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My How Things Have Changed

December 18th, 2006

Five years ago, it was almost impossible to get a good espresso anywhere in Costa Rica. For a country that grows coffee, I was mystified why no one knew how to brew it.

I grew up with terrible coffee. That’s why I never drank it. The watery cup of java was acidic and bitter. I couldn’t see what my parents saw in it. Then, I discovered espresso. This is how the little bean that lifts us up was meant to be enjoyed. Unfortunately, a huge machine the price of a small car used to be needed to produce this wonderful brew. Only a few could afford it.

Before moving to Costa Rica, I’d spent a lot of time in restaurants and coffee shops. I was so excited to be moving to a country where you could reach out and literally touch the beans. Coffee shops, however, were hard to find. When I found a shop and sat down and ordered, cappuccinos lacked fluff; espressos tasted bitter and never came with the little layer of cream on top that’s absolutely essential in a better than average cup. I’d get so angry at the “blah” brew before me, I wanted to go behind the beverage bar and show them how it was done.

How things have changed. Today I shopped in one of the newest grocery stores to sprout up in a nearby suburb. I walked in. I could have been in Seattle. The upscale look was accompanied by shelves stocked with almost every product one could want.

The sleek grocery store with the high ceilings and warm, Martha-Stewart-colors had an espresso bar 20 feet from the entrance. The women behind the bar wore a uniform of green and white. I suspected they didn’t know much about espresso. But they didn’t need to. That gorgeous stainless steel machine did it all.

I ordered a double espresso, and it was perfect. Bravo. Costa Rica’s moved up a notch in international cuisine. I bit into the wrap I bought at the deli counter, it was terrible. I can see some things are going to take a lot longer to change.

8 Responses to “My How Things Have Changed”

  1. April Dawn on December 18, 2006 4:53 pm

    Hello. I’m planning to move with my family, 5 y/o daughter 2.5 year old son who had cancer at birth but has been cancer free since 8 weeks of age. So I’m very concerned about doctor contacts and such, obviously. We will be coming back to the states yearly so he’ll continue to get his MRI’s until my husband is able to quit working in the states and also move to CR with us. Anyway, I just wanted to get in touch and keep in touch with someone who obviously knows her way around the medical world in CR. I tried subscribing to the RS feed but it wouldn’t cooperate.

  2. Susan on December 18, 2006 7:57 pm

    Congradulations on your success. That is really wonderful. I don’t know where you are moving, but a place to start may be CIMA hospital. A lot of ex-pats use their services. It is located in Escazu, a western suburb of San Jose. My son was at CIMA and the staff is wonderful. Sometimes the hospital drives me nuts, but that can be a combination of my personality,the culture, and plain old bad policies.
    Good Luck. Moving can be exciting and overwhelming, keep the optimisim.

  3. Manda Guevo on December 19, 2006 3:28 pm

    Manda Guevo que hablenm en ingles….. no suena muy tico


  4. Keith on December 30, 2006 9:17 am

    You don’t need one of those expensive big machines to make good espresso. Try the little two piece espresso makers you use on your stove top. Once you get the hang of it you cn make quite a good cup.

  5. Susan on January 1, 2007 9:01 pm

    You are quite right. I never got the hang of it and settled for a $50 model I was able to find right here, to my surprise.

  6. Diz on January 18, 2007 1:34 am

    We went directly to Seaco for our expresso maker, paid a fortune for it, but the do all services right at the Seaco store here in Escazu. I believe we paid around $500 for it, but its a relief to know we can get it fixed without sending it away.

  7. Susan on March 26, 2007 6:05 pm


  8. maya on December 2, 2007 10:45 am

    If you are ever in the mal pais/Santa teresa area you have to go to Artemis cafe and try the expresso there… WOW! the best expresso I ever had and I know a good expresso. It is just like in europe.