NATURAL PROCESSES yields both full body and full-fruit notes.
- WE USE DIRECT-TRADE TO DELIVER REAL INCOME to small farmers and real impact to their communities.
- A PORTION OF OUR PROFITS directly funds development projects in our Artifx Origin Communities.
This is a pretty interesting one. It’s single-origin, but it’s actually made up of two beans. Artifx sources both beans from the same farm, where they use different drying processes (natural and washed) for each, and one bean is light-roasted while the other is a medium-dark roast.
The resultant blend has a full body, bright fruity acidity, and a complex flavor with a cedar-toned sweetness.
The source farm uses sustainable growing practices, and Artifx uses a portion of their profits to fund development projects in the source community.
Best Costa Rican coffee variety pack: Cafe Britt Costa Rican Origins Coffee Bundle
- SINGLE-ORIGIN COFFEES - Selection of medium roast coffees from Tarrazú, Tres Ríos, and Poás, each expertly roasted to highlight regional differences
- OVER 30 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE - Founded in 1985, Café Britt is Costa Rica’s premier gourmet coffee company
- 100% COSTA RICAN ARABICA - Single-origin coffees from three of Costa Rica's most renowned growing regions
- THIRD-PARTY CERTIFIED - Certified kosher and gluten free; high-mountain grown, Strictly Hard Bean coffee
- GUARANTEED FRESHNESS - Premium whole roasted coffee beans packaged in our triple-layer aluminum bag to lock in freshness
If you want to sample the variety of coffee that Costa Rica has to offer, why not start with a variety pack?
Cafe Britt is one of the most popular Costa Rica coffee brands, and they are authentically Costa Rican — from their headquarters to their roasting facilities. Their variety pack includes single-origin roasts from the Tarrazu, Tres Rios, and Valle Central (home of Poas) regions.
Best Costa Rican coffee k-cups: Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC, Costa Rican Tarrazu Coffee Pods
- SINGLE ORIGIN COSTA RICAN TARRAZU COFFEE is Intensely Flavorful With Notes of Honey and Chocolate. The Body May be Considered Medium, but It Sure Doesn’t Lack Any Flavor and Produces an Incredibly Satisfying Cup!
- CATURRA AND CATUAI VARIETALS. Grown at 1,300-1,600 meters. Fully Washed Processed. Medium Roast.
- ALL FRESH ROASTED COFFEE is OU Kosher Certified and Proudly Roasted, Blended, and Packaged in the USA. Our Coffee is Roasted on Loring (tm) Smart Roasters to Reduce Our Carbon Footprint and Provide Superior Flavor.
- FRESH ROASTED COFFEE PODS ARE RECYCLABLE/COMPOSTABLE. Fresh Roasted Coffee Nitrogen Flushes Every Coffee Pod to Keep Your Coffee at its Freshest.
- 100% ARABICA COFFEE AVAILABLE IN 18 Count or 72 Count Single-Serve Cups Compatible with K-Cup Brewers including 2.0 Machines.
Keurig users shouldn’t have to miss out on the best Costa Rica coffees, and Fresh Roasted Coffee seems to agree. They’ve brought their single-origin Tarrazu beans into the form of a k-cup, usable with any Keurig machine. The coffee itself is medium-roasted with a mild body and intense notes of honey and chocolate.
These coffee pods are compostable and recyclable, which is great for anyone concerned about the environmental impact of their coffee habit. They also use one of the more environmentally friendly roasting processes for their beans.
Best Costa Rican Tres Rios coffee: Café Britt Costa Rican Tres Rios Valdivia
- The tradition of growing, milling and sun drying these exceptional
- beans has been passed down from father to son for generations
- the result is a complex balanced cup that holds its flavor when served either hot or cold.
- Weight: 12 Ounces (340 grams).
Back to our favorite Costa Rican coffee brand. This is one of the entries from that variety pack I mentioned earlier. I’d love to give each of them a shoutout, but if I had to pick one it would be the Tres Rios. After all, this is the rapidly disappearing ‘Bordeaux’ region of Costa Rica, and you should enjoy their beans while you still can.
This medium roast has a vibrant plum flavor, one of the more unique aspects you’ll find in some coffees from this region. Alongside that is a mild acidity and notes of nuts, citrus, and sweet honey.
