Is coffee good for you? On the El Spiritu estate in Costa Rica, they certainly think so but only if you drink 'pure' coffee and in moderation.
It might prevent, they say, or at least slow down Alzheimer, Parkinsons, liver problems and some types of diabetes. It can counteract headaches and memory loss, boost energy and brain activity. Worth a try?
The first coffee bushes arrived in Costa Rica from Ethiopia in the late 18th century and the businesses remain pretty much a family affair, though some are grouped in cooperatives and employ seasonal workers for the harvest. Bushes are planted on well drained slopes where shade trees filter excessive sunlight. Seedlings take around four years to grow into a bush which will be productive for up to 40 years.
A number of estates offer guided tours which include a chance to taste and buy your favourite beans as well as coffee-flavoured sweets and liqueur.
In Costa Rica, coffee grows from around 600 metres but as any gourmet will tell you, the best flavour is obtained between 1200 and 1600 metres. The white jasmine-like blossom usually appears in May, with the first rain, followed by green berries which turn red as they ripen.
Prime plantation areas are in the central valley where Costa Rican gourmet coffee has achieved world wide recognition. Top names include Tarrazu, Tres Rios, Tres Generaciones, Café Britt, Rey and Aventura.
Coffee Flower ©Solange Hando
Dark or light roast, coffee is serious business in this small country which claims its own Coffee Institute and a National Coffee Day when the highly-coveted Excellence Cup is awarded.
Drink your coffee black (as the locals do) or with a dash of cream or milk, relish the smooth taste, the aroma, and for any gourmet, it's like a love story. Climate, altitude and soil, Costa Rica and the 'golden grain' were simply made for each other.