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La vida loca! Wished you were there? We did, so here we are on our big adventure! A year in central America, to make sense of this vida loca...

Sidenote - The Curse of the Coffee Tour

MEXICO | Wednesday, 1 April 2009 | Views [1055]

coffee beans - photo by Happy Sleepy on Flickr

coffee beans - photo by Happy Sleepy on Flickr

Observant readers may remember that back in Panama,we went on a tour of a specialist coffee producer on the slopes of Volcan Baru.  The blurb on the tour said ´warning you may become a coffee snob´.  Unlikely, I thought – I´ve been to various wine tastings before and just didn´t really get down with tasting gooseberries, melon and raspberries in my glass.  I still have to admit to being in the ´I like that wine´ or the ´that wine is nasty´ camp.  For coffee, I´d long stopped drinking instant stuff, which to me tasted as near to actual coffee and Smash does to mash.  But, as long as the coffee was strong and perky, I didn´t really mind.

After the tour there wasn´t any road-to-Damascus experience, but a couple of weeks later I was sitting in a coffee shop in Costa Rica and suddenly decided that I didn´t like the coffee I was drinking.  It was too bitter.  It lacked depth.  It didn´t give my nerve endings a metaphorical slap across the face.  Oh dear.  As we´ve travelled up through Central America, I´ve found more and more coffee that I just don´t like.  Its too weak.  Its been sitting around for too long.  It tastes like the strainings of an acorn soup. Dammit, there´s no oily stuff on top!

And its getting to the pitiful state that if I find a café in a town where I like the coffee, it makes my whole day better.  OH DEAR.  In various places I´ve been dragging Rachel back to the same establishment just to get repeated happyhappyjoyjoy fixes.

But most of the time I´m disappointed.  And this, in the veritable centre of the coffee world (Columbia excepted).  Partly its just that I´ve probably become a hideous coffee snob.  But mostly its also because people in the countries we´ve travelled through just don´t drink the coffee they grow.  Nearly all the good stuff is exported – for example in Nicaragua big American chains like Starbucks and DunkinDonut buy up most of the crop.

Also, most people can´t afford to buy coffee beans (especially if you spend hours every day picking the stuff for next to nothing).  So get this.  They drink Nescafé.  If you wanted another example of how screwed up the world is, there´s a shining example.  It reminds me of sad story of Cocoa farmers in south America that have never tasted chocolate. 

Oddly, it also seems that restaurants don´t know how to make the stuff.  They maybe catering to American tastes for brown dishwater (sorry, American readers).  Honestly, I found on average one good café per country we´ve gone through.  And if you weren´t worried about me before, in our travels I´ve noted down coffee brands that I´ve really liked for ordering when I get home – Its getting that bad.

I can only hope that my snobby taste buds stop where they are.  At this rate I´ll be getting obsessive compulsive by the time we return, and will spend three hours every day making the perfect cup.  Help Meeeeeeee.

Tags: finding a decent coffee in central america

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