A Classic Costa Rican Coffee Tour at Cafe Britt

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 Mural | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

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.

 

Ripe Coffee Beans Cafe Britt | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

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.

 

Cafe Britt Tour | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

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.

Lunch

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.

 

Matt and Jenn with Lauren

 

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.

(Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are connected to affiliate programs we have joined. If you make a purchase using one of the links, we get a small commission. This doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps us keep providing information on this website for free. Thanks for your support!)

Have you taken the Cafe Britt tour? We’d love to hear about your experience. Leave us a comment below.

 

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15 Comments

  1. You asked for it… Haha.

    My wife and I did take the Britt tour. And maybe it is because we had just completed an intimate, one on one, tour of a smaller coffee company, but we had a hard time with the sing songy, Six-Flags/Disney World way in which the information was presented.

    Like you said – the Britt tour was hokey and we felt herded with the other 30 or so people that were on the tour with us.

    The tour we took just a month or so before (each of our moms had come a month apart and we didn’t want to do the same tour twice) was truly incredible. We had a guide to ourselves and were able to ask any question at any time and to move along the tour at our own pace.

    I am glad you liked the Britt tour – I am sure there are many who feel the same. Since we live here, we are more interested in the actual information than in its presentation and therefore prefer the smaller growers.

    1. Sorry to hear, Greg, that you didn’t enjoy the tour. We’ve done some of the smaller tours here ourselves–loved El Toledo in Atenas–and agree that there is definitely a difference between the experiences, but don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Hearing from a passionate small producer is amazing, but we enjoyed Britt’s fun and humorous tour just as much, albeit in a different way. We get asked a lot about something quick to do close to San Jose and thought this would interest a lot of different people.

      1. Hi Jenn and Matt,

        We’re looking for a suggestion for a coffee plantation (ideally between San Jose and San Ramon) that might have a brief tour. We’re traveling with a 3 year old who won’t have the interest in the 2 hour tours I’ve been finding, but my mom would really love to see a little something while we’re in CR.

        Alternatively, we arrive in San Jose at 12pm and are spending the night in San Ramon before heading to Arenal (and later Monteverde and Manuel Antonio). Any must-do’s for that first day since we’ll have a few hours and we’ll want to do something!?

        1. Hi Christin, There’s a great coffee tour in Atenas (El Toledo), but I don’t think it’s less than 2 hrs. It takes place outside, though, in a very casual setting so it might be okay with your three year old. The Britt tour is really the best one with kids because it’s very interactive.

          If you’re looking for something to do near San José, you could read our How to Spend 1 or 2 Days in San Jose post. There’s also a great Children’s Museum near downtown. Otherwise, there’s Zoo Ave or the Botanical Orchid Garden (both covered in our Atenas post).

  2. I always love information like this – where you get to behind the scenes look at how something is produced. I think there’s room for bigger companies like this as well as smaller, family run one’s. It shows the gamut of the industry and different practices. Something for everyone!

    1. Totally agree, Kelly. It’s interesting to see industry practices on different scales. We’ll have a post coming out soon about our visit to a smaller grower which will be a good way to contrast.

  3. This was something I wanted to do but never did. Only me and another girl stayed in San Jose for our internships and it was something she never had interest in. And since it wasn’t “right” in the city (well, obviously 🙂 I just wasn’t up for doing it alone. You can bet what one of the things I’ll be doing whenever I return! Glad to hear the experience pleasantly surprised you.

  4. Sounds like a cool tour. I just went to a small coffee plantation in the Jardin, but they didn’t roast on premises so there wasn’t any to drink. It was Ash Wednesday. Everyone in the town square had a little ashy cross on their foreheads. You said the coffee was fair trade. Did you get any sense of the labour conditions on the farm?

    1. Hi Donny, Cafe Britt gets their coffee from co-ops all over Costa Rica. Where they have the tour, they only have a small coffee field- most of the beans come from elsewhere. Our understanding is that Costa Rica is different from many other countries in Latin America in that most coffee here is produced by small, family-run growers so I don’t think there are the same labor issues. Britt is big into social responsibility and says they only work with small and medium sized growers and pay above market prices.

  5. I did the Don Juan tour out of Monteverde. Had a great time as well. They really teach you quite a bit about the plant that you never knew! Had a great time! You can see my post if you like on my website.

  6. Hi Jenn & Matt,

    Your website has been so helpful for our trip! We’re wondering if there are any coffee tours that you would recommend around Uvita? Thanks!

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