A fifteen minute drive into the mountainous hillsides north and west of Atenas, Costa Rica is El Toledo, a family-owned and operate organic plantation offering tours focusing on the process of farming, harvesting, processing, drying, roasting, and packaging of the coffee bean.
We happened upon this tour as it is a site of one one of the few geocaches in the entire country.
What to Expect on an El Toledo Coffee Tour
The description of the geocache from the owners, like so many of our favorite finds around the world, is what drew us in:
We visited a small organic coffee plantation near Atenas called El Toledo. We took the tour and learned a lot about this nice plantation which is managed by the friendly family of Gerardo Calderon, the founder and owner of the farm. The difference between regular coffee plantations and this plantation is that their coffee production system is based on the ideology of understanding nature and working with it. They introduce diverse and implementing methods of conservation which facilitate the production, but also preserve and protect the environment. They told and educated us their efforts to understand the environment and work with nature instead of against it. The main purpose of their way of producing coffee is that they strive to minimize the impact on the ecology so as to preserve it for the generations to come. During this tour we not only learned about producing coffee, but also a lot of the nature of Costa Rica.
So! We booked a tour online and ventured up the winding roads (read this post for tips on driving in Costa Rica) in anticipation of earning a new geocaching souvenir and learning about organic coffee farming at the same time.
We arrived a bit late for the tour (again, read the post about driving in Costa Rica) but arrived in time to learn about the role of organic farming locally and globally, with insight into sustainability as it relates to the economy and environment. Organic coffee farms comprise approximately 1% of the coffee market in Costa Rica and the Calderon family has capitalized on agritourism as a viable revenue stream. Before embarking on a nature walk through the plantation we sampled different types of coffee (light, dark, coffee tea, and even coffee wine) with biscuits and jam.
The walking portion of the tour starts with a discussion of how the beans are harvested and dried and how variations in the process impact the flavor and health benefits of the final product. A key differentiator with organic farming, as mentioned in the geocache description above, is the interconnectedness between the many plants and animals (humans included) in one habitat.
For example, as birds eat fruits and insects their droppings fertilize the soil. Thriving in the soil are turmeric roots. Turmeric roots help stabilize the soil and prevent against erosion during the rainy season. In addition to coffee and turmeric, we saw plantains, vanilla, cinnamon, cocoa, and stevia in the span of fifteen minutes.
The tour starts and ends in the cafe/gift shop. I purchased a bag of dark coffee as a trip souvenir and am savoring every drop. We hope you love this experience as much as we did. If you go, wear long pants and a hat as we’re still recovering from some pretty impressive bug bites.
Book Your Stay near Atenas
We enjoyed two nights Barons Resort in Atenas, but you can use this map to find a venue that best suits your lifestyle and size of your group.