Tag Archives: Jaco

Micro-Roaster in Jaco, Costa Rica

As some of you know, coffee is not just an addiction with me. It’s a passion. Some years back, while searching the Interwebs for a better coffee, I discovered that it was possible to buy green beans and roast them at home. I did, and never looked back.

I’ve learned that freshly roasted and ground coffee has a significantly different taste. What do I mean by “freshly”? Ground coffee begins to oxidize immediately. I’m talking about minutes here. I haven’t conducted any personal tests, but I’d guess that within thirty minutes to an hour, it’s already stale.

As far as roasting, the roasted beans often peak in flavor after resting for a day or two. After that, they start to go downhill. Five to seven days later, they’re almost finished. The flavor has changed to that bitter, tasteless, acid and acrid stuff that we’ve all come to know from almost every coffee we’ve ever had.

What makes a great coffee? First, the beans have to be picked only when they are ripe. They are then processed naturally to remove the outer fruit. The fruit is called a cherry because at the peak of ripeness, it’s dark red.

Starbucks thinks these are great beans. Most of them are not ripe.
Starbucks thinks these are great beans. Most of them are not even ripe. They buy cheap beans using exploited labor.

Deena and I had a good laugh at Starbucks (to which we are often forced while driving solely because of their ubiquity on the road) the other day. They put up this poster of their coffee farm. Notice that the coffee fruit are all different shades including even unripe green cherries. THAT is the very first reason that Starbucks coffee sucks! They don’t even bother buying ripe coffee because they can buy garbage beans (while exploiting foreign workers) for less than one dollar a pound. Yes, they do make obscene profit by selling their horrible beans for more than fifteen dollars per pound. Want to make a difference? Try buying FTO, or Fair Trade Organic coffee. It may not be any better than Starbucks, but at least you’re not exploiting poor people and encouraging the use of harmful chemicals in the world.

After a coffee is roasted, it’s best if used before maybe seven to ten days. Of course, that’s impossible unless you’re roasting small batches yourself. Or you live next to a micro-roaster. On the road, Deena and I are ever watchful for great coffee shops. A great coffee shop is one that not only has a good source of freshly roasted beans, but also has a great barista. (Making a really good espresso is another story/blog entirely!)

Jaco_5422The whole point of the above back story is that while we’re traveling, we are always on the lookout for a great coffee. In Costa Rica, many of the drip coffees, espressos and lattes were fine. The best latte and espresso however, were at La Casa del Café in Jaco, Puntarenas.

We were not expecting a small town like Jaco to have a micro-roaster. This coffee shop not only had a roasting machine in the back shed, but also had not one, but two of the better baristas we’ve encountered so far in our travels. Our first day, we met Oscar who made us a couple of incredible capuccinos. We talked for a while about coffee and roasting, and he invited us to come over the next day to watch him roast.

The next day we met with Juan, the owner of La Casa del Café, and Oscar who had fired up the roaster for a couple of batches. It turns out that Juan had purchased a small coffee plantation in the Tarrazú area some years before. He had no intention of making a business out of it, but, well, sometimes those things happen with hobbies, don’t they?

Jaco_5426The Tarrazú beans that they were roasting were consistent ripe cherries collected from one or two small farms. The greens were beautiful, almost translucent on the outside. The Tarrazú region is at an altitude of over 4000 feet. Because of the high altitude, the beans are concentrated and compact. In the industry, they’re called Strictly Hard Bean or sometimes Strictly High Grown.

When prepared as a pour-over (drip), the Tarrazú has a bright acidity with a little bit of spice and a wonderful cocoa undertone. Can you tell I’m really missing this amazing coffee?

Juan also was the one who recommended that we spend a little time in Monteverde on our way north. We’re glad he did. If you find yourself in Jaco, stop in for a great coffee and say hello.

 

 

What Are We Doing in a Surfing Town?

Jaco_5496Since neither Deena nor I surf, you may well ask what we are doing in Jaco Beach, the surfing mecca of Costa Rica. Yes, we did sit at the Backyard Bar, and watched the Saturday afternoon surf contest while sipping cold domestic Pilsen beer. That was more of an after thought, discovered after we already arrived here.

We came for Jungle Jam 2014.  This is a growing but still small jam band festival in the hills above Playa Jaco. Clear, warm nights in a grass amphitheater, full moon, trees and good music are worth the trip.

The headliner was Slightly Stoopid, a reggae fusion band. They’re super popular, but for my taste, the over-amplified, over-echoed sound wasn’t great. When they joined Karl Denson’s set for a Beastie Boys tribute, it was pure delight. They have an awesome beat, but it left me tired. For me, reggae is Bob Marley and music from the heart, music from Jah. Slightly Stoopid is not that. (Yeah, I know. When I was a kid I walked to school uphill, both ways, in the snow. Yada yada yada. I miss Bob Marley.)

G.Love and friends jamming the house.
G.Love and friends jamming the house.

The Saturday night sets by G.Love and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe paid the admission. G.Love segued from his amazing solo pieces to probably a ten, twelve full jam with the other artists joining him. He has a connection to the audience and other musicians that is unequalled. I can only imagine that it must be as much of a pleasure to jam with him as it is to listen. It was one of those phenomenal once-in-a-lifetime performances, that we’ve already had twice.

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe was the best modern jazz I’ve heard in a long time. His set was a pleasure that made us move and rock.

We are likely to be thinking about this event next year. Want to join us?

 

There’s a First Time for Every Scary Event!

Deena and I were in the Mas X Menos grocery store (a Walmart division) yesterday picking up some fruit and snacks. We’re in one of the grocery isles when I felt the floor shaking, like someone is driving a Mack truck down the next grocery isle. Instead of subsiding, it got much worse. The racks holding the grocery products started rocking. We could hear bottles falling off the rack in the next isle and breaking on the tile floor.

We ran to the end of the isle. The next isle over was a mess of broken glass and liquid on the floor. The emergency doors swung open at the side of the building with red flashing lights and a loud horn. Employees were directing people outside. We left our cart with it’s lonely bunch of bananas and ran out.

The shaking subsided with no major damage that we could see nearby. Deena was shaking and I was afraid to go near any buildings in case there were aftershocks. After ten, fifteen minutes, we went back in and reclaimed our grocery cart and unmolested bananas.

Neither Deena nor I has ever felt an earthquake before. It’s pretty scary.

Apparently, the junction of the Carribean and Cocos tectonic plates goes right through the Gulf of Nicoya, just off the coast here. It’s something to consider if you’ve ever thought about buying land here.

Seismic activity, by the US Geological Survey
Seismic activity, by the US Geological Survey
Tectonic plates in Central America, from Wikimedia
Tectonic plates in Central America, from Wikimedia