Coffee and Butterflies - A Match Made in Paraiso

Monday, February 27, 2012

Butterflies and Coffee Package Tour:

A Match Made in Paraíso

The Butterfly Farm and Britt Café: Finding the ideal match takes a certain knack for knowing complements and a pinch of luck. Perfect couples are hard to come by but when you find it, that’s when the magic happens. Like peanut butter and jelly, football and beer, coffee and butterflies – yes, that’s right. Coffee and butterflies might not be the first thing that pops into your mind but after a day at The Butterfly Farm and Café Britt, you’ll see it's a match made in paraiso

Transparent-and-owl-edit.jpgStart your morning immersed in the extravagance of The Butterfly Farm. The vivid colors, the metamorphosis – let’s face it, some of the chrysalis’ are breathtaking (like the solid gold metallic ones), some of the disguises are just plain awesome and it’s almost guaranteed you’ll see a butterfly shedding its chrysalis or drying its brand new wings. Pulling into the Farm’s entrance, one thing is certain. With the beautiful gardens and huge variety of plants and foliage, you know you’re in butterfly country. Costa Rica has more species of butterflies than the US, Mexico and Canada combined. This little country, with its ideal climate, is the perfect home for butterflies and they thrive in abundance. butterfly-chrysalis-edit.jpg

Every tour is unique and depends on the weather and what the butterflies are in the mood for. Before the tour, visitors are welcome to explore the Butterfly Garden on their own. This is the time to bust out the good camera with a micro/macro option. Some of the butterflies may be camera shy while others will pose for you all day. For a guaranteed close up, small tables with ripe fruit are scattered around the garden and you will always find a few butterflies enjoying the nectar. Nero-Glasswing.JPG

When the guide arrives, you’ll have already seen the enormous Blue Morph and the legendary Owl- Eyed butterfly and probably put together how it got its namesake. But look closer snake-eyes-edit.jpg– what do you see when you look at their wing edge upside down? It’s a sure way to ward off predators and butterflies have more than their fare share. Your guide will introduce you to a multitude of species, some of which are difficult to spot, like the transparent butterfly that prefers to stay near the shaded pond. This is a particularly popular nectar stand due to fruits so overly-ripe the butterflies are enjoying their equivalent of an afternoon cocktail. They’ll be at their happy hour for quite awhile and don’t mind having a few commemorative photos snapped while they’re at it.

Butterflies are always transforming at the Farm so there’s a chance you’ll be in the line of fire for a butterfly release. Since these new butterflies don’t quite have a grasp on their flight wings yet, they will probably attach themselves to the first vertical thing they see – you. Butterfly-release-edit.jpg

Hungry caterpillars are driven by one thing, their appetite, but still operate on a day/night basis. To encourage quick transformation, many caterpillars are kept in dark boxes where their only task is eating in order to morph about two weeks ahead of schedule. Here, you’ll interrupt their 24 hour feeding (they don’t seem to mind the break to explore some visitor’s palms) and get very up close and personal. When the caterpillars begin to get ready to form their chrysalis, they’re moved upstairs into an open box where, side by side with dozens of others, they begin their metamorphosis. Butterfly-exportation-edit.jpg

The butterfly tour concludes in the exportation room where crates of chrysalis from surrounding farms and The Butterfly Farm are examined before being exported globally. In the shop, check out the butterfly jewelry and cases including butterfly-wing earrings and hand-made boxes with some of the country’s most beautiful butterflies pressed into glass. All of the pieces are created locally with butterflies that had naturally completed their life cycle. (See more butterfly pictures at the end of the blog!)

Still aflutter from your morning stroll with the butterflies, you find yourself in the mood for something a little stronger – maybe something with earthy or chocolate aromas. Just a short ride away is the famous Britt Café coffee plantation. Nestled in the beautiful province of Heredia, the coffee farm takes a humorous approach to enlightening every visitor to the passion and expertise that is required for a truly amazing cup of joe. Whether you’re a “whatever works for a pick-me-up” or a seasoned barista, the guides at Café Britt will surprise you with a thing or two up their sleeves. WcoffeebeansinCup.jpg

The tour begins in lush gardens complete with a small fairytale-esque wooden bridge. A gazebo shades a coffee nursery so visitors can take a close look at the first stage of where their favorite cup comes from and learn about the lore of how coffee came to Costa Rica (No surprise, it’s a love story. With a twist – it seems he loved the coffee more!). Long before coffee arrived the country already had a favorite drink, chocolate, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to blend the two. Complimentary coffee and chocolate-covered coffee beans are plentiful throughout the tour. Britt-garens.jpeg

A truly sustainable operation, as your guide takes you through the plantation you’ll learn about the unique and downright quirky ways Café Britt keeps their crops pest-free (spoiler: one techniques involves getting flying insects drunk on fine rum – at least they go happily). If you’re really lucky, the coffee plants may be in bloom and the fields will be alive with the smell of gardenias as they’re in the same flora family. Since they bloom only three days a year, it’s more likely you’ll visit Café Britt when the “cherries” of the plant are green or a vibrant red. After walking through the fields, your nose will lead you to the roaster where you can take a look at the day-to-day operation.Britt-seedlings.jpg

In the grand tradition of show-and-tell, or more aptly “It’s more fun to touch than look,” you can really sink your teeth (although hands are much preferable – they look like peanuts but taste nothing like them) into unroasted beans that fall into the gourmet rankings all the way down to the “can we really call this coffee?” category. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow for a great view of the factory. Britt-green-coffee-beans.jpeg

Moving into the auditorium, you’re treated to a “cupping session” with the lead of quality control (Tip: make sure you volunteer to be a taster!). Learn how to select a coffee grinder, different methods of brewing from a simple mesh strainer to the more polished French press, and how to properly taste like an expert. Be forewarned, the right way to taste coffee is when it’s cold and with a lot of loud slurping. 

Britt-coffee-beans.jpgYou can never try enough coffee or chocolate and the tour concludes in the shop and restaurant. Samples of every coffee, chocolate, nut and sweet are at your disposal as well as a wide array of gifts and bags of coffee. If you don’t have enough room in your suitcases, don’t worry – Café Britt offers unbeatable and very affordable shipping straight to your door. However, as tempting as it may be, don’t fill up on sweets and coffee. Café Britt’s restaurant offers an exceptional lunch buffet including a typical Tico selection, salad and dessert bar, and an array of entrees to please every palate.

After visiting Café Britt, it’s impossible to sit down with a rich, fresh cup without recalling exactly where it came from. Maybe you’ll want to suggest a new coffee grinder to your daily barista. It’s likely you’ll start seeking out coffee from Costa Rica and your friends will sum it to vacation withdrawals (until you gift them their own bag – then they’ll understand). Just don’t start waiting for your coffee to get cold and tasting it during your own personal “cupping session” at your favorite coffee shop. Unless there’s a professional quality coffee controller around, it will be considered at best strange. golden cacoon.jpg

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