You've probably heard that Costa Rica coffee is ridiculously good. That's true to a certain extent: You can walk into just about any establishment, pour yourself a mug of brewed coffee that's been sitting around for hours, and still not need to put any cream or sugar into it.
Espresso is another story, and espresso-based drinks are my bag. I judge establishments by their ability to make a cappuccino – and I like the new-fangled style that has latte-style microfoam and arrives in your hand at drinking temperature. This sort of thing is pretty rare in Costa Rica. Most of the caps I had were too hot, which made them bitter. Many of the baristas nailed the foam pretty well.
Anyway, let's take a stroll through the places where I drank some coffee and espresso. (Note: I usually only drink coffee four days a week. But I seriously indulged myself for all 10 days of my trip.)
Cafe Milagro in Manuel Antonio
Cafe Milagro in Manuel Antonio and Quepos is well-known. It's not just a coffeehouse, but a full-service restaurant that keeps going well past dark. It's a great place to grab a fish sandwich.
They also serve a tasty brewed coffee, probably my favorite of the type that I drank in Costa Rica. Their cappuccinos are so-so.
The short craft beer – or cervezas artisenal – list, is a nice feature for visits later in the day. Not extensive, but still a good start.
Downtown Coffee Roasters, San Jose
Downtown Coffee Roasters is in a pedestrians-only section of San Jose. And it is by far the best place to get espresso. Their cappuccino is absolutely perfect – right temperature, foam and taste. They also do a fine nitro cold brew ... I actually drank both on the same day, and you can imagine the result of that much caffeine. But I regret nothing. Would do again, 12/10.
I know this is a shorter write-up than some of the others. But Downtown Coffee Roasters was my favorite, and there are only so many ways I can say that.
Doka Estate, Alajuela
I was a little skeptical of a coffee plantation tour. It sounded like boredom to me. But we wanted something to do that afternoon, so I went along with it. And I was proven wrong.
It was very cool to see the amount of care and energy that goes into a drink so many of us love. There's also a good bit of innovation. Ray, our tour guide, was engaging and knowledgeable ... and he let us try some of the tasks. Hands-on activities are always good! I don't want to give any spoilers, but I'll say that it's worth your time, even if you think you know coffee.
Speaking of which, the tour included samples of four different types of brewed coffee. And I plunked down an extra $3 for a shot of espresso. It was a good shot – nice crema, which is always a good indicator. The Doka plantation is too far away to drop in for a casual morning cup, but it was still a nice place to sample some drinks.
Cafe del Barista, San Jose (Aranjuez)
I had some high expectations from the vibe at Cafe fel Barista. I expected them to be as good as Central Coffee Roasters. They were not. They were a cut above Cafe Milagro, though. Be careful if your Spanish is rusty: They serve spiked coffee drinks, too, at all times of day. That's how the wife wound up with her crazy concoction.
The cappuccino was pretty good, definitely more of a modern style with the latte-style foam. For me, it was a bit too hot and a bubbly. Still one of the better ones I had in Costa Rica, but not a match for Downtown Coffee Roasters.
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