El Toledo Coffee Tour Review

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El Toledo Coffee Tour Review

In between hanging out at the beach and hiking in the mountains of Costa Rica we wanted to learn and discover what gives Costa Rica its identity. Being coffee connoisseurs we figured there was no better way to do so than to go on a coffee tour. We chose El Toledo Coffee Tour for the great things we heard about it.

If you are looking for a coffee tour in Costa Rica, you will have many options ranging from large commercial operations that supply Starbucks to very small family operations. The El Toledo Coffee Tour is closer to the latter.

What we came way with after the wonderfully informative tour hosted by Gabriel and Ivette is a new appreciation for the coffee culture of Costa Rica, a couple bags of some of the best coffee in Costa Rica, and a slight caffeine buzz.

El Toledo Coffee brewing

Part 1: Introduction to Organic Farming Techniques

After greeting the rest of the guests in our small 6 person tour Gabriel introduced us to some of the basics of Organic farming as a whole and how it relates to coffee farmers. It was very interesting to learn about the process farmers must go through to get certified and the prohibitive costs associated. El Toledo Coffee Tour which is just a small family run operation has gone through various stages of organic and non-organic coffee growing to get to the point where they currently are which is an organic technique that involves growing a variety of crops as a form of pest control.

El Toledo Coffee Tour Farm

Another interesting point of discussion that Gabriel brought up was the real advantages of organic coffee which may not be what you think. In todays world most of us pick up all the organic products because we think it is healthier or better for the environment without thinking if it is really necessary. In the case of a coffee bean which is covered by a thick outer layer it may actually be more important to buy local, if possible, rather that a certified organic product.

Since there are no real health benefits to drinking organic coffee you must consider the environmental impacts of importing a coffee from halfway around the world. Not only does the ship or airplane burn fuel to get where it is going, but many countries require food products to be sprayed or fumigated before importation with harmful chemicals to kill off any pests that they may contain. So is your “organic” produce really organic after all?

Part 2: El Toledo Coffee Tour Roasting Process

Ever since we arrived at the farm and throughout the discussion on organic farming I was distracted by the delicious smell wafting out of the back room. The coffee roaster had been churning the fresh coffee beans turning the green beans into the product we are all familiar with.

As the process concludes there is a very fine line of when the beans are actually ready. And of course that depends on what kind of roast you actually want. I could begin to see that roasting coffee really is an art passed down from generation to generation. At El Toledo the Calderón family has been growing coffee for many years but only fairly recently got into roasting.

We were able to see the transition take place from a light roast coffee to a medium all the way to a dark. Later, during the tasting session we were able to taste the differences and after a description of the characteristics associated with each roast it was amazing to see the very fine differences.

El Toledo Coffee Tour Roaster

The roaster in action

Part 3: Tasting!

Yes, finally it was time for what we were all waiting for. Now we actually got to taste the final product.

After all the beans have been extracted from the roaster it was time to head back to the cafe. We were introduced to what flavors we should be looking for in a somewhat fruity and sour light roast all the way to the rich almost chocolaty flavor of a dark roast.

Gabriel told us we would be given three small cups of coffee in a random order and we were to taste each and decide what our favorite was without knowing which roast it was.

All three roasts were very good and brewed just right, but I would have to say my favorite was what I later learned was the medium roast as it was a good balance between the rich flavors of the dark roast that used to be my preference and the complex flavors of a light roast which is harder to perfect in the brewing process and which may be the reason I never appreciated a light roast as much as I do now.

El Toledo Coffee

El Toledo Coffee Tour snacks

Part 4: A Walk Around the El Toledo Farm

After plenty of coffee, some fried plantains and cake, we set out for a walk in the rain around the farm. It was interesting to see the techniques discussed earlier put into practice with the coffee plants mixed between fruit trees and beautiful flowering plants.

Not only was it a nice walk through the lush hills of Costa Rica but it was great to see where the coffee we would be drinking for the next couple weeks came from!

coffee beans

Coffee plants

The coffee plants are mixed in with other crops as a form of pest control

We were very happy that we chose the El Toledo Coffee Tour from the multitude of other options. It is set in a great location fairly close to the capital, San Jose, but feels like another world away from the busy city.

While we could have seen a much larger farm, it was nice to support a small family run operation and it did somehow feel more personal, not to mention it is the best coffee we have had in Costa Rica.

The only thing we would have changed about the tour is maybe having the walk around the farm first or maybe right after the introduction to organic farming so it was in a more chronological order, but then again maybe we did need that caffeine before an early morning walk.

For more information and to schedule a tour visit bestcoffeetour.com or contact Gabriel at cafeeltoledo@gmail.com

Thank you so much to our friends at El Toledo Coffee Tour for a great learning experience and amazing coffee!

El Toledo Coffee Tour



I am traveling the world focusing on adventure and photography.

1 Comment

  • Peg

    Great commentary Brooks. Really enjoyed it and I love the info on organic vs local. Excellent point made!
    Stay save but have fun!!

    October 25, 2016 at 2:42 am

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