A new way to connect with Costa Rican cafés

I had a stomach virus for several days, which means that I wasn’t able to drink the Elixir of Life – or, at least, not in appropriate quantities. Today I was back to my beloved morning joe, and in gratitude, I’m dedicating today’s Boost to a local effort to support coffee shops.

Un Café para Seguir (A Coffee to Keep Going) is a lovely website that features a number of coffee shops and allows you to buy a gift certificate from them that you can use when the pandemic eases (many cafés are open now in keeping with government guidance, but at the same time, many families, like mine, are still staying home). I found it through a neighborhood spot I absolutely love, Santo Café, which I’m eager to support through this crisis, but learned about some other great spots by browsing the site.

I hope this new effort continues to grow, adding new shops, perhaps allowing us to buy specialty coffees and other services, and helping tourists find great, unique places for a cuppa once things improve.

What’s your favorite place to have a coffee in Costa Rica? Besides, of course, any quiet porch during an aguacero.

I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or FacebookIf you want to learn more about how to support Costa Rica during the crisis, visit my COVID-19 section, updated regularly – or for ways to enjoy Costa Rica from afar, visit Virtual Costa Rica.

Los Santos, part II: The case for organic coffee

If you’re like me, you saw this title and groaned. The need to buy organic seems like a constant drain on the wallet and a niggling worry, since I live in a country with the highest rates of agrochemicals per hectare in the world and often can’t find organic options here for products that might be available in a U.S. city. As I prioritize, health-wise – for example, I try to find organic strawberries, thinking about those porous skins that sit right on or near the ground – organic coffee is way down my list. Not even on my radar, to be honest.

But I’d never stopped to think about the benefits organic coffee might be bringing to a region I love, Los Santos, and the people who live there. Until a rural tourism advocate named Jonathan Cerdas, whose region I visited thanks to Travel with Ann, explained it to me.

Travel with Ann volunteers make an organic pest-repellant substance to spray on coffee plants.

The coffee farmers of Los Santos are nervous. The climate crisis and other factors have started to skew weather patterns, causing rainy-season dryness and dry-season rain, fatal for coffee. Water is in short supply in the towns, yields are down, and some of the outrageously gorgeous rolling green hills are bare on top as farmers expand their farms to make up the difference. Overall, coffee monoculture – like any monoculture – has driven down biodiversity in the region. Farmers tend to like “clean”-looking farms without other plants around the coffee, or they plant foreign trees like eucalyptus for price reasons, all of which keeps away vegetation that could help the soil with a host of positive consequences for the region.

The lush vegetation of an ecological coffee farm.

 

Cerdas and the Green Communities project he co-founded with Carlos Marín are boosting local economies by bringing volunteers to stay with families and help farmers go organic. They’re planting indigenous species to boost farm biodiversity and protect crops from unseasonal weather. They’re making organic fertilizer and pest-control substances to protect water supplies. Cerdas says that with time, these changes actually improve yields, and of course the organic market brings higher prices. (I’m also here to tell you it’s very delicious.)

Jonathan demonstrates how the first farmer to go organic volunteered at a community meeting.

I have to admit I had truly never thought about the fact that choosing organic coffee was about much more than my health. I can’t promise I’ll always go organic, but there’s some in my grinder right now – and I’ll never look at the choice the same way again.

Read Los Santos, part I: The case for homestays at all ages. And stay tuned for part III, The case for Costa Rica.

I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook! Each month in 2020 has a monthly theme, and March’s is women’s rights, so stay tuned for posts focusing on this issue.

Day 72: All I want for Christmas is coffee

Today is a special day for many people and countries around the world. That’s right: it’s the anniversary of the first Costa Rican coffee export to England. Captain William Le Lacheur took the precious cargo from the Pacific port of Puntarenas in the clipper Monarch.

That was in 1843. You know what happened in 1844 in England? The birth of the modern cooperative movement, the abolition of debtor’s prison and the creation of workday limits (ok, 12 hours for women and six for kids – not exactly knocking it out of the park, but progress). An awfully efficient, high-performing year for the country’s leaders, wouldn’t you say? Coincidence? I think not.

Well, maybe. But life started getting better across the pond when, that foggy Christmas Eve, a ship full of the world’s best coffee set off on an adventure that would transform Costa Rica forever.

To all those celebrating today, happy wrapping, churchgoing, cookie baking or whatever else the day holds – and may the coffee that fuels you through it all be worthy of a Monarch.

I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook! You can also find me churning out small, square poems on any topic under the sun (here on the site, on Instagram or Twitter). 

Day 61: I want to send you a boost in the mail!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to send someone a Costa Rican care package – and that moment has arrived. I’ll send a little box of CR love to a Daily Boost reader next week! To my delight, three of my favorite local businesses jumped on board to make the package even more amazing: Santo Café, Alma Artesana and Holalola Travel Gifts.

I’ve gotten lots of messages over the years from from Ticos abroad who miss their country during the holidays or non-Ticos who wish they were here. I am excited to reconnect with some of those same people through this contest and meet others who love Costa Rica, so even if you yourself aren’t interested, I’ll hope you’ll share the contest anyway so we can welcome some new readers into the fold before the year is out. (You can also transfer your win to a friend if, say, you live in Costa Rica or are visiting soon and would rather someone else benefit. So come one, come all!)

