|History of Coffee ‘El grano
de Oro’ in Costa Rica
Around 1790-1804, Governor
Tomás de Acosta imported 6 lbs. of green coffee beans for
planting from Panamá in 1808. Shortly thereafter, Father
Félix Velarde began to cultivate the coffee beans in his
garden, encouraging his neighbors in San José to plant
coffee in their gardens, as well. Thus, cultivation of coffee
in Costa Rica was begun, especially around the Central Valley
near San Jose.
The first export was to Colombia in 1820. The government began
encouraging citizens to grow coffee and in pursuit of this endeavor
supplied all persons interested with 25 coffee plants for free.
Thus coffee growing from the onset was different from most other
countries. As opposed to large plantations, in Costa Rica individuals
grew the coffee and it thus quickly won the hearts and souls of
all. Symbolically it would, in the future create the largest democratic
middle class in all of central America.
Beginning in 1823 and up until the early 1840’s, English
sea captains based in Valparaíso, Chile, carried Costa
Rican coffee to Europe. Yet since it arrived via Chile, Europeans
weren’t cognizant of its actual provenance. In fact, it
was sold in England under the name Café Chileno de Valparaíso
(Coffee from Valparaíso, Chile).
During this period several Costa Rican planters began to cultivate
coffee on a large-scale. One such planter was tobacco farmer don
Mariano Montealegre Bustamante. Possessing the land, knowledge
and wherewithal, don Mariano soon became one of the most prosperous
coffee planters in Costa Rica. His coffee plantations were located
in the vicinity of what is today the Parque La Sabana, at the
west end of San José.
In 1842, Costa Rican coffee planters made their first direct shipments
of coffee to England aboard the British vessels Sirena and Ellersllie.
In 1854 another group with a vision for the future exported this
‘grain of gold’ to London with the cooperation of
William Le Lacheur Lyon the captain of the English ship “Monarch”.
These direct shipments were seminal events in the history of Costa
Rica. European coffee connoisseurs soon recognized Costa Rican
coffee as one of the world’s finest, and scores of Costa
Ricans began to study medicine, engineering and the fine arts
at Europe’s most prestigious universities. More importantly,
Costa Rica now had access to Europe’s wealth. The face of
this once sleepy little ‘Rich Coast’ was now changing.
This economic prosperity enabled the country to build the first
access to the Atlantic coast in 1890 via a new railroad. Then
in 1897, the awed inhabitants of the capital city of San Jose
were able to attend the memorable inauguration of the National
Theater which was paid in full by the coffee and banana farmers
desiring to have well known European Opera singers sing locally.
One of the most important notes to take home from reading this
article is that the government of Costa Rica took solid and sure
measures to ensure their economic prosperity by securing the quality
of the coffee grown there. It is for this reason that the government
passed a law in the early 20th century that states that only Arabica
Coffee can be grown in Costa Rica. This is unique in all the world.
No other country regulates the quality of coffee as completely
as does Costa Rica. It is truly the most carefully grown, harvested
and processed coffee bean you may find. Yet another assurance
you can expect from coffee that comes from the rich coast of central