ZONA DE LOS SANTOS, Costa Rica – High in the mountains of central Costa Rica is Zona de los Santos, an agricultural area with unique qualities and whose inhabitants have perfected over the years the art of growing and processing a coffee considered one of the best in the world.
A series of natural factors have enriched this land, and those who live here have discovered how to make the most of it, especially with coffee, a product that accounts for 90 percent of the local economy.
“We’re privileged by the altitude, the soil, the temperature and the climate,” said William Rojas, representative of the coffee cooperative CoopeDota, one of the most important in the area.
The main communities of this area are the districts of Tarrazu, Dota and Leon Cortes in San Jose province, where some 7,000 coffee-producing families on 13,000 hectares (32,100 acres) of land produce half a million sacks of coffee beans a year, which are exported to such countries as the United States, Canada, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand.
All the coffee beans are collected by hand in a harvest that lasts from October to March, and in which thousands of Indians, foreign workers and local communities take part.
A large portion of the coffee beans are sun-dried after being processed in water.
Apart from traditional coffee, Zona de Los Santos is also known for satisfying the world’s most demanding palates with fine coffees produced in minimal amounts dedicated to achieving the highest possible quality – and consequently fetch the highest prices on the market.
Rojas said that CoopeDota also certifies the fist carbon-neutral coffee in the world, which is achieved by changing production processes to save water, re-use waste and reduce pollution.
Wood-burning stoves are replaced by those that burn the hulls of the coffee beans that previously went in the trash, while the residual water and other waste coffee materials are recycled to make fertilizer.
Coffee has been one of Costa Rica’s leading products throughout its history. At present it is the third biggest export worth $306.5 million in 2016, after pineapples with $881 million and the number one crop, bananas, with $987.5 million.
Producers and cooperatives of the region are showcasing their fine coffees this weekend at the 2017 Expocafe in Terrazu.