When you hear the name Costa Rica, you can’t help but think soft white beaches, a tropical climate and, of course, coffee. Coffee is part and parcel of this Central America location and has grown harmoniously with the prosperity of the country. Aptly named the ‘grain of gold’, it is undoubtedly the primary national drink of Costa Rica. Dating back to 1779, when it was discovered that the soil of this land provides ideal conditions for coffee production, manufacturing took off, simultaneously assisting with the development of this nation through the means of exportation. The turning point came when the ship The Monarch set sail for England in 1843, loaded with sacks of the flavorful beans. Once the British tasted this exotic sensation, a deal was quickly sealed. Britain took a sudden keen interest in the country and began to fruitfully invest in the industry. Today, it continues to be one of the biggest exports for Costa Rica, and maintains a reputation as some of the luxury coffee available worldwide.
Costa Rica, interestingly, is the only country to have a presidential decree, which states that only Arabica types of coffee can be produced there. The soil of the land is enriched by volcanic ash, producing a tropical acidity which gives the coffee a distinct taste and aroma. There are seven regions that produce the bean in Costa Rica, resulting in seven distinct types of coffee, which are believed to be the finest Arabica to be found anywhere in the world. These regions are: Brunca, Tarrazu, Orosi, Valle Central, Tres Rios, Valle Occidental and Turrialba. The location that the bean is harvested determines particular levels of acidity and aromas of the final product. There are currently over 70 thousand coffee producers in Costa Rica. This provides a wealth of opportunity for tours and visits to coffee plantations, giving you the opportunity to learn how coffee is grown, harvested and processed.
Costa Rica is home to coffee production, and this drink is firmly ingrained in the culture. It is typically enjoyed in the morning and throughout the afternoon, often with, or just after a meal. Interestingly, the country exports 90% of what it produces, so it may not be as easy to purchase that delicious gourmet cup of coffee actually within Costa Rica as you would expect. To ensure to taste the very best, it is advisable to visit a specialist café or restaurant when on vacation there. Alternatively, many of the plantations offer tasting sessions where you can learn how to grade the characteristics that qualify a gourmet coffee from an expert.
Guaro is the national alcoholic drink of Costa Rica, and has become the trademark liquor associated with the country, much like Pisco is in Peru. The name is derived from ‘Aguadiente’, which literally translates as ‘burning water’. This clear spirit is made from distilled sugar cane, deriving from the same family as rum. However, unlike rum, which contains rich flavorings from products such as molasses, this spirit lacks that depth in taste. Often compared to the properties of vodka, it has a clear, slightly sweet and pleasingly smooth taste.
After a government crackdown on illicit production in 1851, the Fabricia Nacional de Licores, a national factory, was created. They began to produce the brand Cacique Guaro; the only one available for many years and it still remains dominant in both Costa Rica and the rest of South America. This company produces a few variants of the drink but you will find that it usually comes between 60-70% proof, converting to 30-35% volume. Do not be deceived by the alcohol content however, this spirit is notorious for its strong effects.
It is clear that Costa Rica proudly consider this their national liquor, as you are overwhelmed by the various cocktail combinations that are readily available throughout the country. One highly popular mix is with refresco, a thick fresh fruit juice blended with either water or milk and usually sweetened to taste. This comes in a variety of mouthwatering flavors, such as watermelon, strawberry or mango, all served with ice. Another typical drink is the Guaro Sour, where 2 shots of the spirit are infused with a bitter lime mix, sugar, lots of ice and a wedge of fresh lime. The versatility of the liquor, however, means pretty much any cocktail can be substituted with it, so you will no doubt come across margaritas, mojitos and martinis featuring guaro during a Costa Rica trip.
Rachael was born and raised in the steel city of Sheffield, England. She fell in love with Latin America after traveling across Colombia in 2012 and eventually landing in Cusco, Peru, a place she now calls home. Always ready to answer a call to adventure, she loves exploring South America’s hidden gems and organizing climbing trips.