Coffee in Costa Rica: A Photo Album

During my time in Costa Rica, my love affair with coffee went into hyper drive.

Having had five months worth of amazing coffee, I can guarantee I’m going to be a little more selective about what I choose back home.

But before I have to start thinking about how I’m going to fuel my coffee addiction back at home, lets take a trip down memory lane with some of my favourite cups of coffee throughout Costa Rica

This one is a bit of a cheat, but here I am having my last peppermint mocha in Miami. Not sure if I'll ever want to go back to Starbucks again!


Starbucks in the Miami Airport

Okay, so I know I’m not technically in Costa Rica yet, but I was so sad to leave just as Peppermint Mocha season was starting. I’m pretty sure I drank a zillion in the short period of time I was at home.

I was determined to find the Starbucks when we were in San Jose, but after so much good Costa Rican coffee, Starbucks was the furthest thing from my mind.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be a Starbucks girl again (aside from Peppermint Mocha season of course!)

Cafe Tico, TamarindoCafe Tico, Tamarindo

I’ve lost count at how many Cappuccino’s I’ve consumed at Cafe Tico. I even wrote a whole post about them here. Their coffee is by far my favourite.

I’m by no means well versed in describing coffee flavours, but if I had to, I would say their roast is velvety. It has this amazing flavour that I haven’t had anywhere else. I’m bringing a bag of their beans back home with me, but without the warm breeze and amazing atmosphere, I’m not sure it will taste the same!

Zwart, Santa TeresaZwart Cafe, Santa Teresa

As you can tell by the caption on this photo, this coffee shop was inspiring. An cafe/used bookstore/art studio, of COURSE I’m in!

I hung out at Zwart alot during out time in Teresa. The coffee was delicious but it was the chilled out creativity fused vibe that kept me coming back for more.

 

Sel et Sucre, Puerto ViejoSel & Sucre, Puerto Viejo

I now present to you the most beautiful coffee in all of Costa Rica. Seriously! Let’s all just take a moment to appreciate how gorgeous this cup of joe is.

I know I’ve written about Sel & Sucre before, but their coffee deserves to be mentioned again. It took me forever to stop snapping photo’s and finally dip my spoon in to stir it up. After such crazyness in Panama, this cup warmed my up my soul.

 

My Coffee La Fortuna (2)My Coffee, La Fortuna

Coffee Art alert! My Coffee used little stencils to make designs out of cinnamon on the top of my Cappuccino and then always added a little chocolate syrup flower flourish…

Never in my life would I have thought something like that would make me so happy, but by the look on my face..it did!

Bagelmen's, NosaraBagelmen’s Nosara

Bagelmen’s coffee was awesome for two reasons, it was cheap, big and they always put tons of cinnamon on it.

Although Bagelmen’s is technically a Costa Rican fast food chain, I was able to look past that. On those days where our budget was tight, Bagelmen’s was my saviour!

 

 

El Barcelo, TamarindoLa Bodega, Tamarindo: I discovered this place on a whim. It’s tucked away on the dirt road in Tamarindo, the one that heads to the gym.

I wish I could tell you about the coffee, but there is a huge tree right next to the cafe and when I was there it was full of howler monkeys. That means I was completely distracted throughout my entire cup of joe. I’m sure the coffee was splendid, but the my coffee companions that day were the biggest memory makers.

 

 

Where is your favourite place to go for coffee?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

 

 

The Natural Centre in Playa Samara, Costa Rica

After our five days of rest and relaxation in Nosara we made a quick pit stop in Playa Samara.The main reason we were stopping by was so I could get some material for writing an article  for MyCostaRica about learning to surf with Samara Adventure Company.

Yes my friends, that meant that yours truly had to take a surfing lesson. You’ll have to stay tuned to a future post to see how it went, although if you follow the Facebook page, you may already know!

P1020728When I wasn’t learning to hang ten like a pro, I did manage to do a little exploring. In amongst the touristy souvenir shops, and tour companies I stumbled across the Samara Natural Centre. Intrigued? So was I!

