Costa Rica welcomes Hacienda Alsacia, Starbuck Coffee’s research farm on the slopes of the Poas Volcano in the province of Alajuela. This is a six hundred acre coffee farm located 10 km. north of Alajuela, the second largest city which is home to the San Jose International airport. Gorgeous views of verdant green coffee plants surround Hacienda Alsacia’s visitors center. Starbucks research station and field laboratory are housed here. Scientist graft young coffee plants to stronger older coffee stock to eventually create a breed of coffee resistant to the drought and pestilence brought on by global warming. This process may take up to ten years. This is Starbucks first research field laboratory in the world. Starbucks choose Costa Rica because of its close proximity to the US and it’s stable Social Democratic government. Plus the perfect climate, an altitude of 3,400 feet above sea level, and rich volcanic soil from the Poas Volcano.
Starbuck Coffee’s Hacienda Alsacia is open for tours daily from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.. The guides are extremely knowledgable and enthusiastic. I took the tour which lasted one and one half hours. I learned the areas of the world where coffee is grown, the different types of coffee, and how it is picked by hand, dried, roasted and packaged. Interestingly, Starbucks has a unique philosophical approach to helping their community of coffee pickers by providing free housing, free schooling for the children in Costa Rica’s public school system, and enrolling each of them in Costa Rica’s government administered health care system. This humanistic approach is not practiced by the other larger coffee producers in Costa Rica.
Hacienda Alsacia- 18 km north of Alajuela. Head north out of Alajuela on the road to the Poas Volcano. Alsacia is located on the left side of road-you can’t miss it!
History of Costa Rica’s Coffee
Coffee is not indigenous to Costa Rica. The Spanish brought coffee to the New World from Ethiopia. Coffee seeds were planted in Costa Rica in early 1800s, and were merely ornamental decorating patios and courtyards with their white jasmine scented flowers in the spring and ripe red berries in the fall. The government encouraged the planting of coffee by granting land to anyone wanting to plant it. The rich volcanic soil and the cool mountain climate were perfect for it’s rapid growth and by 1840 coffee was big business. It was transported by Oxcart to the Western Pacific port of Puntarenas and from there shipped to Europe. By 1850 Costa Rica’s oligarchy of coffee barons had risen to positions of wealth and power.
Today coffee is Costa Rica’s number one export. For the world market, it was traditionally mixed with other blends to enrich the flavor. However, today consumes are increasingly demanding 100% Costa Rican Coffee.
Costa Rican coffee in grown in the highland regions of Poas and Barva de Heredia. Several Coffee Tours are offered for tourist. Among them are Doka Four Generations Coffee Tour, Britt Coffee Tour, and Hacienda Alsacia which is Starbuck’s Coffee Tour.