This morning I was warned that the power would go out at 7am. And it did. So I donned my tourist garb by the light of the rising sun, downed half a pot of coffee, and started towards Alejuela. The bus ride took a full hour, longer than expected, so I was a few minutes late meeting my travel buddies. No worries. We stopped at a little cafe, where I had a magnificent cappuccino, and we went to another bus terminal to catch a ride to Sabanilla.
Our first destination today was the Doka Estates for a tour of the coffee plantation. A kind lady on the bus told us where to get off and even helped us get a cab. Moments later we were high in the mountains overlooking a massive field of coffee trees. We were a few minutes early for the tour, so we got to wait in the cafeteria and sample all of their brews. As with all Costa Rican coffees, they were magnificent. I was buzzed and ready to learn more. We lucked out on several counts. The rain held off. And we were the only people there for the tour, so we got plenty of individual attention. Our guide showed us every stage of coffee tree production, from growing seedlings to roasting beans. It was incredibly educational. I have a whole new appreciation for my addiction.
Growing coffee is an involved process, and I learned that it's not very profitable any longer. Each tree only yields a relatively small number of pounds of coffee in its 25-year life, so plantations need lots of trees and lots of land. Costa Rica can't match the production of other countries, such as Brazil and Columbia, so they try to beat them in quality. I, personally, think they're doing a good job. I also got some interesting trivia. Did you know that coffee beans are fermented? They're basically a fruit, so the seed/bean is surrounded by a sugary slime that has to be fermented briefly so it can be rinsed away. Plantations like Doka make their money selling green coffee beans to roasters like Star Bucks. They only roast a small percentage themselves (mostly to sell to tourists). I bought a bag of espresso myself. I felt it was the least I could do after downing plenty of samples. It was magnificent.
Afterwards, we went back to Alejuela, where we caught another bus to take us to the bird zoo (zoo aves). Again, we practically had the whole place to ourselves. It was beautiful, totally surrounded by trees and flowers. We saw all sorts of parrots, owls, hummingbirds, toucans, macaws, vultures, and more. They also had some reptiles. And monkeys! Cute, feisty monkeys. It was a great way to see some wildlife up-close. I'm not sure that words or pictures could do it justice.
By the time we made it to Alejuela again, I needed to leave my companions and start towards San Jose. I wished Heather, our Canadian friend, the best of luck on the rest of her trip. She would be making her way to the beach soon. I'm a little jealous. Me... I have to work tomorrow.Here are more pictures of the coffee plantation.Here are more pictures of the bird zoo.
Labels: costa rica