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.
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.
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!
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?!
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.
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.
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?
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