Cloud forests, rainforests, volcanoes, wild water, scuba diving, and zipline tours: Costa Rica screams adventure in 12 different climate zones. Plus, a 1989 law made it illegal to grow bad coffee – at least until the 30-year ban was lifted.

Happy Birthday, Coffee of the Month-ers

It’s October, the anniversary month of Holler Roast’s Coffee of the Month Club. Nicole selects 12 international five-star microlot coffees to ship you, one a month, along with a Coffee Tale to make the tasting experience even more fun. (Get yours here.)

Costa Rica Tarrazú

October’s coffee is strictly hard bean (SHB), cultivated with stringent environmental standards, and grown at altitude. It roasts into richly aromatic brews with sprightly acidity and full body.

The beans come from the Tarrazú region, “la cuna del café Costarricense,” the cradle of Costa Rican coffee. The average Tarrazú coffee farm spans only 6 acres. It’s wet during the growing season (May to November) and dry for the harvest (November to March), so these small landowners can create uniformly ripe batches of closely-watched, patio-dried coffee.

Cooperatives pool farmers’ resources in a number of critical areas: obtaining growing and processing equipment, the flexibility of community labor pools, and a cooperative approach to marketing and exporting their product. Many farms are family-run; that is, several generations are involved, offering both knowledge (age) and energy (youth), year after year. It all comes together in Costa Rica, in Tarrazú.

Several members of the Calderón Martinez family of Grantios de Ortiz micro mill in Tarrazú. The four sisters, from left Jocksileny, Joyce, Johana and Diana Calderón Martínez, run the beneficio – the factory that turns ripe coffee cherries into green coffee beans. Their father Omar manages the family’s coffee plantations.

So what makes Costa Rica’s coffee so good? Climate, altitude, smallholders, careful attention to responsible agriculture, devotion to quality beans, cooperatives, and not a little magic.