Best Costa Rican bulk bag coffee: Coffee Bean Direct Dark Costa Rican Tarrazu
- Dark Costa Rican Tarrazu: This 100 percent Arabica coffee is a sweet, full-bodied dark roast with a tart finish. Features subtle notes of citrus, dark chocolate, and honey for a mouthwatering brew
- Happiness is Brewing: We source coffee from Brazil, Costa Rica, Sumatra, Kenya and more to find the most flavorful beans for your next cup. Try iced, as cold brew, with a French press, AeroPress or pour over
- So Many Choices: We're passionate about coffee; Try our product lines of Single Origin, Decaffeinated, Blends, and Tea; Also explore our light, medium and dark roasts
- Expertly Roasted: Expect more from our beans than just a jolt of caffeine; We offer coarse, finely ground, and whole bean options; Enjoy peak flavor and aroma in your latte, mocha, espresso or drip
- Coffee Bean Direct: Our dedication to roasting expertise, modern convenience, and fair pricing allows us to bring you the best coffees and teas imaginable in artisanal blends and flavors
Coffee Bean Direct consistently shows that you don’t have to sacrifice quality for quantity and value. They take some of the best coffees Costa Rica and other countries have to offer and slow roast them immediately before packing them in 5-pound bags and shipping them to your door. If you go through coffee as fast as I do, that’s a big deal (pun totally intended).
This dark roast has the stark acidty and full body that has come to define Costa Rica’s most well-known coffee-growing region. If heavy and complex is your kind of coffee, this is where you’ll find it. The flavor notes include citrus, honey, and dark chocolate, but the best part is the the lingering flavor of smokiness.
Best Costa Rican peaberry coffee: Volcanica Costa Rica Peaberry
- 100% Pure Costa Rican Peaberry that provides balance and intensity of flavor of fruit and citrus that is mild, sweet, and bright
- Single Origin from La Isabela Estate located in the Tres Rios that is shade grown and rain forest certified to help the people and the earth
- Medium roasted whole bean coffee allowing the true flavor characteristic to come through for a remarkable taste.
- Fresh roasted then immediately packed and sealed to assure freshness.
- 100% Customer Satisfaction Guaranteed
If you read any of my posts, you knew to expect two words: Volcanica and peaberry.
Volcanica is the gold standard of coffee brands, providing freshly roasted, high-quality coffee from some of the best and most unique varieties around the world. They are particularly renowned for their single-origin peaberry roasts, just like this one.
Peaberries are a special type of coffee bean. Most coffee cherries have two beans, but about 5% of them have only a single bean. This single bean soaks up all the nutrition that it would usually have to share with its twin, so it grows denser, rounder, and sweeter than a standard coffee bean.
Because of the use of the finest peaberries, this medium-roast has one of the brightest flavors of any Costa Rican coffee. Its subtle notes of sweet citrus complement the intense fruit flavors.
The beans for this roast from the La Isabela Estate in Tres Rios, where they are shade-grown and Rainforest Alliance Certified.
Little River Roasting Costa Rican La Amistad
Near the Panama border on the outskirts of the Tarrazu region, you’ll find the rainforest sub-region of La Amistad. Tucked away in that region is a family-run estate that has been growing coffee beans for nearly 100 years.
This estate has both tradition and preservation in mind. They’ve achieved a zero carbon footprint through their environmentally friendly practices, probably in no small part due to the constant reminder offered by their beautiful surroundings.
But back to the coffee. This sweet medium-roast uses single-origin beans sourced from that estate. The thick, syrupy body of this naturally sweet coffee is distinctly delightful. You’ll also find a mild acidity and notes of fruit and milk chocolate for an overall complex cup.
The La Minita (little gold mine) estate in Tarrazu is another prized source for meticulously grown and processes coffee beans. Their natural processing method gives the beans an added complexity that any coffee lover will appreciate. The honey sweetness and plum flavors mix with hints of milk chocolate and a bright acidity in this full-bodied medium-roast.
Cooper’s Cask Wine Barrel-Aged Costa Rican Coffee
- ARTFULLY PAIRED WITH CABERNET WINE: Grade 1 coffee beans which score high in a taste profile (90+ pts). You won't find a blended coffee here. Our fresh beans maintain their flavor longer than lower grade beans with a flat taste profile. One sip and you’ll know you’ve found ‘real’ barrel aged coffee.
- CABERNET PAIRED WITH SINGLE ORIGIN BEANS FROM COSTA RICA: The honeyed process method imparts sweet flavor and complexities into this coffee. They are then roasted to reveal dark fruited notes and chololate.
- DISTINCTIVE COFFEE COLLECTION: Instead of offering 1 variety and flavoring the coffee too strongly to mask substandard beans, we offer 3 different imported beans, aged with 3 different wines. You'll taste the subtle wine flavors that balance the coffee to give a rich tasting brew.
- SINGLE ORIGIN BEANS: We only use Grade 1 coffee beans which score high in a taste profile (90+ pts). Other coffee companies use a blend but we select the whole bean, so you extract maximum flavor when you grind it. Our fresh beans maintain flavor longer than lower grade beans with a flat taste profile.
