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Several years ago I ordered a coffee in Cairo and it was the best I’ve ever tasted. I asked the waiter where it was from and he said the famous La Candelilla farm in the Tarrazu coffee region of Costa Rica. Like so many discoveries in life one sometimes goes half way around the world to find something wonderful that might be just around the corner.
Inspired with this memory we went to discover the birthplace of what many say and what our tastebuds have confirmed is best coffee in the world. It all started with a two hour journey Southward from the Costa Rican capital of San Jose. Renting a car in Costa Rica is a good option and the Interamericana Sur is a very navigable highway.
The coffee region of Tarrazzu is also known as Zona Los Santos for all the little towns around it named for saints: San Marcos, San Lorenzo, Santa Maria de Dota and San Carlos etc. The highway quickly becomes scenic with high altitude pine and hardwood forests.
The beauty of the region is the combination of the verdant coffee plants on every mountainside and little towns at the center of each valley where the lives of coffee farmers continue in very traditional ways.
This trip is like visiting the best wine regions of the world. Coffee and wine share a similar origin and culture. The best expressions of both we’ve found are born where masterful farmers work sustainably in gorgeous landscapes.
Our visit to Tarrazu was an opportunity to confirm what we had tasted and get to know it even more. It is possible to appreciate its soil, its culture, the people who work the land and roast the beans. For us this took the form of a visit to La Candelilla farm, walking the grounds, smelling the beans, touching the plants. Colorful and antique “beneficios” where the grains are dried sit all along the roadways just adding more excitement. Stopping by the Cooperative in San Marcos allowed us to buy a sampling of amazing coffees right from the producers.
We finished the whole experience at a typical roadside restaurant where we savored exquisite Tarrazzu coffee served by the people who live and grow on the same land. The coffee was smooth, citric, with aromas and complexities that parallel the tasting culture of wine and excite our palates.