"" Writer's Wanderings: Costa Rica -- The Coffee Farm

Monday, July 09, 2018

Costa Rica -- The Coffee Farm

It would be difficult to have to choose what was the most interesting part of our PIckleball Costa Rica tour but right at the top would be our trip to the coffee farm, Finca Edgar Fernandez. The area where we spent the last three days of our tour, San Ramon, is in the mountains. It is cooler than the area near the coast and at the beach and not nearly as humid. It is a perfect area for the abundance of coffee trees that grow there.

As we traveled through the area, we could see the shorter coffee trees growing beneath taller trees that give some shade to this variety of coffee that grows better if shaded. At the beginning of our Pickleball tour, Tony and Celeste, our hosts had given us each a bag of coffee from the area. It was giving our suitcase quite a good aroma.

I didn't know exactly what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised by a huge covered area with cloth covered tables and chairs set and ready for us to have lunch. Tony introduced the family that owns and operates the farm. Edgar and his wife did not speak much English but their daughter had taken off work in town to come and lead the tour. Her English was excellent. But first lunch!

Edgar's wife and I think it was her sister had cooked the meal for us. A typical Costa RIcan meal is called a casado and consists of a meat, a salad, rice, black beans, and fried plantains served with a fruit juice. Our hostess poured a lemonade made from their own lemons (not sweet but not tart--refreshing) and a nice pineapple juice. Our plates of food came out of the kitchen heaping with rice, beans, a salad that was like cole slaw, chicken with a delicious sauce, and my favorite, a fried plantain. Finally, a real Costa Rican meal and it was worth the wait.

After we finished our main dish, a plate of sweets was passed around. It looked a little like a fudge but tasted almost like a Bit O'Honey candy. Tony called it trapiche which has to do with the sugar cane. I think it twas made from pressing the sugar cane sometime in the process of getting the sugar. It reminded me of the pure maple sugar candy back home.

It was time to walk off some of our lunch. Before taking us into the coffee fields, our guide and her father showed us their bio-farm. I didn't understand all of the mechanics but somehow one pig was able to provide enough waste to be processed into methane to use to fuel their stove. There were also chickens and a cow and in the small barn we were shown a worm farm where the little critters were making compost.

Worms at work composting

There was a little stream from the house that somehow filtered through rocks and stones and plant roots that was able to remove cooking oils from the water and provide clean water for the ponds that they used to irrigate their garden. I wish I had taped all the explanation. It was fascinating.

We started on a path through some of the coffee fields. It's hard to call them fields when they are planted on the hillsides and under taller trees but it was a nice walk--a bit challenging for those of us with bad knees. Some of us went back down the way we came and a few others ventured on. The coffee beans were not ready for harvest yet. They turn from green to white or red depending on the variety. When it's time to harvest they hire extra help to pick the beans.

When we were all settled back at the tables, our guide began telling us about the sugar cane. Trapiche is also the word used for the process of squeezing the juice from the sugar cane. She brought stalks of sugar cane and cut them into manageable pieces and invited people to feed them through the machine that shredded them and squeezed out the juice. It didn't take long to fill a container.

As her mother strained the juice and put it into a dispenser, our guide explained that to get sugar, the juice would be put into large bins with a fire beneath them fueled by dried pressed sugar cane stalks. The juice would simmer until it was thick and then left to cool. Eventually it can be pressed into a mold and sold for use in baking and cooking. I'm sure the large refineries process a little differently to get sugar granules.
Processed sugar cane

We were invited to try the sugar cane juice. I don't know what I expected but it was pleasantly sweet--not overly sweet. Good, very good. I went back for a second taste.

Next we settled in to hear how the coffee is processed. But I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...