Tico Todd's Gourmet Costa Rican Coffee
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It all started way way back in 1991 when I was in college studying International Business at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida. Our teacher asked us to create a company, create a product and export that product to a foreign country. My group decided to export our ‘widgets’ to Costa Rica. The entire class was this one project. Delving into any and all information about Costa Rica from all sources, I became fascinated and quickly hooked on Costa Rica, at least in the abstract.

Fast forward to the summer of 1996, when studying philosophy and also for my Masters in Theology. Three fellow philosopher/friends and I were able to head down to Costa Rica for the summer in order to learn Spanish. No longer an abstract concept, Costa Rica now lay before us in its full and real beauty. I was in love, with the country, its people, the mountains, the rain forest, the cloud forest, the plant diversity, the animal life, the monkeys, the three toed sloth, the views overlooking the Pacific Ocean from la plantacion near Manuel Antonio National Park, and finally, its coffee.

We love Costa Rica so much that my family now has 200 acres overlooking the Pacific Coast in Playa Naranjo in the Nicoya Penisula across the bay from Puntarenas in the Guanacaste province. You can see the view we have from the beach in the picture below.



View from our beach in Playa Naranjo

While in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, my 3 friends and I set about to learn the language as studiously as we could. That included an intensive immersion program at the North American- Costa Rican Cultural Center (CCCN) with classes going in the morning from 8 AM until noon. Right around that time the clouds would sweep in, the rain would come and we would head out to all of the cafes to interact with the people.

We really enjoyed the café at the Gran Hotel in the Plaza de la Cultural. However, when we exhausted all the cafes and began to ask the locals where we could obtain and enjoy the best coffee, not the coffee for tourists, but the good quality stuff. The answers were always the same. We needed to head to a local roaster, a native Costa Rican who had been roasting for years over there on a particular “corner 300 yards from the Old Oak Tree with 100 ribbons on it which has been gone for years, near the parque Morazan in the yellow house”. Costa Rican addresses are cute vague general descriptions like that.

Having set out on our search we soon found our coffee corner and promptly were introduced to the local roaster, Susana Rodriquez. At that point something happened that did not happen in any other café thus far during our stay.

We were taken on a journey through the mountains and coffee plantations of Costa Rica. We were introduced to the various regions (micro-climates) for growing different coffees. And soon learned how the various climates including most importantly the altitude affected the quality and flavor of the bean. Also affecting the flavor were the rain amount, the sun, the oxygen level for high altitudes and also the picking and processing.

It soon became apparent to us with all of our tasting that each bean, although all of them were the high quality Arabica, truly did taste different based on the  particular climate it was grown under.

For the rest of the summer the four of us would philosophize, along with all of the friends we would come to meet. All the while enjoying our afternoon coffees with heated milk right there on that coffee corner served individually in the typical Costa Rican manner dripped down through cloth.

I became so enamored with the coffee from this roaster that I brought some back and when that ran out, I called my friend Susana and ordered more. I have been doing this ever since then. In my house and on my street corner here in Florida, this has been the only coffee to be brewed and enjoyed here. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I took the love of this coffee and the passion that became if it and decided after years of enjoying it with my family and friends that others could enjoy it too. Embarking on that decision I started an LLC and am now importing the 6 different micro-climate coffees that Costa Rica has to offer along with a decaf version of Tarrazu, the countries highest altitude coffee, for those who love the taste of coffee but prefer no caffeine.

All of our coffees are grown in consideration of the environment of the country and the land as well as the economic benefit of the people. As is the trend in Costa Rica and in many places (except Vietnam, which is flooding the market with cheap Robusta beans) our plantations are growing coffee plants in excellent health and thus not in need of a barrage of chemical assistance. To that end we source beans that are grown in the shade.


Our coffee being grown under shade

Shade trees in the presence of coffee plants play a crucial role in the regulation of the rich volcanic soil composition as well as the temperature. They provide mulch from the falling leaves. They also reduce the stress from exposure to full sun, which is necessary for only a few hours a day. Shade trees thus perform a valuable role in balancing the soil and allowing the fruit to mature more slowly thus infusing more flavor into the bean.

It must be noted that the higher altitude beans such as those grown in Tarrazu might not have a lot of shade trees for over-growth. The reason for this is that the clouds present at the higher altitudes shade the plants naturally and are thus less required.



