It's easy to get drugs here in Costa Rica
Okay so before you get TOO excited we're not talking Cocaine, or Speed or anything of that ilk. What we are talking about is anything legal. If you need any kind of medicine here you don't have to go begging to your GP hoping they'll prescribe you what Dr Google has clearly said you need. No, you can just go in, ask for what you want, and they'll sell it to you. For less than the price of a prescription too!
Case in point, Ali had run of the anti-biotics prescribed to him by the doc before we tottled off here. The doc had said that, if the initial course didn't work, it was okay to go source some more. Considering Ali had only just started getting better on the last day of the course we went all 'belt and braces' and went to find some more.
And that's when we discovered the smorgasbord of drugs available to you at a Costa Rican pharmacy. Not only did we get a week's worth of antibiotics for less than a tenner, we were able to pick up a range of other things too for not very much. Here, it seems, you can take responsibility for what medicine you need. As long as you can afford it of course.
Talking of drugs, the other legal 'drug' that's not only easy to get hold of here, but basically essential that you do, is caffeine. Costa Rica produces some of the best coffee beans in the world. The climate and soil is spot on for making the most delicious beans it seems.
To find out more about the process we visited Cafe Britt, which is about 20 mins outside of San Jose (and where, if you order a 'grande' coffee, you need to be prepared for drinking a cup of Joe that's the size of your head!).
Led by a rather jovial, bilingual guide, we found out everything you could need to know about how coffee plants are grown, the fruits harvested and the beans roasted. I won't go into everything that was covered in the 2 hours here, but here are the highlights that stuck with me:
The coffee plant is related to the Jasmine plant, and when you see the flowers you see the similarity
The flowers bloom for just 3 days a year, and if the rains come and destroy them in that time then the whole crop is lost for the year (someone fetch the umbrellas!)
If the flowers make it then the plant takes about 3 years from seed to become a useful plant that you can make coffee from
Although they can live for up to 100 years, its only the first 25 years of life that they produce a tasty bean (after that they start to wither up and be too dry - in other words a coffee plant is past its prime in its late twenties. Sometimes it can feel the same as a human too...)
If a coffee plant is exposed to a certain smell or scent nearby as it's growing, that gets infused into the bean and changes the overall taste. So watch out for your coffee neighbours!
There are so many things that can go wrong in the time it takes to grow to maturity that it makes you wonder how on earth any of them make it at all! (and makes you appreciate your morning cuppa all the more)
Coffee pickers have to do the process by hand - selecting only the ripe red fruit. They get paid by weight of fruits picked and a good picker can make $60 a day, but only for the picking season, which lasts about 4 months. In other words, not an easy way to make ends meet.
How you prepare your coffee makes a MASSIVE difference to the end taste. Ideally, the whole process is quite a mindful thing and takes time. A 'cup of instant' this most definitely is not!
The French Press (aka Cafetiere) was NOT invented in France. Instead it was designed by two Italians on the Belgian border, but that wasn't deemed 'marketable' enough. Also, 'Cafetiere' is not a description, it's a brand name (honestly, this was news to me!).
If you really want to taste your cup of coffee and get all the aromas and full taste sensation then you need to slurp it. The oxygen helps enhance the flavour. It may generate some strange looks in your local coffee shop though!
Here is a visual overview of the lifetime of a coffee plant from seed to full plant that can join the rest. of the plantation (click the arrow to slide through).
Britt Coffee is worth a visit with or without the tour. (though of course more fun with this character!).
It's a lovely oasis in the city and comes with not only a great coffee, but also a (majorly overpriced) gift shop, petting zoo (couple of goats and sheep) and butterfly garden. Also some random colourful memorabilia around the place.
Finally, we can't get away with a post about drugs without mentioning alcohol! Couple of things to note here. If you like lager buy local. Imperial and Pilsen are the two main brands. Both are delicious but it took a few nights of drinking Imperial for us to find out that the bar staff here view Imperial as the 'girly' beer and 'Pilsen' as what the men drink. I would love to smash that stereotype but I have to say that I preferred the Imperial and Ali preferred the Pilsen. Esme of course preferred that neither of us were drinking :-D
The other drink of note is called Cacique. It's made from sugar cane and basically tastes like a sweet vodka. Me likey!
That marks the end of our San Jose section of our Costa Rica trip. Next up (and, boy when we say 'up' we mean UP!) is Monte Verde. Literally upwards and onwards my friends.