Costa Rica SHB
is a coffee with a balanced taste profile – a distinctive body, refreshing bitterness and a delicate aroma. Many coffee gourmets will be amazed by the taste combination of chocolate and nuts with hints of peach.
SHB (Strictly Hard Bean) is an acronym used to describe the best coffee beans cultivated in Costa Rica in mountainous terrain above 1350 metres. Rich volcanic soil, favourable elevation and an alpine climate lend this bean its high quality and unique character. SHB is the “ambassador” of the region and represents the most classic type of coffee from Central America.
Costa Rican coffee
Costa Rican coffee’s exceptional characteristics – citrusy acidity, a distinctive body, exciting flavour contrasts – come directly from nature. High elevations offer the perfect conditions for growing coffee trees. The combination of a mineral-rich soil and sufficient irrigation helps the coffee trees flourish without fertilisers and pesticides. The alpine climate has one more advantage – the cool nights slow down the ripening process of coffee cherries, allowing the beans to take the best elements from the soil and become saturated in fruit aromas.
Most coffee in Costa Rica is harvested by hand. Thanks to the wet processing method, which involves immersing coffee cherries for hours in water in order to separate the beans from the surrounding pulp, the intense bitterness of the beans is “mellowed”. This creates a balanced flavour profile, which is described as “refined”. The wet method is mainly used to treat the highest quality hand-harvested Arabica coffees.
In Costa Rica the coffee industry is very advanced and cultivation is primarily based on Arabica varieties such as Caturra or Catuai that were discovered in the mid-20th century. Technological advancement means that the flavour profile of Costa Rican coffee is free from defects and flaws of any kind – the beans are selected with precision and those with flaws are sorted out.
A country of small producers
Coffee arrived in Costa Rica from Cuba in the last decade of the 18th century. It quickly turned out that the rich volcanic soil, high elevations and subequatorial climate created the perfect conditions for growing these trees. The Costa Rican government saw the enormous potential of coffee for the national economy. That is why farmers who decide to cultivate it received land for free.
Currently, Costa Rica is the 13th largest producer of coffee worldwide, responsible for approximately 1.5 million bags per year (each bag weighs around 60 kg). As much as 90 % of the coffee produced is exported and the turnover from these exports represents one tenth of the country’s total exports.
Interestingly, small farms produce a considerable portion of total production, which exceeds 5 ha. Most farms and plantations are located in the provinces of San José, Alajuela, Puntarenas, Heredia and Cartago.