We decided to take another land tour while Monica was visiting. It is so fun because she is so awesome and up for anything. We selected an all day tour set up by the resort that takes you to the Doka Coffee Plantation.
Our driver and guide, Oscar picked us up at 645am, we drove for 30-45 minutes, and stopped for a superb and very large breakfast. Our next stop was the Doka Coffee Plantation which was another 90 minutes away. It was really lovely to see the interior of Costa Rica with its rich and lush trees, plants, and fields. We passed by a milk plantation, several rice fields, coconut fields, and palm tree plantations.
Doka Coffee Plantation
Our Coffee guide was incredibly informative as he took us through the growing of the coffee plants through the entire bean process. This plantation and all coffee plantations in Costa Rica only grow the arabica coffee bean. They do not grow the robusta coffee bean as they believe it to be an inferior bean. This is mandated by the Costa Rica Government and is a law.
Image. Top Row: Entrance to Doka and Proud Doka Signs. Middle Row: Guide with Matt and Monica and baby coffee bean sprouts. Bottom Row: Bean plants at 1 year, tiny coffee beans on plants, and the coffee plant at 4 years.
This plantation is a family business and consumes 190 hectares of land. Costa Rica is broken into 8 coffee growing regions which grow different flavors based on the soil, weather, elevation, temperature, etc…Doka is in the Central Valley Region which is about 140 meters above sea level and grows their beans in a volcanic soil.
GROWING A COFFEE BEAN:
One bean makes one plant. The bean is planted and kept in a nursery for 3 months. Then it is replanted in a pot where it will grow for 1 year. After 1 year, they will replant it in the coffee plantation where it will grow for an additional 3 years before it is harvested. Plants are harvested once per year starting in late October through early February. They will continue to harvest the plants for 20-25 years and then they will cut them down and replant new plants. However, every aspect of the coffee been plant will be reused at the plantation.
The Coffee plants flower in March at the start of rainy season and they smell like jasmine. These flowers must be picked within 3 days as they self-pollinate. Many companies come to pick the flowers to turn them into perfumes and body lotions. Once picked, the fruits appear at the same spot where the flowers once grew. After the fruit appears, it needs 4-5 months to turn red, or ripen.
PICKERS AND THE GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT:
When the fruits or beans are ripe, Doka will bring in 180-190 pickers. About 80% of the pickers are from Nicaragua, 10% from Panama and 10% local Ticos. Since the vast majority of them are from out of the country, Doka will pay to transport the picker and their family, pay for housing and utilities, transport to and from work and insurance while working. Not all plantations are this generous.
The Costa Rican Government mandates the pay for all pickers. You can pay your workers, more but you cannot pay them less. The pickers fill cajuelas and are paid by cajuela. Each cajuela is worth 1000 colones according to the government. But, Doka pays them 1200 colones per cajuela. Most workers can fill 15 cajuelas per day average about $30-$35.
PROCESSING THE BEANS:
Station 1: Wet Mill
Once the beans are picked they are placed in a wet mill powered 100% by water. It is the oldest working wet mill in the country and has been operating for over 100 years. The workers put their cajuelas into the receiving bin which is called a fanejua. The fanejua holds about 20 cajuelas. The fanejua will then dump the beans into the wet mill where the good beans will sink and the not so good beans will float. The beans are separated into 3 qualities: premium, good, and not so good.
Station 2: Peeling
The second station has two sets of grinders that peel the skin off the beans while maintaining the separation of quality beans. Once the skins are removed, the beans are moved on to station 3.
Station 3: Fermenting
All the beans are moved to the fermentation station, each in their own separate chamber. It takes 36 hours to remove the sugar and prepare the beans for drying.
Station 4: Drying
The premium beans are placed outside on the drying station and left out to dry in the sun for 5 days. They are turned every 15 minutes to ensure even drying. The good and not so good beans are dried outside for 1 day and then sent to the ovens to dry for a few hours. The taste is not as good when the beans are dried in the ovens.
Station 5: Storage
The premium beans are then stored into bags. One Fanejua (or 20 cajuelas) are placed into 1 bag which is 100 pounds. The beans will then be aged for another 3-4 months, inside the bags, inside the storage room.
Image Below: Top Row: Station 1, 2 and 3 (left to right). Middle Row: Station 4 and 5 and image of storage bag. Bottom Row: 3 qualities of beans with premium at top, drying station and final beans.
A batch of premium beans are sent to Germany to be remove the caffeine. The German company uses a Swiss water dehydration process to create decaffeinated beans. Doka only pays for shipping each way as the German company resells the caffeine to other companies such as Coca Cola and Red Bull.
The premium beans are sold under their brand name Café Tres Generaciones. The good beans are used by Doka for their blends. However, the 3rd quality beans are sold to other companies who don’t grow their own beans to roast and sell under a different brand name.
Flora at Doka Coffee Plantation
In addition to the coffee plants, Doka had a variety of stunning flowers can be found all around the coffee plantation. I had a field day trying to capture them all while remaining a part of the group.
You could also visit their butterfly sanctuary and bonsai gardens. Most noteworthy, was the abundance of the blue monarchs.
Coming up Next:
- Continuation of our tour to La Paz Waterfall Garden and Nature Preserve
- Big Cats, monkeys, toucans, and parrots
- Strawberry and Blackberry Finds