Hello Summer, Goodbye Coffee

As the Costa Rican winter comes to an end, so does coffee picking season.

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For a community like Fila Naranjo, coffee picking season is an important time of the year and for many families, it’s the only time of the year that they have a steady flow of income.

Coffee harvest is usually around 4-6 months, starting as early as September and lasting through January or February.

Usually this is a time when things in the community feel…dead. Both men and women head to their fincas (farms) and pick coffee all day. And I mean awwwllll day. People pick coffee from 8-12 hours every day in rain or blistering shine covering their entire bodies in jeans, long sleeve button up shirts, caps, bandannas, and boots to prevent sunburn and keep the zancudos (mosquitos) away. If it’s raining, they’ll cover their heads and bodies with plastic bags.

Can you imagine?

Oh, and while the children are on school vacation during January and February, they pick coffee too. Which is why only 3 kids showed up to my December Art Week. 

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*sighhh*

But coffee picking is no joke. And if you want to make money, you gotta pick it fast. The average person picks 6 cajuelas (see photo) every day. The day I picked coffee, I picked one.

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See that basket? That’s a “cajuela”

Each cajuela is worth 1,000 colones
6 cajuelas x 1,000 colones = 6,000 colons / day
That’s $12 per day

Let’s do some math:

$12 x 30 days = $360 / month
$360 x 4-6 months = $1,440 – $2,160

If you’re lucky enough to have a dual income, then your income for the year is around $2,880 – $4,320

Yeah, that’s nothing.

Over the past few years, the price of coffee has declined. No one in my community seems to understand why, but after gathering enough answers from people around the country (literally every question here requires data analysis), I’ve concluded that:

More countries around the world are producing coffee and with rising standards and regulations, the price for unregulated coffee has dropped.

It made a lot of sense to me. When you walk into a coffee shop in the United States, you’ll see fair trade, certified organic, finely toasted beans

My mom’s a 100% organic fair trade coffee connoisseur

It’s a business growing more tedious and refined and therefore, becoming more difficult for small, unregulated, coffee fincas like the ones that exist in places like Fila Naranjo.

Que charrita (Such a shame).

With the sun shining high in the sky all day long now, women transition back into their full-time Ama de Casa roles while men spend time cleaning up their coffee fincas in preparation for next year’s crop and finding random work in the campo (countryside) such as chopping and selling wood and taking care of livestock.


For me, the end of coffee season means it’s time to reunite the Women’s Group I work with and continue developing our rural tourism project.

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