Ah, Hotel Mango Valley, possibly the single nicest place we stayed on this trip. Just outside the town of Grecia in Costa Rica’s central valley, and about 40 minutes from the airport in San Jose. Of course, we met some kids from Portlandia there in the pool… Our cabin had the best view in the place. Not all the big inside, but nicely constructed with kitchenette, a jet-tub, friendly staff and modern plumbing! $80/night, very happy to go back there someday. On weekends the Soda up the street delivers for free, and frankly it was pretty darn good.
Joyce found a great coffee farm tour for us – Cafe El Toledo. Over the last 20 years they’ve slowly converted the farm from conventional fertilizers + pesticides agriculture to certified organic and then to full bio-dynamic. What the heck does that mean? Our tour was lead by Gabriel, current owner of the farm. The switch to organic was driven by his father getting sick from the chemicals they were using at that time. The switch to organic dropped production at their farm and the family got by with odd jobs instead of going back to conventional farming which had put Dad in the hospital. There has to be a better way, they thought. Fast forward 20 years and their farm looks more like a forest. A mixture of coffee plants, fruit trees, vegetables and shade trees provides conditions that naturally controls pests and fertilizes the soil. This combination also reduces the labor needed to run the farm. While it’s true that they get fewer coffee beans per acre than conventional ag, the farm is also producing other products that the family both consumes and sells.
The tasting room.
Yup, roasting coffee beans.
Walking the farm.
Mandarins off one of the trees among the coffee.
If I lived in Costa Rica, I’d probably want one of these. And a scooter. And a machete. It would be like some kind of “Gringo Tico Starter Kit”.
Much more about their farm and how it works at their web site: Cafe El Toledo.
What I left out of the story so far is how took a wrong turn on the way to El Toledo and were driving up the mountain on some kind of goat path, being uncertain if this was or was not a road to a coffee plantain as we’d never been to one before. Finally we flagged down a police car coming down the mountain, and yes, we were on the wrong road and yes, we got a police escort over to the farm.
Afterwards we sought out the town of Sarchi, featured in this blog post… After that we were pooped and rolled back to Grecia, and then the hotel. Hung out with a fun couple from Montreal that night.
Their cathedral came over from Belgium as some kind of erector set – it’s all metal and you can see the rivets that hold it together.
Sadly, we weren’t appropriately dressed, so we didn’t proceed past the entrance. Possibly no one would have cared about our shorts, but sometimes it’s best to err on being polite.