- INDIVIDUALLY CRAFTED & 100% GUARANTEED: We are small batch artisan roasters. Our Master Roaster hand writes the roast date, lot number, and initials every bag (box sets not included). Appreciate the work of a master craftsman. If for any reason you’re not satisfied with our imported, high-end coffee beans, just let us know within 30 days for a full refund or exchange for any single origin or barren aged coffee.
This option is something very different from the rest of the list.
Cooper’s Cask starts with only the highest quality coffee beans, and they use the less common honey-processing method for added honey sweetness and complexity, but that’s not the most unusual aspect.
After processing, the beans are aged in Cabernet Sauvignon wine barrels, adding wine flavors that pair incredibly well with the initial sweetness. They are finally medium-roasted in small-batches for maximum control and freshness.
The result is a flavorful brew that is mildly acidic and contains notes of fruit, honey, and dark chocolate. It’s not the most traditional Costa Rican coffee, but it’s a fun and unique take on the concept.
Kirkland Costa Rica Whole Bean Coffee
Were you expecting to see a Costco brand on this list? I think it’s actually the first time I’ve had a reason to blog about anything from their Kirkland Signature brand, but this one is worth it. If you are looking for a dark-roast at a reasonable price, and you don’t mind a blend, this is a great value option.
One potential concern with these beans is the freshness. There are some claims that the beans aren’t always shipped soon enough after roasting, but it doesn’t seem to be a particularly common issue.
Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC, Organic Costa Rican Coffee
- ORGANIC COSTA RICAN COFFEE is Bright and Well-Rounded With Notes of Peach Blossom, Cherry, and Orange Zest. A mild and clean body with fruity notes make this a stellar option!
- COFFEE FOR EVERYBODY - sustainably sourced and Proudly Roasted, Blended, and Packaged in USA.
- ALL FRESH ROASTED COFFEE is OU Kosher Certified and Proudly Roasted, Blended, and Packaged in the USA. Our Coffee is Roasted on Loring (tm) Smart Roasters to Reduce Our Carbon Footprint and Provide Superior Flavor.
- AVAILABLE IN WHOLE BEAN AS 12 OZ, 2 LB, and 5 LB Bags.
Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC delivers exactly what the name promises, but there’s a lot more to their coffee than freshness. This roast is sustainably sourced, certified USDA organic, and roasted using a low-carbon-footprint roaster.
Their medium-roast is bright and well-rounded, and it has a mild, clean body and notes of peach blossom, orange rind, and sour cherry.
Coffee Beanery Costa Rican La Minita
I had to include one more La Minita on the list, especially since some of them are all-too-often out of stock. This particular medium roast from La Minita has a vibrant citrus acidity and notes of sweet chocolate and caramel.
This is another great medium-roast from the Tarrazu region. It has a moderate sweetness, with notes of milk chocolate and nuts. There’s also a hint of peach and an overall brightness to finish off the brew.
Doka Estate Gourmet Coffee Tarrazu Peaberry
- Single Origen: doka estate, costa Rica, 100% Arabica coffee kilo
- Medium roast, peaberry beans offers a nice, bright and sweet cup, enjoy every sip
- Fresh roasted coffee beans, with vacuum seal pack with one-way degassing valve
- Aroma: lively and intense/acidity: bright/body: medium/flavor: sweet with lime notes
- It happens in only 5% of the coffee production
One peaberry is never enough, so here’s one extra for the road. With an overall sweetness and notes of lime, brown sugar, and apricot, this is a distinctly flavorful coffee from another beloved Costa Rican estate.
The Bean Coffee Company Organic El Grano Ricco
- El Grana Ricco (Costa Rican Classic) is a medium roast with a mild, well-balanced body, flavor and acidity
- Medium Roast coffees has a fuller body appearance, with a blended balance of acidity and body that begins to give away to the aromas
- Certified Organic by CCOF and USDA; 100% Arabica beans roasted in the USA; bag of one 16-ounce bag
- Coffee beans are hand roasted in small batches to ensure the freshest coffee possible
- Store coffee in an airtight container away from light, heat, and moisture; 2 tablespoons of fresh ground coffee per 6-ounce filtered water
This coffee is a medium roast with a mild, balanced body, acidity, and flavor. With both CCOF and USDA organic certifications, you can be doubly sure that this coffee is up to the highest standards. Their beans are roasted in small batches and shipped fresh, so you’ll also never have to worry about stale coffee beans.
Rainforests, beautiful mountain ranges, and coffee. These are a few of my favorite things, and Costa Rica does them all better than almost anyone else.
Other countries may have the quantity, but Costa Rica has the quality. If you want to sample some brightest, fruitiest, most delicious coffee in the world, you can’t go wrong starting with Costa Rican coffee brands and the beans they are famous for.
One more time, here’s the shortlist of the best Costa Rican Coffee beans.