The History and Characteristics of our Coffee
As mentioned above, coffee was first introduced to Puerto Rico in 1736 as a minor cash crop. This was during Spanish colonial rule from nearby Martinique. It was consumed locally mostly. Coffee production peaked in the late 19th century with Utando being the most prominent site. Europeans who brought their expertise to bear on its growth played a major role to the rapid rise in both quality and quantity of Puerto Rico’s coffee.
Puerto Rican coffee is so special because of the ‘dedicated artisanal processes’ (from the volcanic soil the seeds are sown in, to the harvesting process and the roasting of the beans) the beans go through to get their chocolatey flavour. In each special cup you may note hints of almond, plum, and other nuts as well as the predominant chocolate taste. An interesting fact about this coffee is that Costa Rica is the only country in the world where it is actually illegal to produce any type of coffee other than 100% Arabica, which is the highest quality.
The two main types of coffee grown in Puerto Rico are Arabica and Robusta. Robusta coffee plants can reach a height of up to 6 meters and contain 2.5% of caffeine. It is one of the strongest coffees there are and has a bitter taste because of this. Robusta coffee is considered of lesser quality. The plants are much easier to grow and care for due to their adaptability and do not require any ideal weather conditions in order to thrive.
Arabica beans, however, require an ideal climate to be harvested. They have a milder taste and only contain 1.5% of caffeine. They can only be grown at altitudes above 900 metres and temperatures between 17 and 22 degrees Celsius. The plant requires more care, hence its higher cost. It contains many oils and natural sugars and has a fruitier and sweeter flavour.
In case you are on the lookout, here are some tips to identifying high quality Puerto Rican coffee.
- Type of body. Puerto Rican coffee brands advertise coffee as full body. This means that the viscosity of the coffee is heavier, or thicker when sipped. It also mean more flavour has been locked in the beans. The light body has a more water-like feel.
- Altitude level. If you’re looking for higher-quality beans, check if the coffee was grown in mountain regions like Lares and Jayuya.
- Type of roast. This can be dark or light roasts. Most Puerto Rican coffees are of a darker roast so if you are looking for a lightly roasted Puerto Rican coffee, you might have a hard time.
Where to Find the Best Coffee in Puerto Rico
The best sources for authentic Puerto Rican coffee are farms like Jayuya, Adjuntas, Lares, Maricao, and San Lorenzo. Some haciendas found on the mountainous sides of coastal cities are also a good place to consider like Ponce and Yauco.
Another good place to enjoy this coffee would be some Puerto Rican cafes. Cafe con Ce, Cafe Cuatro Sombras, Caldera Coffee Shop, Cafe Comunion, Cafe Cola’o, don Ruiz, and Gustos Coffee Co. are but a few of the places to enjoy a steamy brew. Most of these cafes are also online retailers so it might be a good idea to check them out.
To get the most fresh and flavourful coffee in Puerto Rico, some good factors to consider might be the coffee type (Arabica or Robusta), the roast type (mentioned above), and the flavour notes (as it is important to find something that suits you).
How to Enjoy Puerto Rican Coffee
You can brew your coffee with the help of a coffee maker or boil it in a saucepan. Milk and sugar is optional. You can pair your coffee with a quesito, a flan, maduros(sweet, fried treats), a tripleta (sandwich made with three types of meat), or any pastry of your choosing.
If you are thinking about experimenting with different coffees, it is a good idea to consider their individual flavours and think about what might pair well. For example, chocolatey tones may pair well with fruity or nutty flavours, etc.
Other things to do in Puerto Rico related to coffee
- There is a small coffee museum in Ciales that offers a great description of the history of coffee in Puerto Rico called Ciales’ Museo del Café.
- There is also a coffee expo called Expo Café y Chocolate held at the Puerto Rico Convention Center.
- An annual coffee festival called Maricao Coffee Festival is also a great way to spend your time.
Now that you know all about the delights of Puerto Rican coffee, its marvellous flavours, and the exciting coffee-related things you can do, make the time and visit Puerto Rico soon, to experience them for yourself.