To enter, simply:

1. Like the Daily Boost on Facebook or Instagram, if you haven’t already.

2. Like the post about this contest (from today, Monday, Dec. 9).

3. In the comments for that post, tag a friend who might like the Boost in general, and/or this contest in particular. (I’ll give you a bonus entry if, in that same comment, you tell me a little about one of your favorite Costa Rican holiday memories or experiences – sights, sounds, smells, treats, people you miss – so I can share them in a later post. But this is a bonus, not required. I have plenty of readers who have not yet set foot in Costa Rica!)

Note: If you follow the blog via email and refuse to be on Facebook or Instagram, I think you are awesome. Simply comment below to enter, and tell a friend another way.

This will close Weds. at midnight EST. On Thursday, Dec. 12, I will draw and announce the winner, and I’ll send a package to any address in the Americas. It includes:

  • Delicious coffee from Santo Café (which sources its beans from the award-winning coffee region of Los Santos)
  • A gorgeous Gallopin in the shape of the Costa Rican flag and a lovely dried-flower resin paperweight from Siempreviva (both Alma Artesana artisans)
  • A package of Holalola postcards featuring all seven provinces, plus her whimsical Christmas card
  • A signed copy of “Love in Translation: Letters to My Costa Rican Daughter,” because of course
  • Some traditional Costa Rican sweets, including a Tapita Navideña, Guayabitas, and a delicious box of rainbow Chocofrutas.
  • Plus Salsa Lizano. You gotta have it.

Help me bring a little Costa Rican fun to someone’s holiday – and thanks for reading this year!

I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook! You can also find me churning out small, square poems on any topic under the sun (here on the site, on Instagram or Twitter). 

 

Day 12: Art inspired by coffee? Sign me up

During Week 1, I threw down my first of what will probably be many challenges to myself during this year: to get to know the stories of Costa Rican artists and support their work at a time when art is a particularly important antidote or vehicle for change. Well, meet Raudyn. I’ve never met him in person, but his work makes me smile. Raised in the province of Heredia, he picked coffee as a child alongside his grandparents, as did so many Costa Ricans during that time, and has dedicated much of his artistic life to showcasing the unique role of the “golden grain” in the country’s life. 

I love his paintings’ trademark shapes and spirals that cut the classic scenes into new patterns. I love the way he applied this same approach to Michael Jordan preparing for a dunk. I love the way he sees his art not as a throwback to a lost time, but as a reminder that the values that used to unite us – in this case, Costa Ricans – are still out there. As he said in an interview I edited while at The Tico Times, his work “applauds our ancestors, but I must also applaud today’s Costa Ricans. To the tico who still feels humble. The tico who… keeps working. There are still ticos like that and I applaud that.” 

Insert your own nationality to the statement above: lather, rinse, repeat. Thank you, Raudyn.  And if you share my desire to hang a piece of his work in your home one day, enter his raffle! Just visit his Instagram account.

Courtesy of Raudyn Alfaro
Courtesy of Raudyn Alfaro

I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook!

Day 3: I just had an epiphany in the middle of a sentence

Fantasy me drinks tea. She gazes out of a rain-spattered window as she savors every herbal sip and smiles indulgently at her daughter who is curled up on the hearthrug, building a tiny recycling center out of locally sourced twigs (note to self: acquire hearthrug. And hearth). She breathes a sigh of contentment as the comforting sound of her husband chopping kale in the kitchen. OK, that’s a bit much. He’s roasting a chicken, but it’s definitely free-range.

Real me drinks coffee, obviously, and does pretty much the opposite of all of the above. She does smile indulgently at her daughter over some good old-fashioned plastic Legos with her mind only about 45% distracted by that email she should have sent about that thing. “Queer Eye” is the hearth she curls up in front of. She’s made a life in the best coffee country on earth and takes her responsibility to support national coffee producers – singlehandedly, if need be – very seriously. She’s consistently a little bit frazzled, like a sitcom klutz, or at least that’s how it feels inside her brain. She thinks that Tea Me is kind of obnoxious.

I’ve been trying to get these two together forever. I keep telling Coffee Me that she needs Tea Me around, and that she should lay off the kale comments – but you know what I just realized right now as I am typing this? I fucking love Coffee Me. I don’t want to change a hair on her head. She can sip kombucha and make organic vegetable stew and meditate whenever she wants – and while kale is a nice punching bag, she secretly kinda likes it – but she is no longer expected to become a different person as a result. I’m done with self-improvement as a concept, especially when it’s is of no interest to certain horrible people at the very top of society. There’s so much wrong with the world, and so little time to fix it, that I don’t have an ounce of mental energy to spare for any me other than the one who’s prostrate on the couch, typing furiously while her daughter watches a cartoon about a group of anti-feminist ponies who can’t find their hairdresser (wait, what the… ? No. Let it go. Writing casualty).

Hi there, Coffee Me, ye of the whirring mind, disheveled hair and achy soul. I started this little essay intending to broker a peace between you and your imaginary mindful sister with her beatific smile, but you know what? No matter what you’ve got in your mug, you’re the one I want. And you’re all I’ll ever need.

I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook!

Endings (murió la flor)

Part of becoming a parent is gaining the ability to wax poetic about some pretty mundane shit – including, well, shit. Enough bleary-eyed diaper changes will make a philosopher out of anyone. Nothing, though, can compete with a bubble wand in terms of making a person ponder the fleeting nature of life. In the movie “Knocked Up,” Paul Rudd’s character describes it: “I wish I liked anything as much as my kids liked bubbles… It’s totally sad. Their smiling faces point out your inability to enjoy anything.”

Paul RuddIt’s really true. Watching a kid chase bubbles puts us, as adults, to shame: the simplicity of the game, the intensity of the joy. Continue reading Endings (murió la flor)