Located in the heart of Playa Samara, the Natural Centre is a hub for all your healthy lifestyle needs. Here you will find a juice bar, falafel stand, gym and most importantly, a giant health food store (more on that in a second)

The Farmers Market

The Farmers Market

I was extra lucky to have the opportunity to stop by on a Friday afternoon, when the local Farmer’s market was going. There vendors were selling baked goods, vegetables, jams, jelly’s, cheeses and other delectable treats. Many of the items being sold were advertised as organic, gluten free or vegan. A bonus for anyone who is trying to track down these hard to find products.

The vibe at the market was great. It was apparent that this was a gathering place for families and friends to come and pick up all sorts of goodies for the weekend. I had brought my sketch pad and planned to do some drawing while I visited, but found myself more interested in watching the wonderful atmosphere unfolding around me.

So much selection!

So much selection!

Now for the health food store. Samara Organics is by far the epicentre of the Natural Centre. It has the biggest and most diverse selection of health food that I’ve seen throughout my travels in Costa Rica. Along with their wide variety of natural products and produce, they are also set up as a cafe. Visitors can enjoy a full coffee menu, juices, smoothies plus a small menu of salads and snacks. During my visit I had a Cappuccino (no surprise), and was delighted when they offered me the option of almond or soy milk. It was just like being back home! Because the farmers market was going on, the cafe was very busy. Despite being run off his feet, the Barista kept a smile on his face, and made the experience extra special.

If you are in Samara, checking out the Natural Centre is a must.You will find products that you can’t get anywhere else, and be sure to stop in for a treat at Samara Organics.

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

Our Favourite Places in Nosara, Costa Rica Part 1

Writing our favourite places post for Nosara is super hard for two reasons. First, we are staying in this small little town for almost a month. Second, it is full of so many awesome little places I want to write about.

So, as with many of my posts that I feel the need to blab on about, I’ll break this up into two posts, or maybe even more!

Regardless, you have to start somewhere, so here are our first couple favourite places in Nosara!

P1020717Baglemans: This little coffee shop first caught my eye during my morning run. Well, I guess it didn’t really catch my eye so much as it caught my nose! The deadly delicious smell of baked goods wafted across my path and left me salivating mid-run. As much as I wanted to pop in for an immediate carb load, I managed to restrain myself until later that afternoon.

Score!!

Score!!

Shaun and I stopped in for a coffee and a treat. My Cappuccino was fabulous, warm and rich. Plus they had an awesome deal on where Shaun could get a warm cinnamon bun pretty much for free with my purchase. Budget friendly sweet treats? We are in!

We sat outside enjoying our purchases, vowing we would be back. We came back a couple days later, and although that specific deal wasn’t on at that time, we still managed to enjoy our indulgences.

Bagleman’s has tons of great lunch combos, as well as a full coffee menu. It’s got a relaxed vibe, free wifi, and an aroma that is to die for. It wasn’t until later that I actually discovered that this place is considered a “fast-food” chain in Costa Rica. I haven’t seen one anywhere else on our travels, which is probably a good thing, since I would likely have to stop in every time!

P1020720Robins Ice Cream: I had read great things about robin’s on Trip Advisor, so I knew I would be checking it out. All I needed to hear was that there was gelato, and I was sold. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but their menu is huge and extremely unique for Costa Rica. They offer tons of organic and gluten free breakfast, lunch and early dinner options. The day I was there their special was a vegan sushi roll which looked amazing.

Shaun is making some big  decisions there in the background!

Shaun is making some big decisions there in the background!

Shaun and I popped in here twice during our stay. Both times for ice cream/sorbet. He had oatmeal chocolate chip, and coconut while I opted for a of vegan pineapple-ginger and tropical lime. We can officially vouch for all of those flavours. Don’t worry though, we are willing to continue our taste test when we get back. The things we do for the blog!

