Visit this Starbucks before you die!

We found the Starbucks mother lode. It’s the only Starbucks in the world that grows it’s own coffee and roasts it on site, too. Throw in killer views  (most of the time), decent food, and super fast Internet, and you won’t leave.

A Starbucks with a view – the bushes in neat rows are coffee plants.

The view isn’t too shabby for the baristas either. They can literally watch their coffee grow. Filter coffee in the foreground, and syphon coffee makers to the right.

Main seating area – the view comes and goes.

The Starbucks is in the middle of a Hacienda, and all the coffee they serve is grown and processed on site. It doesn’t get any fresher than that. Ordering coffee is not that easy, as the baristas have access to a large selection of coffee making devices, from fancy drip coffee, to french presses, to a Clover coffee machines, to batteries of syphon coffee makers and your regular espresso machine.

Coffee plants just behind the Starbucks. The barista is working the Clover machine.

The small roaster inside the Starbucks.

The sweets menu – Somewhat similar to the US.

We had this cheese plate, and the bread was the best so far in Costa Rica, USD 13.74.

They have a small lunch menu, and the weather was still not encouraging. We decided that the Starbucks was so much better than the hotel room or any other competing activies, and so we stayed for lunch

This Starbucks also has lasagna, soups, and sandwiches, enough for a decent lunch.

They grow strawberries in plenty of farms just up the hill,

While we were there the torrential rains turned a beautiful waterfall in an impressive brown mess.

When we came there were two white waterfalls, each about a quarter the size.

The strawberries are hyper local, too.

But there is a lot more to this Starbucks. It’s part of a large coffee growing Hacienda with a mission:

Diseases can be a disaster for small farmers and destroy a whole crop. Increased production costs and global warming further threaten small grower’s survival. More productive plants hopefully leads to a reduction in deforestation. Throw in increasing global coffee consumption and we must develop more productive and more resistant coffee varietals, and collect and spread best practices.

Starbucks realized this and bought this farm in 2013 from the original owner to ensure “the future of coffee”.  Hacienda Alsacia is a research and development center to develop new varietals of Arabica and improve best practices. All the research is open-source as they freely share any new varietals with any farmer who is interested. The hacienda also hosts the local education center for farmers, a free support center for all coffee growers.

The tour is different from the abundant small coffee grower tour that focus on the growing and manual processing. Hacienda Alsacia is a large, automated grower, and the tour is more interesting for engineers. You also learn about Starbucks’ commitments to global sustainable coffee growing. We were in the middle of a torrential down pour, so we spent just a few minutes between the coffee plants and most under cover, in a small processing area.

Unfortunately it wasn’t really harvest season just yet, so we didn’t send out these volunteers into the rain.

This is where they dry some coffee – clearly not today,

You’ll learn a little about Robusta (which Starbucks doesn’t use) and a lot about Arabica. You’ll learn about the processing of coffee, different quality levels, and how the process impacts the end result.

Flowering Season was over, but there was one flower left,

The tour of course covers all the make-gringos-feel-good aspects: It has houses for the seasonal work force that picks the coffee, on site day-care and schools for the kids of the migrating families, and follows all Starbucks and government requirements. It’s even audited by the same third party that audits Starbucks coffee growers.

The tour also includes the obligatory coffee tasting that made me want to buy a siphon coffee machine.

Be aware that tourist attractions in Costa Rica charge US prices for everything. Between late morning coffee with bread, cheese, cakes and croissants, lunch, and the tour this attraction may easily set you back $50/person. You can find the Starbucks 30 minutes north of Alajuela, Costa Rica. It’s a nice combination with a visit to the Poás Volcano National Park (you need to buy online tickets to the park before you drive up). It’s the only active crater you can visit in flip-flops (but we still recommend better shoes)

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