At the same time, the first official record of the existence of coffee in Costa Rica dates from 1816. The document is the will of Father Felix Velarde and it lists among his properties a plot of land where coffee had been planted; if we take into consideration that it takes at least three to four years for a coffee tree to reach maturity, this will is a great indicator of when coffee started to be planted. According to tradition, Father Felix offered the seeds to his neighbors, inviting them to plant them too. His offer must have been a popular one because the first recorded export of coffee out of Costa Rica was a 100 pound sack sent to Panama in 1820; unfortunately, there is no record of the final destination of this coffee.
Twelve years later, Costa Rican coffee was already being exported officially. In 1832, German businessmen Jorge Stiepel was exporting our coffee to England via Chile , where it was relabeled as "Valparaíso Chilean Coffee".
Meanwhile, Mariano Montealegre was fast becoming the main promoter of the crop between 1830 and 1840. He lead a group of forward-thinking coffee producers to take on the task of exporting directly to England . The first shipment included 5,505 one-hundred-pound sacks and it was made in 1843. It left Costa Rica in an English ship named The Monarch.
An interesting footnote supporting the relevance of the coffee industry is that our National Theater was financed in part by a self-imposed tax on each bag of coffee exported. The year was 1890 and even though the tax was abolished in 1893, it allowed the coffee growers to contribute approximately 5% of the total cost of the theater. Costa Rica had prospered economically and the feeling was that a worthy scenario needed to be built for the glowing opera stars of the time.
Costa Rica' s position as a producer/exporter of coffee was strengthened by the vision of its first two Heads of State: Juan Mora Fernández and Braulio Carrillo. They sensed that coffee could generate economic growth and enhance Costa Rica 's position on the international market, so they enacted laws that supported its development. We can never be sure if Presidents Mora and Carrillo envisioned the role that Costa Rica was to have as a world leader in the production and export of gourmet coffee, but we definitely have a lot to thank them for.