At Espiritu, it didn’t hurt that we were greeted by a cute, young Tico gentlemen, Jose (his nickname). Jose greeted us as our van pulled up, helped us out of the car, and made sure we all had sunscreen and bug repellant. He then promptly escorted us inside (“don’t worry about paying now”) sat us down at a table, and served us coffee as we “got to know each other a bit”. He spoke English very well, and we learned as a boy he had grown up actually working in the coffee fields of Costa Rica. We were the only people in Jose’s tour:
At Britt – we were not greeted by anyone, paid and waited around until the specified time that the tour started. We did have a Dixie cup of coffee from a large thermos standing in the corner. At the starting time, we were herded into a large group (38 people to be exact!), and a woman starting talking to us – switching between English and Spanish so fast we could barely keep up. Then 2 gentlemen took over, and yes they were very good actors and yes they were funny, but this was definitely very scripted and intended more for a large group with a theatrical presentation.
At Espiritu, after our coffee and chatting, we started on our tour – by walking directly into a huge coffee finca (farm). Jose explained the coffee “cherry” (the red stage, where it is ready to be picked), and picked some and had us actually try and taste them. We were welcome to take our time, take as many pictures as we wanted (and Jose was happy to take our picture, too). We walked slowly through the coffee plantation, all the while Jose talking to us about the beans and us asking questions.
Britt – we were herded to the next location by the 2 gentlemen (see? I don’t even remember their names), and continued to be spoken/acted to in rapid English and Spanish. They had some props which showed us different stages of the beans, etc., but to be honest, I just found it hard to concentrate on any information they were giving us. If there was a joke, I wanted to laugh at the proper time and all.
Espiritu – We got to see a person actually roasting the coffee beans. Jose explained how there was a first “pop” of the beans when it got to a certain temperature, and then a second “pop”. Timing was everything. The roaster-guru (he even wore goggles!) knew exactly when to open the hatch and let the beans out. Some were still popping as they spun in front of us. Very hot. But very cool, at the same time.
Britt – Well, there was a roasting machine there – but it was not being used. One of the tour guide’s got up by it with his microphone and explained what happens. Then, he turned it on, and opened the hatch to let some coffee beans out (fake alert! They were real coffee beans, but they had obviously not just been roasted!). No popping going on here.
Espiritu – we got to go in the production building and actually see (and smell!) some beans being ground and getting ready for packaging. We got to see some employees actually packaging it – they had machines, but they kept a close eye on things, and had to move the packages around and insure they were all sealed property.
At Britt – we were behind a glass wall, were not allowed to go into the actual production building, and they just happened to be closed that day – so we couldn’t even see anything going on inside.
At Espiritu – Shirley got her own personal escort service. And I got to pour water over a REAL chorreador (the Costa Rican way to make coffee) in an old fashioned Costa Rican house.
At Britt – we were herded into a theater with a stage, where we were talked to some more. Displays were done on stage, and also a video (which was interspersed with more acting from the 2-man team).
Espiritu – we ended in their small gift shop, where we were served several “mini” shots of coffee liquors, and then we were served some different types of coffee. All was laid back, we were to take our time, experience the flavors, and talk about them. Jose acted like he had absolutely nothing to do for the rest of the day. The coffee was made fresh (just for us!) in a French Press, and served to us by a young woman.
Britt – we ended at their huge gift shop, where we were briefly told where the coffee, chocolate, and various other items were for sale. There were thermoses of coffee next to each type of coffee, and the coffee was good (although not always hot and some thermoses were empty). By the time I got through all the people to the chocolate wall, all the chocolate samples were gone. 🙁
As you can see, something just seemed to be missing for me at the Britt Tour. Maybe I didn’t “catch” all the information – because it wasn’t one-to-one where I could spit out a question if I wanted to. The coffee was good, but there wasn’t a lot of tasting going on. I think I’m just more impressed these days with personable, one-on-one, service… ah well, was still fun and interesting.
You may notice the lack of Britt photos in this post, but there just didn’t seem to be a lot of photo opportunities (Greg didn’t take any at all with his fancy camera, that should say something right there…).
That’s all for now folks! Next up will be our time at the Toucan Rescue Ranch!
Ciao! — Jen