Costa Rica Cost Of Living Update:              One pound of REALLY good Costa Rican coffee- $5

Last Thursday was International Coffee Day. I’ve never heard of his holiday and can’t remember ever getting a day off from school to celebrate. However, with such a global love for this product it would seem reasonable to have a day set aside to reflect on this incredible bean. Since I live in Costa Rica, I don’t have to go far to appreciate it.

Costa Rica is known for harvesting some of the finest coffee in the world. Many of the beans are grown at altitudes ranging from 1200 to 1700 meters, the perfect conditions for a good product. Everyone who visits the country falls in love with it. In fact, your flight back from Costa Rica will most likely smell like Starbucks since most tourists cram a few pounds of packaged coffee into their carry-on bags.  With this kind of love affair, the Costa Rican tourism board should consider new ads like, “come for the wildlife, stay for the coffee” or “our monkeys are not caffeinated but you will be”.  But one that I believe best describes the experience is, “drink a cup and keep it simple”.

Coffee has flourished into a booming industry around the world and no one has helped put it on the map more than Starbucks. Likewise, no one has made the simple process of ordering a cup more complicated than Starbucks. People not only want the drink but they demand infinitesimal, mind numbing combinations in which to order: latte, caramel Macchiato, double shot, soy milk, whipped cream, etc.

Sometimes the combinations sound exotic,  “I’ll have a Venti, three pump hazelnut, no whip, white mocha, extra-foam, American cappuccino”.  Now that’s a high brow way to order.  I usually follow with my reckless request, “a large coffee with milk.” It’s not that I wouldn’t want to place an order like the previous customer, but I get confused fairly easily and half way through I would lose my thoughts and have to start over. I don’t need that kind of pressure and a Starbucks line at seven in the morning is not the time to hold up a crowd of people who have been caffeine deprived for the last twelve hours.

Once I tried to impress my dad and bought him a four dollar frothy, frozen coffee drink. When he heard what I spent he immediately called a financial advisor to council me on the bankruptcy that was surely in my future due to my poor money decisions. He then showed me the thirty pound jug of Folgers he got on sale from Pathmark, displaying it on the counter as one would a 1st place bowling trophy. “Don’t complicate your life,” he said. It might be the best advice he ever gave me.

There are also other things to consider when drinking coffee. What type of appliance are you using to prepare it? There are just as many gadgets as there are ways to order it: percolators, programmable, single serve, double serve, French press, or smart brewing.  I like the term smart brewing. As if they are insinuating I’ve being doing it the dumb way this whole time. Perhaps I have. After my appliance got zapped by an electrical surge, I adapted by manually pouring a pot of hot water through the filter and got the same result. My uniquely patented dumb method still enables me to enjoy a fresh cup in the morning.

Restaurants in Costa Rica make it easy when ordering coffee. There are rarely more than a couple of choices. They, like my dad, keep it simple. However, they do provide heated milk on the side which is a wonderful luxury. And who needs all the fancy combinations when you are sitting under a palm tree watching the surf roll in?

Therefore, it is not surprising after a wonderful vacation tourists stock up on coffee at the airport. They want to take back a small piece of their vacation.  The coffee will remind them of the breakfast overlooking the water, early morning sounds of howler monkeys, and the blue Mag-pie birds darting down to steal sugar packets.

The memories will easily flood back…. with each, simple sip.