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Don’t go to Costa Rica without having coffee ...

Travel, Vacation and Adventure Guide to Costa Rica

Since the first German beer brewers came to Costa Rica it has been the custom in cantinas and restaurants to serve a little snack with your drink.

Don’t go to Costa Rica without having coffee. It’s a higher quality than typical North American everyday fare, and better than Starbucks. Café con leche is coffee served in hot milk, like a cappuccino, only less expensive. Café Britt is usually considered the country’s best brand, but it is also a bit more expensive than others. It’s available in dark and light roasts. Buy your coffee in a supermarket and save over gift store prices. Many other local brands are worth trying too. Buy bags marked puro, not traditional, unless you like your sugar premixed in with the grounds. Ground coffee is marked molido, and whole bean is grano entero. You can also order Café Britt in the US ( 800/462- 7488, www.cafebritt.com).

With a proliferation of fresh fruit, there are no national refreshments as delightful as batidos or jugos. Jugos are fresh juices (jugo de naranja is orange juice), while batidos, or refrescos, are juice shakes made with water or milk.We are absolutely addicted to batidos and love to try different exotic flavors, such as mango, blackberries (mora), tamarindo, pineapple (piña), guava, papaya, banana and – our latest addiction – strawberry (fresca) in milk (leche). In August when the volcanic soil of Poás yields bumper crops of red ripe strawberries, there is nothing so wonderful as a lunch in the cool fresh mountain air accompanied by a strawberry milkshake in a tall glass. Yum.

Batidos and their counterparts, liquados in Mexico and smoothies in the USA, are truly delicious – and they are drunk at any time of day. Made by blending fruit, crushed ice, water or milk together into a smooth liquid, their variations are as endless as one’s imagination and Costa Rica’s bountiful selection of fruit. Wetried countless concoctions using one, two or three fruits and enjoyed them all. But our favorites are fresh strawberry or luscious blackberry – Costa Rica has the largest blackberries we’ve ever seen – both made with milk. Another similar treat is horchata, a rice-milk drink. All these drinks are a delicious, healthy, addiction. Ask them to use purified water, agua purificada, when you order. Or try them with milk.

Not as well known outside of Costa Rica is the wonderful beer they brew. Our favorite is Imperial, a lager, but you should decide on yours by trying them all! Pilsen is a light gold pilsner, while smooth Bavaria is a bit heavier and darker than Imperial. Tropical is a lightweight but a good brew in the hot lowlands. Be aware that many Ticos drink their beer in a glass with ice, so if that’s sacrilegious to you, better make sure you say, sin hielo, (SIN YEL-low).

The national drink of the nation’s alcoholics is Guaro, a sugar cane based hard liquor that tastes like rubbing alcohol. Since the first German beer brewers came to Costa Rica it has been the custom in cantinas and restaurants to serve a little snack with your drink. Bocas, which translates to “mouths” or “mouthfuls,” is the name of the appetizer that nowadays may or may not come with your drink. Alas, the economics of scale have restricted the freebies to smaller bars in the countryside, or friendly places in town. The many kinds of bocas offered vary from ceviche (raw fish in lime juice) to chicharrones, heartclogging fried pork rinds, and everything in between – including rice and beans. Ask for free bocas, but remember the standards of cleanliness in your local watering hole may not meet yours.


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