Sunday, January 13, 2013

Costa Rica Day 3 - Doka Coffee Estate

¡Hola familia y nuestros amigos!Today we left the beautiful beach town of Manuel Antonio taking a three hour bus ride for Alajuela and the Doka Coffee Estate, also known as Café Tres Generaciones.  This estate has been family run since the 1824.  It is 24,000 acres and is harvested by 2,000 Nicaraguan and Panamanian workers.  These workers harvest the coffee cherries for ten hours a day, seven days a week for five months of the year.  They are paid on a per basket rate of $2, which we learned was four times higher than what they would make in their home countries.  In addition, they receive free housing, medical coverage and education.  The more experienced workers can fill up a basket with only the ripe cherries in about twenty minutes.  The average is 25-30 baskets per person every day.  None of the coffee cherries containing the coffee beans are picked by machines because machines cannot tell which are ripe and which are not since the cherries mature at different rates.  Therefore, every single cherry is hand picked.  Doka only sells the highest quality beans to their customers.  You might be familiar with this cofffee if you stop at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts on your way to work in the morning.
Due to Costa Rican laws, Doka can only grow the Arabica coffee plant.  For you true coffee lovers out there, you might know that Arabica is different from Robusto and Liberica coffee in terms of caffeine content and flavor.  Doka also has a certain type of bean that makes them unique.  It is called the peaberry coffee.  Unlike most coffees that are flat on one side, the Peaberry coffee bean is completely round.  This bean has a very sweet flavor and is on the lighter side of the roasting scale. 
The processing system has been the same since the estate's founding.  The coffee cherries are first picked by hand, then brought to the 110 year old, hydro powered processing mill where the beans are taken out of the fruit and naturally fermented in water to lose their sugary coat.  The highest quality beans are easily distinguishable since they are heavier and sink when the beans are dumped into the water.  The higher quality beans are used for the coffee you might be familiar with.  As for you instant coffee lovers you might be more familiar with the slightly lower quality beans.  After fermentation, the high quality beans are sun dried and raked every half hour during the day for a month.  They are only covered with a tarp when there is going to be rain as well as at night time.  The higher quality beans are then aged for three months after this stage.  Finally, the beans are roasted and develop the coffee smell that we all love (except for maybe those of you that don't care for coffee).  The beans can be roasted 15, 17, or 20 minutes, depending on the desired flavor.  For some of the roasted beans, the process is not over, as the decaffeination process is done in Germany via chemical and Swiss water treatment. 
This coffee estate was amazingly eco-friendly, having numerous recycle stations and having attractions such as a butterfly garden, Bansai garden and a vegetable garden.  Also, the bags that they ship the coffee beans in are made from receycled burlap.  In addition, water is reused and the wood that is burnt during the roasting stage is from the 20 year old coffee plants that stop yielding as many cherries.  Finally, the parchment that covers the actual bean is used to make paper.  Flowers from the plant can also be used in types of Jasmine perfume (just in case coffee breath wasn't enough for you).
Costa Rican coffee only accounts for 3% of the worlds coffee supply but trust us, it's some of the best on the market.  We also highly recomend a visit here yourself if you ever get the opportunity since not only is learning how the coffee made interesting, the views are spectacular, and the free samples aren't too bad either.
To make our day even better, it ended with us arriving at Orquideas Inn.  This beautiful family run hotel is nestled into a Costa Rican forest and completely open air.  The pool and hot tub were perfect to end the day with, as well as socializing with the hotel dog, Marilyn. 
Also warm happy birthday wishes to our amazing Professor Greenan!!!
¡Hasta Pronto!  Stephanie (SJ) Jones y Peter (Pedro) Harsh

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