Oh, they also sell Pipa’s in their cooler! So if you are too lazy to nip down to the beach to track down a vendor, you can always stop here!

Health Food Store Bliss!

Health Food Store Bliss!

Organico: Health Food Store ALERT! Obviously from my Favourite Places posts from Mal Pais and Santa Teresa, I’m a big fan of health foods stores. Organico is awesome because its a full on grocery store and health food store in one. Often times, the health food stores I encounter have a really limited selection, as merchandise tends to be difficult to get here.

I felt like Organico had it all. Organic veggies, meats, quinoa, even ice cream. A huge perk of Organico is their bulk section. I haven’t seen bulk food anywhere in Costa Rica and hadn’t realized how much I’d missed it! I’m thinking I’ll be picking up for supplies for granola next time I’m there!

Organico also has a little cafe in the front of the store that sells healthy sandwiches, salads and juices. With so many amazing things to offer, there is no doubt in my mind that I will be frequenting this awesome business a lot during our travels back in Nosara.

So there you have it, another round up of our favourite places. If you enjoy the series, check out our other Favourite Places Posts.

As always, if you have any questions about these, or other areas, leave us a comment below, or message us on Twitter or our Facebook Page.

Pura Vida!

Kate

Don Juan Coffee Plantation Tour, Monteverde, Costa Rica- Part 2-CHOCOLATE

Hola, before you dive into the post for today, make sure you check out Part 1 of our tour of the Don Juan Coffee Plantation Tour.

Chocolate TourSo after learning all about coffee, it was time for a little insight into the world of chocolate. It started with slicing open a cocoa pod. First off, lets just take a moment to appreciate how COOL these things look. I sort of assumed that chocolate game from little vanilla bean looking things (I’m not sure why). These are full on massive pods that are hard as rocks. I was impressed, and it wasn’t even opened yet.

not what I expected!

not what I expected!

So we cracked that baby open, and again, I was shocked. I thought there would be something that resembled a Hershey kiss inside (without the foil and paper though)

Instead we were met with these little guys. These white triangular seeds were slimy and had the slightest hint of cocoa flavour. Just like the coffee cherries, there were no biting these babies, as the inside would not taste good.

Shaun being such a fabulous hand model

Shaun being such a fabulous hand model

The process for the cocoa bean is similar to the coffee bean. They are dried to remove the liquid, then roasted. Once they are roasted, it’s time to make some chocolate.

Our guide took some roasted beans, popped it in a hand crank grinder, and started turning. It was crazy to see these little dried gross looking beans go in, and full on chocolate looking magic come out. All of a sudden the aroma in the room changed, and everyone stomachs started grumbling. Nothing follows a coffee tasting better then some fresh chocolate.

Chocolate?!?

Chocolate?!?

Despite the fact that this chocolate looked and smelled delicious, it is as pure as it gets.It’s like when you were a kid and went searching through your moms cupboards. Suddenly you come across chocolate and get so excited you pop it right in your mouth…only to discover it is bitter baking chocolate. Such a dirty trick.

or was that just me who did that?

mixing up the concoction!

mixing up the concoction!

Anyways, this wasn’t the chocolate we were going to sample. Our guide took the chocolate and started creating a special concotion. He started with sugar, and a lot of it. It certainly made me think about the supposed “health benefits” of chocolate. Something that needs that much sugar to make it taste good can’t be all that healthy for you.

After the sugar he added cinnamon, vanilla, and the secret ingredient, black pepper. We each had a tablespoon of this gritty sand like chocolate magic, and it was GLORIOUS! He then took the remaining mixture and added hot sauce to it. We tried that version and it was even better. I love the spicy chocolate mixture, it will be something I remember for when I get home!

After our authentic chocolate tasting experience, we had some samples of some more

My batch with hot sauce! Amahzing!

My batch with hot sauce! Amahzing!

western versions. Somehow white chocolate, dark chocolate, and chocolate covered coffee beans ended up in my belly. After all the coffee, chocolate (and a sample of pure sugar cane juice that I forgot to mention) we pretty much buzzed our way back to the reception.

