Cartago — Tucked away in the foothills of the Turrialba Volcano is Café Viñas, an artisanal Costa Rican coffee experience.
Sixty-year-old Gustavo Vargas Cordoba produces natural, high-altitude, 100% Arabic coffee in harmony with the environment.
Geography has a major impact on the way Cordoba’s coffee tastes, which he couldn’t stress enough throughout our two-hour tour.
“The altitude is 1,400 meters, which is very special for my growing conditions,” Cordoba said. “The soil is also volcanic, and the temperature is ideal.”
According to Judy Strong Fleisher, owner of Scribblers Coffee Company, Inc, “the soil in which the finest Arabic coffees are grown is extremely fertile and often volcanic. These rich soils surrender hard, dense coffee beans highly prized for their potential to provide exceptional flavor.”
Cordoba says vegetables and fruits growing on his farm are used as fertilizer too, and that it’s “really important that we don’t use any pesticides.”
Café Viñas is a family business in which the community also benefits. Although, aside from his sister visiting him from Miami for the month, he says most of his family has passed away.
“Members of the community, mostly elderly women, enjoy the simplicity and the peace of mind that picking the berries from the trees give them,” Cordoba said. “They also come to help in my kitchen to prepare breakfast and lunch for guests.”
Cordoba says he does mostly everything on the farm, seven days a week. He said he’s not seeking any help, but he’s happy when the community members come by the farm to lend a hand in their free time.
“Men and women in the community come and help on the farm every once in a while,” Cordoba said. “From help with maintenance in the garden, coffee management, making fertilizer, pruning the weeds, making milk and cheese, and kitchen duties like cleaning and cooking.”
Cordoba says he even has a student from the University of Costa Rica’s meteorology department helping set up solar panels for the farm.
Cordoba started work on the farm 10 years ago, and prior to getting involved in coffee production, he spent his working life in Guanacaste.
“As a 50-year-old man, nobody wanted to hire me, and so I decided to process coffee as my only job,” he said. “I had no experience.”
If you are up for breaking a sweat and want to learn the ins and outs of artisanal coffee production in a stunning location, this tour is for you. Of course, the best part of the tour comes at the end, when the fresh smell of coffee wafts through the air, a smell that separates night and day, a full sensory experience that you feel is deserved after all the hard work.
I can’t tell you how many cups of coffee I’ve had in my life, but this had to have been one of the best.
Cordoba says that Café Viñas has a maximum capacity for 50 people, and the cost is $10 for the tour, or $20 if you want to stay for breakfast or lunch. Notably, the price of Cordoba’s tour is significantly cheaper than most coffee tours in Costa Rica, which are often closer to $30.
Getting there can be a little tricky, so here is the location on Google Maps, or you can search “Café Viñas” on Waze.