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Costa Rica has grown coffee since the early 19th century when its government subsidised taxes and provided land incentives to encourage the growth of the industry. Between 1846 and 1890, coffee was the country’s sole export with much of it ending up in England leading to the establishment of the Anglo-Costa Rican bank in 1863 which helped to finance the industry. Coffee is therefore responsible for much of Costa Rica’s culture and infrastructure such as the National Theatre and the very first railways. It was during this period that Costa Rica established itself as a leading quality focused coffee producing country due to the high volume of washed coffee produced by the country’s 200 wet mills. At the time, washed coffee was perceived to be of a higher quality, providing more consistency than naturally processed beans from elsewhere. The country maintained this reputation for a period of time until higher yielding varietals gained popularity over some of the more complex ‘heirloom’ plants. Many felt the quality of the cup profile in Costa Rican coffees dipped, particularly when compared to its Central American neighbours; El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Another reason behind this perceived quality decline is that the very large wet mills developed big brands and bought up the coffee from small farms to be blended, in doing so these smaller lots lost their identity – in both name and the cup.
Things started to change in the early 2000s as more and more farmers began to invest in milling equipment themselves, allowing them to have more control over their coffees in the market. Nowadays Costa Rica is an exciting origin to explore in the cup with many different processing techniques and regions now available. The country’s best coffees come from the regions of Tarrazu, the Central and West Valley and Tres Rios, all of which have fantastic altitude and good rich soil as a result of thousands of years of volcanic activity taking place.