The Fate of Coffee . . . at Xandari!

A coffee leaf (Arabica sp.)

If I hadn’t put the ellipses and “Xandari” in the title, this post would have been a lot more mundane, because the fate of (most) coffee beans isn’t particularly interesting from an existential standpoint. Or, on second thought, maybe it is very interesting? Now that I think about it, different answers might betray different philosophical commitments. For example, what would be a better answer to the question of coffee’s fate: “roasting, grinding, and filling someone’s stomach” or “waking somebody up”? The previous answer is a mechanical life-history of matter composing the coffee-bean, while the latter places coffee in a meaningful context of life, where “coffee” isn’t a chemical sequence, but rather a beverage people consume for the flavor and its beneficial effects–“coffee” as most people besides chemists perhaps think of it, that is. Anyways, this post really isn’t about philosophy, even if the title has me (and perhaps you) waxing contemplative over how we make sense of things.

What this post is really about is the fate of wild coffee plants around Xandari Resort. You’ve already seen how Seth and I have been planting coffee in a bid to bring back the bean around Xandari (see Seth’s most recent post here, from which you can bounce all the way back to the first ones) and learned about the history of coffee at Xandari (here). When Xandari first began to be converted from a fertile, shade-grown coffee plantation under the control of the famed Doka Estate–Xandari stills sells their coffee, often considered the finest in Costa Rica–to its present condition as eco-resort and private nature preserve, many of the coffee plants that were growing tucked away in patches of hillside were left to run to wood and grow their hearts out. That means that old coffee plants still abound around Xandari, if you know where to look–and taking their natural mechanisms for spreading seeds into consideration, plenty of seedlings from their stock have also popped up around the grounds.

Old coffee off of the trail on Xandari–note how the rows can still be seen. This area is now used for the plant-a-tree program.

The first thing you have to be able to do is recognize the coffee leaves. I had never seen coffee plants in person (at least knowingly) before coming to Xandari, nor have many guests with whom I’ve chatted. Without knowing what coffee looks like, it’s tough to recognize how many traces there still are around us of Xandari’s past. I’ve put the top photo in to illustrate the distinctive leaves, which are a dark, glossy green with crumpled edges rising on woody stalks. Along the veins on the top of the leaf, the plant is also slightly creased.

With that picture in mind, you’re ready to begin walking Xandari’s path and reveling in the coffee all around you! Keep an eye out for some of the trees that have been planted by guests when walking among the old coffee rows–many of the plots have been converted to locations for Xandari’s plant-a-tree program (which I wrote about here). Check out this harmonious blending of species below:

A guest-planted tree in center, with coffee surrounding it; in an old coffee “grove”

The old coffee still has some surprising uses. For example, it helps form a barrier along some of the forest paths:

Coffee forming barrier on left side of trail (along with other plant sp.)

If you keep your eyes open, you’ll even spot some coffee growing right “from the bean” along the path. Check out the picture below for what I mean:

A coffee bean sprouting along the path (foreground), next to a large mushroom

And see a slightly more mature example of these intrepid, wild-grown coffee plants here.

So what’s the fate of these beans? Well, you’ve learned a little about their adventures and afterlife above, but it may ultimately be that some of the plants are removed to put in new, productive coffee as Xandari continues to expand in the sustainable coffee business.

Just a friendly reminder to follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@XandariResort) if you’re interested in keeping up to date on our posts.

5 thoughts on “The Fate of Coffee . . . at Xandari!

    • I don’t think the birds eat the beans, but it’s good news if the coffee is integrated into the forest because it means that a) there was no deforestation for coffee purposes, b) more leaf litter and plant surfaces, hence more arthropods to feed on.

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