Finca Cristina – Linda’s Organic Coffee Farm

What does it take to produce good coffee beans and eventually drink a great cup of coffee?

This were the questions I had as a hard-core coffee drinker (that’s what Yasuko thinks I am). So we decided to join Linda’s organic coffee farm tour at Finca Christina. Heck is it hard to produce coffee. “First, to have good coffee trees”, Linda says, “one needs to create a good environment, letting Mother Earth take control”. Then you need to plant sturdy shade trees among relatively short coffee trees. Those shade trees play an important role and need to be taken care of in several ways. If the tree is too tall, the coffee tree will not get enough sun. If it is too short, it will burn the leaves. Therefore, the trees need to be pruned every other month. 

The pruned branches and leaves are left on the ground and create vital biomass for coffee trees. 

Linda also plants banana trees and other plants, let bromides and air plants live on the trees, in order to have maximum biodiversity. Of course, an organic farm (no chemicals) means that weeds grow rapidly and the biggest part of their farm’s job is to do the weeding regularly… That’s just the start. 

Ripe beans harvested between November to February.  Harvesters walk the ground up to 15 times to get all the fruits. They carefully choose the ones which are ripe each time. At the end, no fruit may remain on the trees as this would attract bugs. 

Then machines take control. The shell of the fruit needs to be removed. Then we see the slimy two shells inside. Apparently these slimy juice is harmful so here their two pigs come into play: they mix these removed slimy part with pigs’ poo and turn them into biomass. Conventional farmers used to just dump these toxic elements into river… 

Then the beans are sun-dried and sorted out based on their quality. That’s Linda’s husband job. Then the beans go back to Linda to be roasted. This takes about 20 minutes at 200+ Celsius depending on how dark the coffee should be.  

For one cup of coffee, it takes a multitude of steps and hard work. If you put this in relation to the short time it takes to drink an espresso, it is almost unreal. I will certainly cherish my next cup of coffee with more humbleness.

Sky Walk and Sky Tram

After the Santa Elena Reserve Walk the day before, we changed altitude and joined a canopy walk called “Sky Walk”. Six bridges, up to 50 meters above ground allow us to see the cloud forest from above. The higher up the trees, the more life there is. That walk made us feel like a bird looking down the forest and the gigantic trees made us “part” of the movie Avatar. We also had the opportunity to observe a howler monkey family for quite a while.

Cloud forest wonderland – Santa Elena Reserve

Our first walk in the cloud forest was with Marcela, an accountant-turned-to-nature guide. This native of Costa Rica worked as an accountant for a while after finishing school. She was locked up in an office all day and often spent time in a nearby zoo over lunch to compensate. She quickly came to realize that she was happier in the zoo than at work.

So she became a guide and has been working for the Reserve for 13 years, happily surrounded by nature.

She walked us through the dense, lush cloud forest for two hours and explained about its amazing biodiversity, fauna and flora almost non-stop (but in a very nice way). Suddenly she would grab her spotting scope, install it in no time, point it at something, focus, just to have us looking at a rare bird resting or a hummingbird feeding its newly born offspring. We wondered how she knew it was there.

Marcela explained how the ecosystem of the cloud forest works, how the Strangler ficus trees become a heaven for various orchids and other plants – one tree can host up to 200 spices of plants, how Costa Rica has uninterrupted natural corridors throughout the country connecting various national parks and reserves to allow animals to move and migrate freely and how the bromeliad (family of pineapple) is like a hotel for frogs and insects with a bath (holding lots of water) and food!

Marcela at one time pointed to the ground and a parade of ants which were carrying leaves and explained that these ants cut leaves, carry them to their nests and use them to make fungus as their primary nutrition. These leaf-cutting,  fungus-growing ants have apparently a very complex social system to work together.  These amazing small creatures embody the wonders of nature.

It was again the moment for us to feel  and awe the power of Mother Earth. It is so intricate and ingenious! We appreciated Marcela’s passion for nature and her community’s commitment to the preservation of the nature.

After two hours with her we spent another two hours hiking around the Reserve on our own and enjoyed the late afternoon quietness of the deep forest. We left the Reserve with a sense of hope and respect for the Costa Ricans’ efforts to protect their natural heritage.

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