San Jose’s Franco

Tourism is Costa Rica’s #1 moneymaker.  Coffee’s #4.  Costa Rica’s coffee industry focuses on quality.  It’s the only place in the world where it’s illegal to grow anything but Arabica coffee beans.  Ruth and I love coffee.  That’s why Franco, a new coffee shop in San José’s Bario Escalante, was on our must-do list when we were there recently.  Franco turned out to be far more than a coffee seller.

We were warmly greeted by Franco’s co-owner Cesar Madriz.  Cesar began instructing us about Costa Rican coffee right away.  He provided several examples for us to taste and we bought 2 to bring home.  Cesar researched coffee for 8 years before opening Franco.  He’s a Tico, the name Costa Rican males call each other, but his business partner Brandon, who works for Uber but is not a driver, is from Kansas City.  Cesar, who is a serious traveler, spent Christmas this past year in the United States.  He regrets that he missed accumulating snow by 2 weeks.

Coffee is called “the golden bean” in Costa Rica.   Bario Escalante is San José’s hot “gastronomic area” according to Tripadvisor, a fan of Franco’s as is The New York Times and Ruth and me.

Cesar gave me a pride-filled tour of Franco’s innovative building, which was a house when Bario Escalante boomed in the 1970s.  Cesar opened up the front so its street-friendly and kept the backyard a customer magnet with lots of plants.  The house’s rooms are now devoted to coffee lovers, who also appreciate fine food and flowers.  Franco is a very inviting space.

For now Cesar serves only coffee from Costa Rica’s Brunca region.  Brunca borders Panama and has both coastline and mountains.  Its coffee high country ranges from 2,600 to 5,577 feet with an average temperature of 71° Fahrenheit.  This is ideal for coffee bean cultivation.  Franco’s varieties range from low elevation mild to high elevation sweet, complex and citrusy. Coffee growing began in Brunca’s microclimate perfection in the 19th century when Italians emigrated here and joined locals in bean production.  Coffee grows best in cool, high elevations with volcanic soil that has ideal drainage. Coffee beans were already 90% of Costa Rica’s exports by the 1850s.  It surprised me to learn that a country producing such superior coffee beans today is not among the world’s top 10 growers. They are Guatemala, Mexico, Uganda, Honduras, India, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Columbia, Vietnam, and #1 Brazil.  Over 75 countries grow coffee beans, and Costa Rica’s are among the best.

Franco is opened from 7 am to 10 pm on weekdays.   It’s far more than just a delicious coffee seller.  Because of Brandon, who works on weekends, Franco specializes in fine, Kansas City style smoked meats.  Ruth and I sampled the squash soup, but we could have enjoyed a snack, a sweet from Franco’s bakery Pastel, or tried an unusual entree like yucca with mojo from Franco’s full kitchen.  But what really sets Franco apart is its in-house, co-tenant Florist Bromelias.  While in Franco you can buy a single rose or a full floral arrangement.  Good idea.

Cesar hopes to open a 2nd shop eventually, but for now he’s content to simply thrive at Franco.



About roads-rus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roads-rus

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