A visit to a working coffee farm is one trip every visitor to Costa Rica should make. The Cafe Monteverde tour offers a glimpse of authentic, rural Costa Rican life, and it introduces visitors to the coffee production process, from the original seed to when its poured fresh into a cup. As a cooperative, Cafe Monteverde, represents the country's progressive environmental sustainability and community development initiatives.
Since Captain William Le Lacheur, a merchant from England, arrived at the Puntarenas harbor in 1843 and established the country's first export line to Europe, coffee has played an essential role in the economic, social and political development of Costa Rica. The "grano de oro', or golden grain, enabled the country to transform itself from an isolated, rural backwater country into Central America's most prosperous. Arguably, coffee is responsible for helping to maintain social peace and harmony in Costa Rica, as well as for helping the country to avoid civil war and become the first democracy in Latin America.
Despite a worldwide decline in market prices, coffee still has a major impact on the economy and culture of Costa Rica. The Cafe Monteverde tour allows visitors the chance to participate in an innovative project that integrates this largely unchanged rural tradition with the new "ecotourism' industry, directly supporting local families in the area and promoting environmentally sound agricultural practices.
The tour is run in conjunction with the Cooperativa Santa Elena, a fair-trade certified organization that ensures that farmers receive a just and honest price for their product.
About the Tour
The two hour tour is led by bilingual guides who have extensive knowledge of the area's history and culture.
The tour begins at the newly remodeled Cafe Monteverde Coffee Shop in Monteverde, where you will hear the fascinating history about the agricultural development in this region, which now produces one of the world's highest quality coffees.
You will then visit one of the Cooperative's working plantations, descending some 500 ft down "La Trocha', a steep road offering spectacular views across to the Gulf of Nicoya, before arriving in the tranquil San Luis Valley, situated at a perfect elevation for coffee growing and a world away from the hustle and bustle of Santa Elena.
Here you will meet local farmers who will take you into the lush coffee fields to show you how coffee is grown and harvested. You will have the chance to pick and taste the ripe coffee berries and learn how the fruit is graded for quality. All coffee grown in Costa Rica is of the shade-grown Arabica variety, higher quality than sun-grown Robusta, and more environmentally friendly, as it requires fewer pesticides and fertilizers.
You will then explore some of the other sustainable crops produced on the cooperative farms including banana, plantain, orange and lime.
The next stop is the cooperative's processing mill, or "beneficio', where the bean is separated from the fruit and naturally sun-dried before being roasted and prepared for export. Huge piles of coffee beans drying in the sun are a very common sight in Costa Rica.
The cooperative has it own on-site roaster, purchased in 1989 with help from Montana Coffee Traders, their partner organization in the United States. This means that the organization is able to remain independent from the large, multinational "mega-processors' and ensures that profits remain within the local community.
The Cooperativa Santa Elena is part of a community-wide sustainable development initiative operated in partnership with the San Luis Development Organization. Nearly all the families of San Luis are members of the cooperative which is the area's main source of income. Lower grade coffee beans are used and sold for local consumption, the water from coffee processing is recycled for the community, organic waste and coffee pulp is used to produce organic fertilizers for local crops and coffee plant fibers and shells from the beans are sent to a local women's paper making project, "Ecobambu', who use them to create beautiful hand-pressed papers, bags, cards and notebooks, sold in local art galleries and souvenir stores.
Finally, you will be brought back to the retail coffee shop where you will be invited to taste the variety of roasts and purchase some beans to take home for friends and family. The coffee shop also sells fresh baked goods and features a mail order service.
Tours run daily, beginning at 8:00 am and 1:30 pm. There are other coffee tours in Monteverde, but this is the only one that directly supports coffee growers within the Monteverde and Santa Elena communities.
Comfortable clothes and shoes, raincoat, camera.
Local expert guide, entrance fees, round trip transportation from local hotels in Monteverde.
"You'll learn a lot about coffee and develop a greater appreciation for it."
– Jan 2016
"Learned so much about coffee that I never knew. Great coffee, happy personable people!"
– Jan 2016
"The tour was good. The people and the farm are very nice"
– May 2016
"Timing perfect, very informative guide, learnt a lot. Fantastic guide spot on"
– Nov 2015
"I don't drink coffee my wife does, we other thoroughly LOVED this excursion. Absolutely fascinating! A true highlight of our trip. Highly recommended!"
– Sep 2015