Located in the coffee capital of Costa Rica, Sabanilla, Alajuela is the Doka Estate Coffee Plantation. The farm belongs to the Vargas Ruiz family, pioneers of coffee production for more than 70 years. They offer a lovely tour of the plantation with the main objective of educating and informing participants in regards to the whole production process from the picking of the beans to the processing of coffee. There are tasting areas for coffee and other coffee drinks such as espresso or cappuccino.
Our private tour guide was an older gentlemen named Carlos. He knew the history of coffee and the farm and provided a plethora of information on planting, growing, harvesting and processing of the coffee bean. Coffee picking is a family affair at Doka Estates where entire families of several generations work together during harvest season. For many families this is their sole source of income for the entire year so these plantations have great cultural significance.
The tour began at the seedbed area. Here plants are growing from tiny seedlings to larger plants ready to be planted in the field. Carlos engaged in a lengthy discussion of the different stages of growth and the origin of coffee in Costa Rica. He instructed us on the plant, the flower which is a hermaphrodite (both male and female reproduction capability) and the layers of the fruit seed. He took a piece of ripe fruit from the coffee tree and showed us the various layers:
- An external layer known as the pulp.
- A sugary gelatin substance that is referred to as mucilage.
- A hard shelling that is referred to as parchment or simply as the shelling.
- A thinner layer commonly known as the film.
- And finally the grain or almond which is the part of the fruit (drupe), which is roasted and ground in order to make drinkable coffee.
The tour continued with a walk through the fields of growing coffee plants. Since harvesting is a family affair, there are specific areas designated for a particular family.
The next station is the oldest coffee processing plant, declared to be an Architectural Heritage for Humanity site in 2003. The plant is self sustained powered entirely by hydraulic power. Here the beans are classified and separated according to their quality. Second quality beans are dried inside using wood from the old coffee trees to fuel the fire. First quality beans are dried on large cement platforms called Guardiola in the sun and covered with huge tarps when it rains.
Another benefit of the tour is the visual beauty of the grounds. The flowers on the plantation are huge with deep color saturation. Blue hibiscus were everywhere the size of a volleyball..truly beautiful. Since the farm is located on slopes of the Poaz volcano, there is an abundance of volcanic ash in the soil creating a soil rich in calcium and nitrogen. Banana plants are planted among the coffee creating a symbiotic relationship between coffee and banana plant as the banana shelters the coffee from the wind and provides water and potassium during drier seasons.
Our tour lasted around two hours and my husband and I were surprised at how much we enjoyed it. We concluded out tour with a nice lunch in the La Cajuela Restaurant–a covered patio area overlooking the grounds. The cuisine was decent typical Costa Rican and they had several varieties of their coffee to sample. There is a store Cafe Tres Generacions on the premises where you can purchase packaged coffee and other coffee items such as chocolate covered beans. Different tours are available all week long so check out their website at www.dokaestate.com for tour description and schedules.
You may contact them directly at [email protected] or (506) 2449-5152 for more information and reservations.