Oh, and I forgot to mention one of the coolest things! At the start of our tour, our guide told us a little bit of history about Don Juan Cruz, of Don Juan’s Coffee Plantation. He was part of one of the first pioneering families to settle in Monteverde, and has an enormous number of children and grand children. I thought he had 9 kids, Shaun thought 11, but either way he has well over 20 grandchildren.

Note to self: start writing things down!

Paparazzi!!

Paparazzi!!

Anways, during the chocolate portion of our tour, we noticed our guides eyes light up. We all turned around to see a very small, very old man come into the room. Yes my friends, it was Don Juan himself. I suddenly felt like I was meeting someone famous, or at least a Disney character. He was certainly an amazing fellow, and walked around the room shaking everyone’s hand, and thanking them for coming on the tour.

In an attempt to not seem like paparazzi, I had Shaun snap this very unsneaky photo. Such tourists.

So that about sums it up! If you are in Monteverde, we highly suggest checking out the Don Juan Coffee Plantation Tour. But be prepared, you will be leave with a brain full of knowledge and body full of caffeine buzz!

Are you a coffee person or a chocolate person?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

Don Juan Coffee Plantation Tour, Monteverde, Costa Rica PART 1-COFFEE

Another collaboration with My Costa Rica, and Desafio! Can you believe all these adventures. Can’t wait to share my articles with you guys. Until then..on with the show!

I’m not sure if you guys know this, but I write my posts a couple weeks behind. Shaun and I did this tour about two weeks ago, and I’m kicking myself for not coming home and writing this post immediately.

Why you might ask?

Because I learned SOOOO much about coffee and chocolate, and I know I’m bound to forget something during this post. All the beachy sun over the past few weeks has fried my brain. Hopefully I can rustle up the memories for you guys! I’m going to break this up into two posts, one about coffee, and one about chocolate…lets start with coffee shall we.

It’s evident as soon as you enter Monteverde that this is a town that is PROUD of their coffee. Coffee shops line the streets, many of which have the smell of freshly roasted beans wafting through their doors and onto the street.

One of the best ways to experience this passion for coffee first hand is to tour a coffee plantation and learn about the process from start to finish.

I realized afterwards why Shaun was snickering as he took the photo...this mural is totally checking out my butt.

I realized afterwards why Shaun was snickering as he took the photo…this mural is totally checking out my butt.

After our morning at the Cloud Forest, Shaun and I had a quick break for lunch, and then were whisked away to the Don Juan Coffee Plantation for a tour of their facility.

We arrived at the plantation and were quickly whisked into the world of coffee. We started at the very beginning with the life cycle of the coffee cherries. Our tour guide took us around to look at the plants, and explain the life cycle of these little guys.

My coffee cherry and the two seeds inside.

My coffee cherry and the two seeds inside.

He picked a few of these magnificent red berries, and let us try one. He advised us to crack open the red berry, find the coffee bean and then suck on it. No biting though. It didn’t taste like much. There was a slimy coating on the outside of the bean and it sorted tasted like some sort of plant you would absent mindedly put in your mouth as a kid.

Needless to say, I much prefer the taste of the beans once they are in my cup!

Freshly de-pulped coffee beans

Freshly de-pulped coffee beans the skins are in the background

The next stage in the process is the harvest which normally occurs November through February. This is why the berries were red during our visit, they were ripe and prime for the picking. Alot of thought goes into the harvesting of the berries. Our guide explained how farmers often rely on lunar cycles and tide charts to determine when the optimum time for picking is as this can effect the water content of the coffee cherry. Who knew?!

The drying patio

The drying patio

Once the berries are picked, they are put through a de-pulping machine. This cracks open the berry and allows the little beans to escape. Even though the outer shell is gone, they still have a small outer layer, as well as the slimy skin layer we had tasted earlier.