Squirrel monkeys playing under the trees

Shade grown coffee also promotes a natural sanctuary for birds. Shade grown coffee plantations host a higher concentration of migratory bird species. There are over 150 birds who breed in North America that make their winter home the coffee plantations in Costa Rica. It is even currently the trend for some plantations to replant previously timbered areas of the land which were not in use. Furthermore they are replanting with native trees rather than with foreign species such as Eucalyptus.



Howler monkey in the trees

With Tico Todd’s, you can be sure that you will get first and foremost the best quality coffee we can source for you. Secondarily that it is grown with as much shade as possible (the birds love the shade and we love birds!). Thirdly, we guarantee that we will consider the quality of life of the local workers and the communities in which they live. We will pay the local growers and our sources a fair price which will allow for the future viability of the plantation, the stability of the local economy and greatly secure the health and well-being of the worker and the ability to feed their family. We travel to the location of the farms, plantations and the processing facilities quite often and will make it sure of it.

While we hope you have learned something about coffee and Costa Rica by reading the words on this web site, we hope even more that you will buy a couple of clear bags of our whole bean Arabica coffee in order to see for yourself the difference the source of coffee can make. I recommend ordering the gift Basket Sampler which has one of each from all of the micro-climates as well as a couple of Tico Todd’s full color coffee cups so you can do what my friends and I did in that wonderful summer of 1996, we enjoyed all of the micro-climates and thus truly took a:

Journey through the Rainforest.

 

COFFEE BEAN PROCESSING METHOD

Our coffee mills process coffee hand-carried to them by workers in the field, one large bag at a time, wrapped over their shoulders. For an example, you can see the strap of a typical coffee bag wrapped over Tico Todd’s shoulder on our logo here on this web site and on all of our Gourmet Coffee products.

Work at the mill begins with the separation and classification process. The fruit is placed into a large multi-thousand gallon water tank where the larger, prime-ripe fruit sinks to the bottom. The smaller and inferior beans, along with leaves and twigs, float to the top and over the side of the vat into storage marked for transport to less expensive coffee markets that pre-grind coffee for their customers (seems these customers don’t recognize ground up coffee branches in their brew!).

The next step is the separation of the pulp from the bean. The coffee bean is transferred to tanks where it is fermented. Here it remains until its mucilaginous covering has been broken down and removed. The beans are then transferred to another area where, yet again, the beans are automatically separated by size.

The beans now begin their drying process. Having been washed, the beans will dry under the tropical sun with proper temperature and humidity being maintained during the entire process. The beans will then be gathered and sent through a very large, modern, high-speed computer that has five eyes and can see even the slightest variation of size and dimension. This assures a more even roast when the beans are eventually roasted. The computer is amazing to see in action as thousands of beans pass through in seconds!

Finally, the beans are now in their last stage of readiness: classification and storage as “standard” or “gourmet.” Only after passing the microscopic eye of the computer do they get the label of “gourmet”. Afterwards they will be shipped in large sacs that bear with great pride the label of their Costa Rican origin, each bag clearly defining from which farm and microclimate they derive.

Coffee milling requires the art of the exact: it demands experienced human eyes with extensive technological support to guarantee the quality of the final product. Pick up a clear see-through bag of Tico Todd’s Gourmet Costa Rican Coffee and see for yourself how exact the size and shape of our beans are and you will undoubtedly recognize the exactness of our processing.


ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND PROCESSING

Aware of the responsibility to future generations and the need to preserve natural resources, the national coffee mills of Costa Rica function in an ecologically sound manner. The present system of coffee pulp and wastewater management looks to avoiding the contamination of rivers and aquifers. The residual waters are treated in such a way as to return them to the rivers with a high degree of purity. In addition, many byproducts from coffee processing are recovered and reused in the manufacture of organic fertilizer and cattle feed. Our coffee mills also use these byproducts as electricity and fuel for the kilns that dry our coffee beans in this beautifully revolving circle. The ecological coffee mill is testimony to our commitment to harmony with nature and the rainforest.

ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND PACKAGING

The eco-friendly clear plastic bags we use to package our gourmet beans are further testament to our commitment to the environment. Guiding us on this principle are the recommendations of various green consumer groups which advise against the use of multi-layered foil vacuum packed bags which are not recyclable. Tico Todd's uses a simple double layer thin plastic bag for our whole beans. If you order your beans ground, then we will grind them for you and transfer your gourmet coffee to a simple brown bag which is also eco-friendly.

Thanks sincerely,
Todd Amrhein
CEO
Tico Todd’s Imports
todd@ticotodds.com

305-495-5539