Nineteenth-century French diplomat Charles-Maurice Tayllerand-Périgord said that coffee should be enjoyed “black as sin, hot as hell, pure as an angel, and as sweet as love.” With all due respect to M. Tayllerand-Périgord, I would boldly add that said coffee should also be Puerto Rican.
Once a major player in the global market, mass production in Puerto Rico experienced a sharp decline in the latter half of the 20th century. Instead of succumbing to the global competition from countries like Colombia, Brazil and Vietnam, many Puerto Rican coffee growers have taken the high road by focusing on quality over quantity. The result: an impressive array of gourmet coffees that have ensured Puerto Rico retains its rightful place on the map of finest producers and a growing tourist market that caters to aficionados throughout the world.
The following gourmet varieties are available in stores, online or in some cases, on-site in the haciendas or farms where they are produced:
Yauco Selecto – No other municipality in Puerto Rico is as closely associated with coffee as the “Pueblo del Café,” Yauco. The Yauco Selecto brand draws on this distinction to produce a full-bodied coffee with a creamy taste and hints of chocolate.
Café Hacienda San Pedro – From the mountains of Jayuya, Hacienda San Pedro produces a semi-sweet coffee with caramel and spice overtones.
Alto Grande – Bright flavor and sweet aroma best describes Alto Grande Super Premium Coffee. Grown under ideal soil and climate conditions in the mountains of Lares, Alto Grande superpremium label means it’s the highest quality coffee you can purchase.
Finca Cialitos – Coffee connoisseur Joaquín Pastor González offers tours of Finca Cialitos, a 100-acre farm in the central municipality of Ciales. Pastor González’s award-winning coffee is 100% Arabica.
Hacienda Gripiñas – This once-thriving coffee plantation in Jayuya has reinvented itself into a charming gastronomic inn where visitors can enjoy traditional criollo cuisine as well as bottomless cups of the locally-produced Tres Picachos coffee.
Hacienda Buena Vista – This cultural treasure in Ponce is an essential visit for coffee aficionados. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the 19th-century estate operates as a museum and showcases the bygone era when coffee was ruled the Puerto Rican economy.
Another captivating way of experiencing the cult of coffee in Puerto Rico is by visiting end-of-harvest festivals in the some of the island’s traditional coffee-growing hubs. Festival Nacional del Café in Yauco and Festival del Acabe del Café in Maricao are two of the most cherished celebrations. Coffee is the reigning topic with dozens of kiosks and exhibitions showcasing a variety of beans and blends, but the festivals are also rich in jíbaro musical performances, traditional crafts and mouthwatering cuisine.