Then comes the drying process, the beans are left out on a “drying patio” to dry out in the sun. We entered a room full of beans all over the floor. We could feel them and see that once they were dried, the next layer of shell can easily be cracked off with your hand.

Once the beans are dry, that outer shell needs to come off. The really cool thing about the Don Juan tour is that they show you how each stage of the process used to be done, and then how the process is done with modern day equipment.

Our guide showing us how it is done

Our guide showing us how it is done

Back in the day, a giant mortar and pestle was used to remove the outer shells. They had one all set up and everyone could take a turn trying to lift these huge wooden sticks to try their hand at “de-shelling”. It certainly was quite the workout. The machine that completes this step now certainly seems like the easier route!

The machine also removes the final layer of the berry. Remember that slimy layer from earlier? Well after drying in the sun, this layer is like a skin, sort of like on a peanut. This de-shelling process is the final step in exposing the actual coffee bean before the roasting begins.

P1020590

The roaster and roasting chart…I should have taken notes!

 

At this point, I couldn’t even believe how much I had learned about coffee, and the beans weren’t even roasted yet. The roasting process is certainly the most interesting, and complex processes. The length of time beans are roasted determine what kind of blend it is. Light roast has the most caffeine, and the least amount of flavour. Medium and dark roasts burn off the levels of caffeine but in the process deepen the flavour.

As someone who flavours their coffee, learning about the roasting process, and how the flavours are created made me want to sit down and determine what blends I actually prefer, without masking the flavour with additives. Luckily for me, being in the land of coffee, I certainly will have the opportunity to do that.

Lots of information, and we haven’t even gotten to the chocolate portion of the tour yet!! Tomorrow I’ll go over all of that excitingness…as well as a run down of all the tasty treats we got to try!

What kind of coffee do you like?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

Our Favourite Places in Monteverde, Costa Rica

I have to say, I really loved Monteverde. After getting out of the hustle and bustle of the tourist scene of La Fortuna, this quaint little town was way more my scene.

That being said, there certainly was no shortage of things to see and do there!

Although we were only in town for three days, they were very busy and full of all sorts of adventures. Despite the hectic schedule, I did manage to track down a couple of my “Favourite Places” for you to check out.

Our Favourite Places in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Be prepared, their menu is HUGE

Be prepared, their menu is HUGE

Sabor Tico: If you’ve been following the blog closely, you may recognize this name. Yes in fact, there is a Sabor Tico in La Fortuna as well, and it was also one of our favourite places…well it was actually Shaun’s favourite place, as I never actually ate at it.

This Sabor Tico is very different, and having experienced it first hand, I can attest that it a truly delicious place to dine. Sabor Tico is like a traditional soda gone mainstream. Their menu is chalk full traditional Costa Rican favourites, but their restaurant area is a little fancier then what you would find in a regular soda. Don’t worry though, cause it tastes like mama is still cooking up a storm in the kitchen, because everything we ate there was unreal.

On the night we visited we went all out. I was so excited to see they had tamale’s on the PicMonkey Collagemenu, because I hadn’t seen any during our trip yet and at only 900 Colones, how could I resist? Tamales are a dish famous for being served at Christmas here in Costa Rica. The base is masa, usually made from a corn flour dough, then there will be meats, cheese, veggies or sometimes even fruits inside. All of this deliciousness is wrapped up in a banana or plantain leaf and steamed or boiled.

Shaun's Fajitas

Shaun’s Fajitas

I can see why people would eat these at Christmas, it’s like opening a present when you eat them! Ours was full of chicken, and veggies. We combined it with a little Lizano and it was an awesome little appy to share.

Woosh, What a Tamale Tangent!

My Ceviche

My Ceviche

The rest of our meal was just as amazing. I got some ceviche, while Shaun got a Fajita. Both were fabulous!

Sabor Tico is an awesome place if you are looking for some delicious Costa Rican favourites. They are so popular, that they actually have two locations. The original location is in Santa Elena, while the new location, the one we went to, is in Monteverde. They are only 2km apart so you could hit one up for lunch, and one for dinner!

