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Wake up and smell the coffee!

November 17, 2009

Six thirty in the morning is an odd time to set off for a trip to a coffee plantation, unless breakfast is involved. I found myself, along with several others, in a van speeding out of San Jose city towards the hills en route to Finca La Doka, a large coffee farm — 34,000 acres of caffeinated beans to be exact.

The road wound its way up to the entrance gate past rows upon rows of trees, small cottages and school children heading towards school. I wasn’t the only unfortunate one up at that time. Thank goodness I’d moved past schooling days.

Finca La Doka comes under the Rainforest Alliance umbrella, producing quality speciality coffee and I’m sure — low grade crumbs for the mass market. Sitting in the doorway to the factory lie relics of yesteryear, conversation pieces and an introduction to the area’s history. These colourful old wooden carts were once used to haul the beans to the buyers or markets decades back.

by Cate

Probably drawn by water buffalo, brahmin cows, or even a modern-day horse. These carts are works of art.

Update 19 November: These carts were originally pulled by oxes and are widley known as they ox carts of Sarchi, a small town close to the coffee plantations. For more information click here: Ox Carts of Sarchi

The factory tour is short and dull, if you have seen coffee roasting elsewhere, but it was early in the morning, the roosters hadn’t finished crowing, the sun was still toying with the idea of rising, and the aroma of coffee was beginning to take its toll on me.

by Cate

It was refreshingly cool after the humidity of Panama and lowland Costa Rica. During the high season hundreds of tourists swarm to these coffee farms and their restaurants either on package tours or independently. Luckily I went in the low season with no-one around, and a coffee urn all to myself.

by Cate

Sadly, it was time to leave and say goodbye to those bundles of caffeine joy. As I turned around in the van for one last look, I wondered if I will make it back this way again sometime.

by Cate

Finca La Doka is one of several estates that offers tours, food, coffee and cupping sessions. Costs vary on the type of trip booked. If you can, go in the low season, it makes the experience that much enjoyable.

It’s been a very spiritual  journey for me this year — caffeine wise. I’ve traipsed around tea plantations in Malaysia, watched tea ceremonies in China, roasted my own bag of coffee beans, and viewed coffee trees from the saddle of a fair mare.  Without realising it, I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for coffee and tea, and for those who work in these areas. I have finally woken up and smelt the coffee.

Caffeinated Traveller

  1. November 18, 2009 2:46 am

    That cart is gorgeous!! I would have wanted to take one home. I’m curious about something too – as a caffeine lover, how many coffees and/or teas do you drink a day?!

    • November 18, 2009 10:36 am

      Hi Liz It is stunning, not sure why they used this kind of cart to carry coffee. I would use it as a cart for myself. I’m not actually a large caffeine drinker, usually one cup of tea and a cup of coffee a day is enough. It’s more the quality and the art I tend to enjoy. I never drink caffeine after 6pm at night otherwise I’m awake till the small hours of the morning. Having said that once I get to NZ, I will be devouring the flat whites ( they do come in small cups though). Cate

  2. November 18, 2009 11:16 am

    I thought only Chinese does like those colours, especially vast red. And just cannot put coffee and the cart together.

  3. November 18, 2009 11:44 am

    rainfield – here is a link for you which explains the origins of the carts. They were actually pulled by Oxes. And you’re right about the Chinese colours 🙂


  4. November 18, 2009 1:24 pm

    Those carts for transporting the coffe are truly beautiful – that seems the highlight as like you I am not that interested in coffee tours ( I wish I even liked coffee!!) but the place looks great – I will be in Costa Ruca in 4 weeks´time – any other highlights to share??

  5. November 18, 2009 2:56 pm

    Catherine – if you are spending time around San Jose then you could visit Poas volcano and La Paz waterfall park. The waterfall park is a little pricy but if you have kids its worth it or like seeing wildlife without the hike and difficulties involved. There are many operators that do combo tours for this. San Jose is a dive (I’m being honest), you won’t regret it if you miss it or you can spend one day there. I also went to the Santa Elena/Monteverde area which is cooler and has some great outdoor activities. If you go there – Cafe Dulce Marzo has some good food and delicious carrot cake.
    My best advice for you is to check out Marina at Travel Experta –
    She is a wealth of information, knows the country like the back of her hand and can help with bookings.
    Hope this helps.

  6. Bear permalink
    November 19, 2009 9:03 am

    I like the early morning hours! And I also like the idea of having a look around while on horseback. The carts are some beautiful objects to enjoy, aren’t they.

  7. November 19, 2009 10:17 am

    Coffee on a cart, not sure about spilling but if he cart were slow and smooth, perfecto! I read thaat the cart wheels are solid to work around the muddy roads during the rains back then when sealed roads weren’t around.

  8. November 21, 2009 12:49 pm

    Coffee-tourism is a fantastic idea. I love the brew– maybe next time I’m somewhere near the equator, I should make the effort to get to a plantation and learn a little bit more about where my life-force is coming from. -X

  9. November 23, 2009 10:14 am

    X – well said!!

  10. November 23, 2009 4:21 pm

    I’m pleased to hear that this plantation was part of the Rainforest foundation which has a wider ethos than the purely commercial one. I try to buy Fairtrade whenever I can, so I know that the growers have got a fair price for their work.

  11. November 24, 2009 11:26 am

    Hi Heather
    Yes we do need groups like Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade.

    I think it’s important to promote them when I can, travel is not just about sightseeing these days ecotourism helps but doesn’t cover food and beverage aspects. Maybe someone should start an ecofood travels, now that’s an idea.

  12. February 10, 2010 5:31 pm

    I admit to being a coffee snob and so glad the coffee plantation you visited was aligned with the Rainforest Alliance, especially after reading the book ‘Silence of the Songbirds’. Bridget Stutchbury, the author, provides suggestions for saving the songbirds and an easy one to subscribe to which will have a huge impact on the bird’s future is to drink shade grown coffee.

    • February 10, 2010 9:50 pm

      Leigh – Hi, sounds like the type of book anyone with a garden could use. What a great idea for coffee farmers. Thanks for passing this on.



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