Costa Rica has no registered GI for coffee but has included Geographical Indications and Denomination of Origin in the Law on Marks and other Distinctive Signs, 2000. To increase access to the international market with high quality products, iCAFE has established the program “seven regions, seven coffees”. In this program, important coffee regions with an individual profile were identified. However, it is still under discussion if a GI should be nation-wide or region-wide. But various national regulations govern the coffee sector (executive orders):
- Law No. 19302-MAG (1989) forbids production of any other variety than Arabica coffee
- Law No. 2762 governs relations between producers, processors and exporters
- Law No. 7978 (promulgated 2000) covers marks and other distinctive quality signs
- Certification standards also exist for Costa Rican speciality coffee
With perfect soil and climate conditions for coffee, the 8 enumerated regions are producers of coffee. The country’s tropical rainy climate and volcanic, slightly acidic soils are rich in organic matter and ideal for coffee growing. More than 70% of the coffee is produced in the mountains, at altitudes of 1000-1700 mts and with temperatures averaging 17-23°c. For a product be a Geographical Indication it should fulfill 3 requirements:
- Specific Geographical Region: which is the 8 regions of Costa Rica
- Quality: 100% of the coffee comes from the Arabica specie, the Caturra and Catuaí varieties, which produce a high quality bean and a cup with better organoleptic characteristics: pleasant, aromatic, and select. The planting of coffee Robusta has been prohibited by law since 1989 because of its inferior cup quality. In addition, the Catimores have stopped being cultivated, on a large scale, to preserve cup quality.
- The quality is essentially due to the geographical region:
- Soil and climate: The coffee is grown in volcanic and low-acidic fertile soil, conditions ideal for production.
- The location of the area: More than 80% of the coffee area is located between 800 and 1,600 meters (2,625 feet-5,250 feet) above sea level and in temperatures between 17 and 28ºC (62.6ºF-82.4ºF), with annual precipitation between 2,000 and 3,000 millimeters (79 inches-118 inches).
- People of the area: The manual and selective method of picking is used: only ripe berries are selected (at optimal ripeness); this allows the coffee to be more easily washed. Each Costa Rican coffee region signed a Quality Improvement Agreement in which the owners of the processing plants have committed to receive and process only ripe fruit, which guarantees better cup quality.
- The peculiar/unique technique used: The Costa Rican coffee sector only uses wet processing, in which the removal of the pulp is done the same day that it is harvested. Also, the classification and cleaning, after removing the pulp, is done before the fermenting process, with the idea of eliminating the remaining pulp and removing possible defective beans.
The sun-dry method is used in the Costa Rican process, one of the more preferred systems of the demanding world markets; the process lasts 7 days. Mechanical drying is also used, which reduces the precise optimal drying time (12% humidity) to only 24 hours.
Thus according to me the grant of GI status to the coffee from various regions of Costa Rica is valid and it is one of the best legal weapons to safeguard the geographical indication from commercial exploitation owing to the fact that coffee trade is one of the major inputs to the economy of Costa Rica.
– Article contributed by Ananya Bharadwaj