P1020568Orchid Coffee & Tea Shop: I took one for the team again here in Monteverde, and checked out several coffee places to see which ones were the best. The things I do for you guys. Orchid Coffee was my first stop, because it had such a high rating on trip advisor. It did not disappoint.

Despite being in Monteverde for such a short stint, I somehow managed to indulge in several Cappuccino’s at this establishment. I would suggest trying the Spiced Cappuccino with Cinnamon, Nutmeg…and maybe Ginger? Regardless, it was a really nice twist on my traditional coffee choice.

P1020647Desafio Monteverde: Although I am a little biased, because I absolutely love this company, Desafio Monteverde was still one of our favourite places. The staff are incredible, and will set you up with everything you need to make your stay in Monteverde beyond memorable.

Beyond the tours, the building itself is awesome as well. They offer the only truly “Free” activity in Monteverde. They have a hummingbird and monkey garden in the back of their property that is open to the public. Also, there is an amazing coffee shop upstairs that roasts its own beans (you know I’ll take any opportunity to pop into another coffee shop!)

So whether you are looking for a tour, wanting to see some hummingbirds/monkeys, or just wanting to meet some really awesome people, stop by Desafio Monteverde, and tell them I sent you!

That’s a wrap on another edition of our Favourite Places. Check out other posts in this series, and as always feel free to pop us any questions in the comments below or on Facebook.

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

Our Favourite Places in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

As I mentioned before, we were kind of grouchy during our stay in La Fortuna. That being said, we did manage to rustle up a few of our favourite places for you to check out.

The entrance, I loved this little patio.

The entrance, I loved this little patio.

My Coffee: Seriously, what would a “Favourite Places” post be without a coffee shop.

Being away from the beach certainly had one huge perk, we were now in the land of coffee! There were coffee shops everywhere in La Fortuna, some of which even grew their own beans. I was a trooper, and tested out three different shops before deciding on my favourite.

I had to put my glasses on because I looked so tired, this coffee helped!

I had to put my glasses on because I looked so tired, this coffee helped!

My Coffee is centrally located right across from the central park. It’s actually a nice combination of restaurant and coffee shop. I could have easily gone there for a glass of wine and dinner, but I also didn’t feel bad just ordering a Cappuccino and sitting down.

Their service is wonderful, and it is apparent that the owners take a lot of pride in their establishment. Little touches like bringing you water, and playing ziplining videos on their flat screen really make them stand out.

If you are looking for a delicious coffee in La Fortuna, I would highly suggest My Coffee.

Doesn't look like much I know!

Doesn’t look like much I know!

Soda Sabor Tico: I can’t take credit for this place, it’s all Shaun. During our time in La Fortuna, Shaun was definitely getting sick of chickpeas and eggs and was on the hunt for some delicious, and cheap grub. He struck out one evening on a quest for a burger and fries.

When he returned, I could tell he struck gold. Not only had he found a soda that sold a burger and fries for 5 dollars, but it was half a block from our hostel. This soda sold both typical Costa Rican, and western food. It was always packed, a sure sign that it is a good place to eat. If you are looking for a bargain, this is a great place to go.

It was a cloudy day, but I swear there is a volcano there!

It was a cloudy day, but I swear there is a volcano there!

La Fortuna Park: This park isn’t hard to miss, it is literally the centre of La Fortuna. Like I said in previous posts, there isn’t much to do in La Fortuna outside of tours. So, I ended up spending a lot of time in the park. It’s not huge, but it has a lot of benches, and other places to sit, enjoy a coffee, and marvel at the Arenal volcano looming overhead.

The church in the background is also worth checking out. I popped in one afternoon while I was wandering around and It is gorgeous inside.

So there you have it, anther edition of “Our Favourite Places” is complete. As always, if you have questions about this area, or any others we’ve visited. Feel free to ask in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress