Costa Rica is known for that Tico, “tranquilo” lifestyle, but sometimes you’re in the mood for something a little more intense – maybe something with earthy or chocolate aromas. Just a short ride from downtown San Jose is the famous Britt Café coffee plantation. Nestled in the beautiful province of Heredia, the coffee farm takes a humorous approach to enlightening every visitor to the passion and expertise that is required for a truly amazing cup of java. Whether you’re a “whatever works for a pick-me-up” or a seasoned barista, the guides at Café Britt will surprise you with a thing or two up their sleeves.
The tour begins in lush gardens complete with a small fairytale-esque wooden bridge. A gazebo shades a coffee nursery so visitors can take a close look at the first stage of where their favorite cup comes from and learn about the lore of how coffee came to Costa Rica (No surprise, it’s a love story. With a twist – it seems he loved the coffee more!). Long before coffee arrived the country already had a favorite drink, chocolate, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to blend the two. Complimentary coffee and chocolate-covered coffee beans are plentiful throughout the tour.
A truly sustainable operation, as your guide takes you through the plantation you’ll learn about the unique and downright quirky ways Café Britt keeps their crops pest-free (spoiler: one techniques involves getting flying insects drunk on fine rum – at least they go happily). If you’re really lucky, the coffee plants may be in bloom and the fields will be alive with the smell of gardenias as they’re in the same flora family. Since they bloom only three days a year, it’s more likely you’ll visit Café Britt when the “cherries” of the plant are green or a vibrant red. After walking through the fields, your nose will lead you to the roaster where you can take a look at the day-to-day operation.
In the grand tradition of show-and-tell, or more aptly “It’s more fun to touch than look,” you can really sink your teeth (although hands are much preferable – they look like peanuts but taste nothing like them) into unroasted beans that fall into the gourmet rankings all the way down to the “can we really call this coffee?” category. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow for a great view of the factory.
Moving into the auditorium, you’re treated to a “cupping session” with the lead of quality control (Tip: make sure you volunteer to be a taster!). Learn how to select a coffee grinder, different methods of brewing from a simple mesh strainer to the more polished French press, and how to properly taste like an expert. Be forewarned, the right way to taste coffee is when it’s cold and with a lot of loud slurping.
You can never try enough coffee or chocolate and the tour concludes in the shop and restaurant. Samples of every coffee, chocolate, nut and sweet are at your disposal as well as a wide array of gifts and bags of coffee. If you don’t have enough room in your suitcases, don’t worry – Café Britt offers unbeatable and very affordable shipping straight to your door. However, as tempting as it may be, don’t fill up on sweets and coffee. Café Britt’s restaurant offers an exceptional lunch buffet including a typical Tico selection, salad and dessert bar, and an array of entrees to please every palate.
After visiting Café Britt, it’s impossible to sit down with a rich, fresh cup without recalling exactly where it came from. Maybe you’ll want to suggest a new coffee grinder to your daily barista. It’s likely you’ll start seeking out coffee from Costa Rica and your friends will sum it to vacation withdrawals (until you gift them their own bag – then they’ll understand). Just don’t start waiting for your coffee to get cold and tasting it during your own personal “cupping session” at your favorite coffee shop. Unless there’s a professional quality coffee controller around, it will be considered at best strange.