Coffee is as central a beverage to life in Costa Rica as tea is to China.
Coffee cultivation has a long history in the Central American nation. The coffee bean was for years the country's main export product, and came to form part of the national identity, with Costa Ricans taking pride in the quality of their homegrown coffee.
CoopeVictoria, the first cooperative founded in Costa Rica some 75 years ago, gathers some 3,000 coffee producers who export their beans, both whole and ground, to different parts of the world, including recently China, though shipments to the Asian country have been fairly small.
CoopeVictoria now plans to compete for a larger share of China's growing consumer market by attending the first ever China International Import Expo (CIIE) slated for Nov. 5-10 in Shanghai.
"We see it as a very attractive market, a market that really interests us to maintain, to cultivate, to learn more deeply about and, of course, strive to have this product reach the right niche," said Wenceslao Rodriguez, CoopeVictoria's general manager.
The cooperative, which started its export business with China in January of this year, will feature two kinds of its gourmet coffee at the CIIE: Victoria Expreso and Victoria Medium Roast, which are offered in 500- and 250-gram packages.
"It's a balanced product, a coffee with a very fine flavor. It really has an important series of concentrations that make it unique in the region of Costa Rica," said Rodriguez.
The plants are cultivated at high elevations, a factor that is said to result in the type of dense beans that produces a richer, more complex cup of coffee.
"Ours is cultivated at over 1,400 meters above sea level, which makes for a different kind of coffee. That's why we believe it's going to be very successful and be very well received in the Chinese market," he said.
But elevation isn't the only factor that makes the Victoria brand special, he added.
The production process undergoes strict agronomic supervision and testing to ensure the beans achieve the right level of acidity, aroma and flavor, said Rodriguez.
"It helps when the coffee (production) process is the best possible," he said, explaining that it can promote proper photosynthesis and higher concentrations of sugar in the beans, which in turn lead to very red, very ripe coffee cherries at harvest time.
With quality control mastered, the cooperative's next big challenge is to claim a bigger stake of China's rising coffee sales.
"The young, especially, want to try different products, and coffee is a different beverage, distinct from tea," said Rodriguez.
"It's an alternative that is already starting to gain popularity in China, so we see an excellent market opportunity," he said.