It was time to swing by the Beneficio de San Isidro. That means, it was time to stock up on coffee. Costa Rica is famous for it’s coffea arabica, the magic, delightful coffee bean, originally native to the Yemen. I like to buy local, whenever possible and learned soon after moving here that a processing plant in the barrio (neighborhood, suburb) San Isidro sells directly to the consumer. Fortunately I was driven there by a neighbor for my first purchase, because directions to the Beneficio would sound a bit like this: leave Atenas centro by way of Hwy 3, turn right in direction of barrio Mercedes, drive through Mercedes till you see the bar ‘La Fortuna’, take the right fork right after La Fortuna (easy to miss, because the road goes so steeply downhill that you can’t actually see that there’s a road), continue downhill till you cross a stone bridge, take the left fork uphill, cross a low bridge and climb a few kilometers till you see a bright blue gate with a bleached ‘Beneficio San Isidro’ sign above on the left. Drive through the plant until you find a set of wooden steps, which lead to the office door. The ride is rather beautiful and pothole-y and well worth the effort. Not just for the remarkable scenery, but for the fantastic coffee they roast. I used to prefer a very dark roast, but have switched to their regular roast, because it’s so flavorful and rich. And 500g (an American pound has only about 450g) cost 2300 colones or $4.58, which is very reasonable, I think. After all, that’s only slightly more than the price for a single Starbucks cup of coffee made from Costa Rican beans, at least in part. For today’s coffee quest I took a new neighbor along so she could learn of the beneficio’s location as well. In turn, she showed me the location of a wonderful vivero or nursery for orchids and many other native plants.
The ‘Vivero La flor de orquídea’ is located even higher and deeper into the mountain, than the beneficio. You proceed up, up, up from barrio San Isidro to the village of Los Altos de San Isidro, the Heights of San Isidro! Unfortunately, my altimeter wasn’t working, but it was very much on top of the world – at least here in the Cordillera Central. The village has an elementary school, a mom & pop shop for your basic needs, a honey producer, a church, many farms and then the vivero, once you’ve come over the crest and follow the road toward the town of Palmares, which, according to the coffee lady in the beneficio, one should NEVER actually take.
Beyond the far mountains lies Palmaresortunately, there’s an easier road directly from Atenas! On the way back, we came across this magnificent view in a curve just below Los Altos de San Isidro. Pictures rarely do our far views justice. It’s truly breathtaking to gaze across the Central Valley to the volcanoes in the misty distance.