A good friend recently told us that he had become a “coffee taliban”. His main point was that in many parts of the world people have no idea what a good coffee tastes like. They drink whatever can give them a brain kick and call it coffee. Even if it tastes bitter or simply like boiled sewage water. Or is artificially flavoured. Brrrrr.
After living in Sweden for such a long time, I could relate 100% to his claim. In the south of Sweden, where we normally live, people fancy a type of roasted coffee that is very close to tarr. Even when I desperately need some cafeine to survive the Swedish winter darkness, my stomach simply refuses to process it. Only the smell puts me off. Between you and me I am almost certain that it can perforate intestines or the floor if spilled.
Finding good coffee in Sweden has thus become a quest for Frank and I. We have now identified one brand that can be found at the supermarket, that uses 100% Arabica coffee beans and roasts them to a medium point and not the “dark roast” that characterises the coffee that most of the people in the south of Sweden consume.
In a sense, it reminded me of something that a Brit told me some time ago about the different way in which Spanish and Brits related to food. In the UK, he explained, people eat to survive. It doesn’t need to taste good or look good. It just has to have the basic nourishment for the body. In Spain, we eat as a form of enjoyment for the palate, the eyes, the smell and even the touch…while we are cooking.
The relation of us -humans- to coffee could be described in similar terms. One can drink coffee to keep awake, that is for its functionality. Or one can drink coffee to enjoy it. The aroma..the taste. Hummmmm! The second is the Costa Rican (and our) approach to coffee.
I guess that it helps to be a producer of fantastic Arabica coffee.
In an incredible variety of flavours, reflecting “the terroir”. Like good wines.
Frank and I have decided to try as many different ones as we can during our year here. We only have one criterion. It needs to be 100% Arabica beans and it needs to be from Costa Rica. Oh Well, two criteria then.
Just to put things in perspetive for our European friends, the amount of different coffee types in this country could be compared to the amount of diffeeent beers produced in Belgium. In any given supermarket (even small shady ones) you can find at least 10 different types. And the most amazing thing is that following the above criteria, we have yet to find a bad one.
The winners thus so far
It might be a bit too early to decide which one is the best, particularly when there are so many still to try and many months to go but hitherto, the winners clearly are…
It is organic, Fairtrade and absolutely delicious!! The Arabica coffee beans come from the Brunca region, in the south of the country. Unfortunately, cannot be found in the area where we are now, which paradoxically is the south of the country.
It is followed closely by this one, made by a cooperative from Tarrazú, at the central valley. It has a mocha taste to it, like coffee with traces of chocolate. I absolutely love it. Inspired by it I went into a quest for other Tarrazú coffee. But I haven’t found any other which tastes as good as this one.
So, the quest continues. Only in the small local supermarket there is enough variety to keep us busy for a while. Not only of different regions but also from different cultivation processes (shadow coffee, mountain coffee) and roasting levels.
My, I looooooove this country. Have I said that already? 🙂
PS. And may be it is not such a secret after all…even the NY Times published an article about Costa Rican amazing coffee and Starbucks has its global coffee experimentation station just here. In the land of world-class coffee.