When our friend Lauren (a.k.a. the Altecocker) was visiting Costa Rica on her 55th home exchange last year, we knew that we had to make the trip to San José to see her. But with only a couple of days to explore together, we wondered what we could do close to the city. Wanting some kind of cultural activity, we quickly decided on a tour of Cafe Britt, one of the country’s gourmet coffee producers. Costa Rica has lots of choices for coffee tours and this post will give you a recap of our visit to Cafe Britt to help you decide if it’s right for you.
Cafe Britt has been growing and roasting coffee in Costa Rica since 1985. They were one of the first producers in the country that saw the value in keeping a portion of their best quality beans in Costa Rica, instead of selling them all abroad. Since then, they have developed a reputation, and their products are now found at many of Costa Rica’s best hotels, restaurants, and even the airport gift shops.
The Cafe Britt Tour
Cafe Britt offers two tours, the Classic Coffee Tour and a longer Coffee and Nature Tour. We were coming for the coffee and weren’t interested in going to an ecological park, so we opted for the Classic Tour.
A Theatrical Spin
The tour started like any coffee tour would with an introduction about how the beans are grown. We learned about the lifecycle of the coffee plant, some of the work that goes into growing and maintaining the crop, and then walked around a small coffee field to see the red berries for ourselves.
It didn’t take much time for us to figure out that this wouldn’t be any ordinary coffee tour. In between details about the growing process, our two guides, who were dressed in traditional attire, constantly cracked jokes, playing off of one another in a very theatrical way. It was clear that their act had been well polished, but we were still laughing at the hokey Tico humor. They were really quite funny.
Afterwards, we all headed into a large theater to watch a short movie about the history of Costa Rica’s coffee industry and to learn about the different regions where coffee is grown. Like the outdoor portion of the tour, this part was also theatrical. The guides would jump on stage and interact with the movie, throwing oversized burlap bags of coffee into a miniature coffee truck. It was a little corny like the previous skit outside, but funny, and kept the whole audience entertained, including the kids.
After the show, our guides brought up some volunteers and had them help brew coffee the traditional way using a wooden contraption and cotton sock called a chorreador. They also taught us about French Press methods and the drawbacks of regular old drip coffee pots, including some of the science behind it all.
Tasting the Glorious Coffee
After having smelled coffee for what seemed like an eternity, we moved to the main building (and gift shop) where we got to taste some freshly brewed java. Inside, all of Cafe Britt’s coffee varieties were spaced out along the walls beside thermoses and tasting cups. Conveniently, bags of coffee and chocolates were available for purchase as well. Some of our favorite blends were the Tres Ríos (Three Rivers) from the Irazú Volcano region and the Fair Trade dark roast from the mountainous Brunca region in the Southern Zone.
After the coffee tasting, we headed into the open-air room next door for lunch. We usually don’t opt for lunch on tours because they tend to be mediocre and overpriced, but figured it was convenient and would give us a chance to spend more time with Lauren. Admittedly, we had very low expectations for this part, but ended up being impressed with the buffet. Over nicely prepared typical food like rice and beans, a choice of meats, sides and salads, and some rice pudding, we chatted with Lauren. As usual, she shared some of her hilarious stories of traveling the world. With a lifetime of swapping her house for places in Australia, Poland, Spain, and of course the one here in Costa Rica, she always has some fascinating stories to tell.
We weren’t quite sure what to expect on the Cafe Britt tour, but really enjoyed it and would recommend it to others. The tour isn’t as intimate and personal as ones we’ve done with smaller growers, but has a much broader appeal. It’s the type of tour that is good for anyone, from younger kids to older adults.
Classic Coffee Tour (1.5 hours): $22 per person or $37 with lunch. Tours are offered four times a day at 9:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 12:45 p.m., and 3:15 p.m.
Coffee and Nature Tour (4 hours, includes visit to INBioparque): $68 per person, includes lunch. 11:00 a.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday only.
For more information and directions, visit CoffeeTour.com.
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Have you taken the Cafe Britt tour? We’d love to hear about your experience. Leave us a comment below.