Britt Coffee Tour (vs. Espiritu Santo)

When my Mom was here we went on two different day trips with our driver/friend Wilson of Coati Tours.  This post is about our trip to the Britt Coffee Tour.

When Greg’s Mom Shirley was here last November, we had gone to the Espirtu Santo Naranjo Coffee Tour.  There was a stark difference between these two tours.  I will denote the comparisons here:

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:

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Espiritu – Jose and good coffee to start!

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.

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Britt – the 2 guy actors.

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.

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Espiritu – time in the coffee bean fields!

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.

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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.

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Espiritu – coffee grinding and packaging.

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.

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Espiritu – escort service & hands on coffee-making!

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).

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Britt theater/stage.

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

Jen

I quit my job in my early 40’s, sold everything and retired early to live a simple life in Costa Rica!

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16 Responses to Britt Coffee Tour (vs. Espiritu Santo)

  1. Wow! What a difference. I hate being in large groups in general–they should have a limit to 20 max, I think! If you want another authentic, family-run, pleasant coffee tour experience (3 way comparison?), visit Gabriel & Ivette at El Toledo in Atenas. They even serve a delicious casado with their coffee at the end of the tour. =) $15 per person.

  2. Try the El Toledo coffee tour (near Atenas) and learn about “the other way” to grow coffee — organic. This too is a personal tour with owner-family members walking you through and brewing your samples. Sorry but almost zero gift shop (a small handful of chorreadors and a few generic t-shirts.) Note: I’m moderately anti-organic because it is mostly marketing B.S., however, this is the real deal. If you don’t know the story, you will come away amazed. No, I am not involved in El Toledo in any way nor a relative.

    • Newtonian – wow, thanks much – will definitely give that one a try (with our next “guest visitor”)!! Sounds wonderful – I love family run places!

  3. We will definitely visit Espiritu next, thanks for a great write-up on the tours. I agree with the comments above, we really enjoyed the tour with Gabriel at El Toledo – they have over 70 5-star comments on tripadvisor, and I can see why! It’s probably a smaller operation, but they let you experience each stage with lots of background info on organic coffee.

  4. Never been to Espiritu which sounds like a different, more personal experience.
    I’ve done Britt a couple of times with visiting friends, the first was maybe 12 years ago.
    Not much has changed. It has a comercial feel put on for tourists. Everything you described reminded me
    Of 12years ago.
    Britt is owned by a Gringo from the East Coast and he’s a excellent marketing guru with stores and products
    throughout Costa Rica.
    Thanks for the info on Espiritu!

    • Interesting on the 12 years ago… and that it’s owned by a Gringo (makes sense). Yes, they do have a really good business and make TONS of money… but it you want a more personal, hands-on experience – go to Espirtu. 🙂 Thanks for reading me, Ed!

  5. Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve only been on the Britt tour so far – it was a corporate event, so I didn’t have to pay my way. I had fun, I guess – but it was more like a show at Disney. The two gentleman conducting the tour had the patter and crowd work down pat.

    Sounds like Espiritu Santo has a more down-home vibe – I’ll have to check it out.

    Another cool place to visit is Finca Rosa Blanca in Heredia. They have a very small organic farm but are big on education. Plus there’s a great restaurant on site in very peaceful surroundings.

    • Ah, thanks for the info on Finca Rosa Blanca – I will indeed keep that on my list, that sounds right up my alley! Especially the great restaurant… lol I won’t turn down good food. 🙂 Thanks Jason!

  6. Hi Jen,

    We just wanted to thank you so much for your guidance on which coffee tour is best. We opted for ES and had a fabulous experience. Our charming tour guide, Ronnie, was excellent and we ended up with a private tour for 4. We wouldn’t have made such a great choice without your advice. Thanks again!

    • DJ! This is so nice to hear. We really love Espiritu, so am glad to hear you enjoyed as well! Thanks for writing and following me!

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