Coffee is life in Costa Rica. Almost everything revolves around the cycle of growth for this commodity. Even the calendar for the country is historically based on the growing, harvest, and distribution seasons for coffee beans. Until recently, even the school year was based on the calendar. The tax year still runs on this cycle, beginning in October, then running through September of the next year.
Unlike other coffee-growing nations, Costa Rica strictly controls what growers can plant, harvest, and distribute. Only Arabica beans are grown by the industry because there are laws against the planting of Robusta beans. This structure works to preserve the quality of the commodity grown will keeping prices at beneficial levels for everyone involved.
Costa Rica is the only country in the world which has an executive order in place which bans the production and growth of any other type of coffee than Arabica. If you want to experience the benefits of the industry’s coffee culture, then look for the SHB notation on your next purchase. This abbreviation represents “strictly hard bean” coffee, which means you’re receiving a highlands product with the best quality available.
Interesting Costa Rica Coffee Industry Statistics
#1. The coffee crop for the 2016-17 growing season in Costa Rica produced 1.34 million 60-kilogram bags. That represents a 17.5% drop in production from the year before, thanks to growth cycle issues experienced in Los Santos and flowering issues in the Western Central Valley. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#2. Costa Rica is the third-most recognized coffee market in the United States, falling behind only Brazil and Colombia in terms of popularity. 59% of consumers in the U.S. said they recognized branding from the industry, compared to the 85% of consumers who recognized Colombian branding. (Tico Times)
#3. The coffee industry in Costa Rica produces about 56.4 ounces of produce per hectare, which makes it the largest yield available in the world today. (Costa Rica Gurus)
#4. There are currently about 100 coffee trees growing in Costa Rica for every person. That means there are about 400 million coffee trees that currently produce for the local industry. More than 300 different varieties of Arabica coffee originate from this market segment. (Costa Rica Gurus)
#5. Costa Rica has the highest per-capita rate of coffee consumption in the world for a nation that produces high quantities of the commodity. (Costa Rica Gurus)
#6. The average coffee plantation in Costa Rica grows at an altitude between 3,280 feet to 5,580 feet above sea level. This location gives the coffee trees access to a consistent temperature of 63 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit, making it some of the best conditions in the world for growth. (Costa Rica Gurus)
#7. Colombian coffee leads U.S. consumer preferences for quality, with 96% of regular drinkers saying that is either of “good” or “very good” taste. The Costa Rican coffee industry finished third behind Brazil in this survey too. (Tico Times)
#8. 53% of the Costa Rica coffee industry exports go to the United States, making it the largest market for producers. Out of the $300 million sold on the export market in 2013, the United States purchased $161.5 million in products. (PROCOMER)
#9. 61% of consumers in the United States say that they drink coffee every day, surpassing people who drink tap water daily for the beverage of choice. (Tico Times)
#10. 67% of consumers in the United States say that they drink a specialty coffee occasionally. 53% will drink it at least weekly, while 41% say that they’ll have a cup every day, with Costa Rica coffee fitting into this category. (Specialty Coffee Association)
#11. Since 1999, the average amount of coffee consumed in the United States has risen from just over 2 cups per day to 2.5 cups per day in 2017. In 2014, it reached nearly 3 cups per day. (Specialty Coffee Association)
#12. Specialty coffee consumers drink about 3 cups of coffee per day, which is a full cup more than the “average” coffee drinker in the United States. Since 2010, the market share for specialty products like those that come from Costa Rica has risen by 59%. (Specialty Coffee Association)
#13. The average amount of per-capita coffee consumption in the U.S. hovers around 4.4 kilograms each year. Men typically drink about a half-cup more of coffee on average when compared to women. (Coffee Research Institute)
#14. 48% of Millennials say that they had a cup of coffee within the past 24 hours that would consider it to be “gourmet.” (Reuters)
#15. A Costa Rican coffee called Fina Palmilera became the most expensive product sold in Starbucks retail stores across the United States, selling at $7 per cup or $40 per bag. Most locations sold out of their allocated product within 24 hours. (Starbucks)
#16. Over 70% of the coffee grown in Costa Rica is on plantations which are located in the mountains. (Street Directory)
#17. About 28% of the labor force in Costa Rica is involved in the production of coffee in some way. Revenues earned by the industry make up about 20% of the gross national product each year. The largest growing areas for coffee include Alajuela, Heredia, Cartago, and San Jose. (American University)
#18. Despite the demand for products from the Costa Rica coffee industry, it continues to provide less than 1% of the world’s production for this commodity. Weather patterns make growth unpredictable, with double-digit percentages in gains or losses a potential in each season. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#19. Cultivators make up a bulk of the employment opportunities in the Costa Rica coffee industry, but their earnings are often quite low. Some workers earn just $1.50 for every basket that they pick. That is a competitive rate when compared to other industries within the country. The average basket weighs about 15 pounds when full (Info Costa Rica)
#20. There are currently over 84,000 hectares under cultivation for the coffee plantations in Costa Rica right now, making up about 2% of the total area in the country. Over 45,000 farmers live and work on their land every day. (Barista Institute)
#21. Coffee is harvested three times per year in Costa Rica. The highest yields typically come in January, which is when there are 70,000 harvesters employed by the coffee industry. The typical workday begins at 5am, with hand-picking make it possible for each worker to clear about a half-hectare each day. (Barista Institute)
#22. 85% of the workers who pick coffee for the industry producers in Costa Rica come from Nicaragua to find employment. The native tribes from Panama represent another 10% of the labor force. (Go Tours Costa Rica)
#23. When the coffee is classified as being “high quality,” then 96% of it will reach the export market for the industry. It takes up to 6 months for a bag of coffee to be stored in proper conditions to reach this quality classification. (Go Tours Costa Rica)
#24. There are over 812,00 farmers involved in the cultivation of fair-trade coffee in the world today, with Costa Rica being one of the 30 countries involved. Over 80% of all fair-trade coffee comes from either the Caribbean or Latin America. (Fairtrade America)
#25. Farmers who work in the Costa Rica coffee industry with a fair-trade organization earn a premium of 20 cents per pound when they sell based on cooperative or organizational terms. (Fairtrade America)
#26. The average certified association or cooperative sells about 28% of their coffee each year according to fair-trade terms and conditions. (Fairtrade America)
#27. Farmers who sell through cooperatives and fair-trade groups own a plot of just 3.46 acres for their coffee. (Fairtrade America)
Costa Rica Coffee Industry Trends and Analysis
Although the brand recognition for Costa Rica coffee is high in the world today, the industry is far behind other producers in terms of quantity. The country is currently the 13th-largest producer of coffee in the world today, with 90% of what is grown making it to the export market. 11% of Costa Rica’s export earnings come directly from coffee sales.
There aren’t large companies creating the foundation for these robust revenues for the Costa Rica coffee industry. 90% of the producers who are active in any given year are cultivating less than 5 hectares (12 acres) of land. More than 70,000 farmers are currently growing coffee, with 45,000 of them belonging to some type of fair-trade organization.
The flavor of Costa Rican coffee is typically soft, mild, and only slightly acidic. It pairs well with deserts or the need to have a quick energy surge. New products that experiment with brighter flavor tones, different acid profiles, and other changes to the Arabica bean could create new income-earning opportunities in the future.
For now, the Costa Rica coffee industry will continue what it has done for over 200 years. Expect good coffee, strong growing seasons, and a reasonable price.
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