Travelogue – The Real Coffee Experience – Espiritus Santos (Final)

Up To Date At Last

At last, my journal has caught up with the date.  Most of the time, I have been too busy to make entries in my journal, too tired to write.  I  had  hoped to keep this journal in real time, but found it hard to drive and blog at the same time.  Perhaps we should have hired a driver, or paid for escorted transfers between hotels.  Rather we preferred the freedom from other people’s schedules, not to be hurried when we wanted to linger (even if foolhardy) and to be able to skip faster at other times.

This morning, we lingered.  We had to wait for a replacement car to come from San Jose to replace the rental car which turned out to have a dead battery.  I lingered over coffee and sat on the hotel veranda looking out at the clouds and the rain forest.  The temperature was cool and refreshing after the hot jungles of Arenal.  We lingered for what seemed like ages — until 9:30 AM.  At last, the driver arrived and we switched vehicles.

Espiratus Santos Coffee Cooperative

We decided not to be too ambitious for our last day in  Costa Rica.  We had only one destination — Espiritus Santos Coffee Tour.  This was to let us see how coffee was grown, harvested, cleaned, sorted and roasted. It was en route to the airport in San Jose — well not quite, we still had to head a short detour into the mountains.

Espiratus Santos is a coffee cooperative, co-owned by 2500 farmers many of whom  have their own fields of coffee.  In the U.S., you would call it a farmer’s grange.  Coffee is bundled for sales to the big corporations with each farmer sharing in the profilts.  What we found interesting is that coffee picking is no longer done by Costa Ricans; they are too wealthy.  While some still do their own picking, most will supervise teams of Nicaraguans at coffee harvesting time.  The coffee harvest is done by hand and must be done in a few short days when the coffee ripens.  The rest of the time, trimming the plants, fertilizing, growing new seedlings — that is done by the Costa Rican members of the cooperative.  At the end of the tour, we sampled the coffee and bought the obligatory bags of coffee to take home to family and friends.

Costa Rican Fried Food Platter

One last drive and we were back in San Jose airport environs.  We had time for one last meal in Costa Rica.  We saw signs for a “barbecue” restaurant.  If you remember, we saw no  restaurants on the Pan American highway on our trip out, but this time we let our GPS alert us to  the location of restaurants.  The trick was they were “off highway” in the villages that surrounded the road.  We found a new type of restaurant with a concentration a few kilometers off the highway.  Our find was a quiet place with a valley and mountain view, and an enormous mango tree.  Our meal was punctuated by careening mangos dropped from a canopy 150 feet above our heads.  You can imagine the force when a full sized mango hits the ground from such  heights.

I decided to sample the fruit and asked our host for a sharp knife.  He made some comment about flies which I ignored in my haste to sample the pulpy fruit.  I soon found out the error of my ways.  What looked fresh and ripe turned out to be pocked by brown tunnels.  You know how a worm in an apple can spoil the experience.  Well, after cutting a few pieces off this seemingly perfectly ripe mango, I realized why the proprietor was shaking his head as I sliced into the fruit … brown trails were everywhere throughout the pulp.  Thoughts of swallowing fly larvae quickly quenched my appetite as Rose jettisoned the fruit down the mountain and out of the restaurant.

Our meal arrived; a platter of mixed grill and fry — steak, chicken, grilled peppers and onions, french fries, fried cassava root or yucca, fried fish and salami.  It was hot and delicious; if a little greasy.  It was our last full meal in Costa Rica.

We had allowed 3 1/2 hours before departure judging by our experience in New York.  Happily, we breezed through the check-in line, breezed through security, and arrived at the gate 3 hours before our flight.  In retrospect, we could have lingered in the  mountains or over our dinner; maybe caught another site.  But we were now secure in the knowledge that we would be departing the jungle and returning to our temperate forests, our house by the lake.  On my prior trip to South America — Cusco, Peru 25 years earlier — I had barely made my connecting flight back to the U.S. due to weather condition.   We had free WiFi at the airport (it was free at ALL the hotels) and were able to reconnect with our friends, family and clients. Homeward bound at last.