Savoring Costa Rica, Sip By Sip

Our final stop was in the town of Naranjo, another short hop from the city, at the Espíritu Santo Coffee Tour. The coffee itinerary — by now I could moonlight as a tour guide — in a 600-acre plantation is unveiled in seven stages, from planting to merchandising. It can be a long lesson, but the engaging guides sense when to pickup the pace. And not least, they are great with children.

That night, over dinner at Bacchus Ristorante in San José, Mr. O’Keeffe reflected upon our four-day coffee trek.

“It was interesting to see firsthand how sensitive coffee is to the elements, and to the politics of where it is grown,” he observed. “Costa Rica has such an advantage being located here in this pretty much protected valley and in a peaceful, safe country.”

Hurtling through so many cups of coffee in four days was educational, he noted, as coffee, like wine, is a moving target — and the tasting never stops.

This reminded Mr. O’Keeffe of a little story he sometimes pulls out of his wallet when in the presence of wine connoisseurs, about a television skit about wine tasting. “One actor said ‘I taste raspberries!’ and another said ‘I taste pears, peaches, cherries!’ and so forth,” he said. When it came to the final actor, “He said, ‘I taste crushed grapes.’ It’s like that with coffee tours.”

Addresses in San José lack street numbers. It’s all descriptive. The directions for one house included locating two barking dogs. The business address of our hotel, Costa Rica Marriott Hotel Hacienda Belen: “700 meters from west of Firestone/Bridgestone (tire stores/auto repair shops).” Rooms start at $180 a night.

From a distance, Soda Tapia across from the popular La Sabana Park and the Museo de Arte Costarricense in San José looks like a place someplace you would approach on roller skates, sort of a 1950s burger and fries drive-in with wraparound red-and-white awnings. “Soda” is the local term for a casual eatery and sandwich shop. Open late, Soda Tapia attracts a steady stream of well-nourished patrons and families, with a giant menu that includes delicious tropical fruit shakes. Sandwiches cost 2,500 to 3,800 colones, about $6; fruit shakes, 1,400 to 1,800 colones, about $3.

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