How do you feel about going to Costa Rica? Those are the exact words my boss and co-founder of Java Love asked me on the phone about two weeks before I departed on a plane to discover where our coffee comes from. I was filled with shock and delight, at me, just a barista being given an opportunity to learn, travel and explore. This trip was a journey of discovery not only just in relations to the coffee bean’s valiant legacy, but also inwards, inside of myself as I embarked on my first solo trip out of the country.
I arrived in San Jose in the early afternoon and was immediately met with warmth (much welcomed coming from a freezing place in the US), smiles and an unexpected flow of joy in the air. As my trip leader, Scott drove me out of the bustling gigantic city I began to learn about this amazing country. Costa Rica is considered by residents to be the most peaceful country in the world. With no army, and an outlook of “Pura Vida”, meaning “pure life” in direct translation, but meaning so much more to locals, Costa Rica truly emits a peaceful and harmonious vibe.
Costa Rica also enforces extremely strict and rigid water conservation and land conservation laws, with an attitude of love towards the earth and all of its creatures. Even though my passport had only been stamped a few hours before, I was already falling in love with this country.
Paved road turned into dirt, and my smile grew wider and wider as I realized we were almost at the destination, rainforest alliance certified Hacienda La Minita, the coffee farm where I would be staying for the next few days. Rainbow colored Eucalyptus trees and bright birds of paradise flowers greeted me as we parked. I will never forget turning the corner at the “lookout” point of the property and being utterly humbled by the giant beautiful lush mountains that I was gazing out at. I made it! I truly was in paradise. The rest of the evening and the next few days were spent hands on learning about the farm, picking coffee cherries (which house the beans) and visiting the mill at the base of the mountain where 20 million pounds of coffee are processed throughout the two months of coffee harvest in January and February. I also spent an ample amount of my free time splashing in the pool that overlooked one of the valleys in the Tarrazu mountain region, smelling lots of flowers and chasing butterflies of every shape and color you could possibly imagine.
In case you haven’t already figured out, this trip was ultimately a beautiful hybrid of classical learning and self-discovery. As I was removed from a turbulent time back home, I gained a fresh perspective on life. I shook off layers of emotional dust from the past years and enabled myself to just simply, exist. I was able to appreciate all aspects of Costa Rica and the farm so greatly because of this. It is so special to me that out of the 1200 acres on the farm, 400 are and will always be dedicated to complete conservation, meaning no tree will be chopped, no vine removed and all things growing will just, grow. La Minita provides no-cost healthcare and dental care on site with doctors volunteering from programs such as doctors without borders. The approximate 40 full time employees at the farm enjoy free housing and community activities. The 400+ migrants workers that come to pick only during harvest season are also treated very well, with higher wages and also free housing for themselves and their families. I cherish the time I spent with some of the staff, especially Issa who cooked three divine and wholesome meals a day for us. The fruit was the freshest I’ve ever had, and came back home inspired to eat in a more balanced and nourishing way. Who knew a four-day trip could spark a soul to ignite?
There are so many real people that assist the coffee bean from its infancy hiding within a baby coffee tree plant, to planting amongst the other big trees, to growing and producing coffee cherries, to picking the ripe cherries carefully and meticulously by hand through extreme sun, to collecting, transporting and processing the beans, and ultimately exporting them to their destinations, where they will be bought, roasted and sold in the form of liquid motivation for the masses. The next time you have a cup of hot coffee, or sip a scrumptious latte think about all that the earth and the people have done in order for you to enjoy this beverage.
Coffee to me now, is more than just the most common thing people drink in the morning, it is an ode to the distinct regions and farms of families that have carefully grown these plants and graciously offered their harvest to the world. I am eternally grateful to have had this wonderful opportunity to visit this amazing farm, experience the coffee harvest and return here to New Jersey with a heart full of love, gratitude and possibility.