Although I believe this is the earliest we have finished up our daily activities so far, I feel like today we did the most!
The morning started off with a visit and lecture at the CAITE graduate school. I was surprised to find it only has about 120 students enrolled! The school offers masters programs in agricultural development and biological conservation as well as their newest program, Sustainable Tourism, taught in English!
We then hopped in the bus and visited the Cacao Collection near the institution. Here, we got a tour of just a small part of the plantation where the cao cao is grown and produced. We were first shown a plant that had 3 different types of cao cao growing on it, then taken through the process of how this is done. The process begins by planting the varieties of cao cao separately. Once they are sprouted to a certain point, they take a graft from one plant and insert it into another plant in a specific spot on the stem, tightly wrapped together, then observed to make sure it grows in the proper way! We watched a grafting take place and it was amazing to see him do the process in under 3 minutes with just a pocket knife! Over 70% of the grafting plants are successful in the process and make it easier to grow more varieties as well as have less diseases get to the plants!
From there, we were taken to an agricultural and ecological farm, Finca Monte Claro. We had a delicious lunch made right before us and were taken on a tour of just a small part of the massive farm. There were over 30 horses, some of which were stallions that we got to get close and personal with, as well as pigs, chickens, and cows that we were not able to see. The farm is family owned but they do hire people from the surrounding communities to work on it since it is so big. The tour guide talked about some of their traditions they hold during the holidays, including the traditional tamale making where they do the whole process from scratch and celebrate and all members in the family have their jobs in the festivities. Costa Rica is number 14 on the top coffee producers in the world because of their small size it makes in nearly impossible to be able to compete against other countries like Brazil or Colombia. Then we got to see the coffee plantation there where we got a walk-through of the entire coffee-making-production process from start to finish! The coffee plants are best grown at 800-1600 meters (elevation 2624.67-5249.344ft) and on a hill because of the humidity and heavy rainfall. The berries are ready to be picked when they are red, and MUST be picked by hand! They have tons of field to cover and workers are paid by how much they collect, so it seems like a very tiresome job. The barries are then taken back and opened to reveal either 2, 3, and sometimes but most uncommonly 1 slimey seed. then they are put through a washing process and laid out to dry in humid tents until they reach 12% humidity. If they dont reach this point, they have a machine dryer to speed up the process. Then one of their workers has to sort out the good seeds from the bad one based on their color (white are good, dark are bad, meaning they were picked too early in their ripening) then they are ready to be toasted to what we know as coffee beans! Im not a coffee drinker but it was amazing to see the whole process unfold and see how much time and effort is put in to make it!
I got my first 2 bug bites of the trip… it could be worse but I am determined to not get any more, but excited for whats in store!