Haitian Coffee: Buying, Brewing and Roasting Tips
Haitian coffee has had a wild ride over the years.
From an abused colony that pumped out over half of the world’s coffee, to a proud nation whose coffee production is in shambles, Haiti’s coffee industry has been to hell and back multiple times… and it’s still here.
The island nation is a perfect place to grow coffee, and its people will not let go of this part of their national heritage easily. Their story is sad, challenging, and yet ultimately, hopeful.
Here’s our take on all things Haitian coffee.
Singing Rooster’s Haitian Coffee
Singing Rooster Inc. is a company laser-focused on the Haitian coffee industry. Their mission is to bring a new infusion of life to the many Haitian coffee farmers by connecting them with customers who want to honor their hard work and respect their coffee beans.
Whether you’re looking for green coffee, roasted coffee, or even a coffee subscription, they’ve got you covered.
Must Know Facts About Haitian Beans
Haitian coffee beans have a long and exciting history. How many other countries have risen to being the top coffee producer in the world… and then crashed to producing less than 1% of the global total?
We feature Haitian beans in our ‘best of’ list for coffee beans around the world. You can find that article here: https://www.homegrounds.co/ca/best-coffee-beans-bucket-list
Needless to say, the Haitian coffee story is about as dramatic as it gets.
A Bit of Haitian Coffee History
Haiti is a nation that shares an island with the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Sea.
In the 1700s, Haiti was the most prosperous New World possession of France (1), with a key factor of that “prosperity” coming from the coffee that it grew in abundance.
The overwhelming majority of the island’s coffee plants were (and still are) of a very high quality, generally coming from the Typica variety of the Arabica coffee plant.
Legendarily, all of Haiti’s coffee plants descended from an original tree (2) that was brought to the island by a French naval officer in the 1720s.
With an abundance of shade and humidity from the local trees along with being one of the most mountainous islands in the Caribbean, the island’s natural environment created the perfect conditions for growing coffee (3).
It was so fertile, in fact, that for a time the nation became the leading coffee producer of the world, though that is no longer the case – not by a long shot.
Over the centuries, the nation has gone through a series of harrowing events, slave revolts and the Haitian Revolution (4), to general political instability, environmental disasters (5), coffee plant disease catastrophes, and economic embargoes bringing its once-thriving coffee farms and plantations crashing back down to earth.
In the modern era, the crippled Haitian coffee industry has received a bit of a facelift with more purposeful growing of the beans and increased attention from groups trying to push these delectable caffeinated Haitian treasures back to the forefront.
Growing and Processing Methods
Haitian coffee is organic by nature, especially since the majority of the inhabitants cannot afford chemicals or fertilizers in the first place.
Haitians have a couple of choices when it comes to processing coffee cherries (6), however the traditional method is to dry-process them.
This is the easiest way to process the beans, and it has the added benefit of preserving the cherries for a year or longer (7). Because of this, many Haitian farmers dry-process at least some of their crop as a sort of insurance against anything going wrong that year.
Other farmers who can manage wet-processing their cherries typically choose this method as it makes for good, Third Wave coffee, and can lead to much higher prices.
Haitian Coffee Profile
In a word: mellow, mellow, mellow.
Haitian coffee has a very refined, full profile that boasts confidence in a cup. It is generally rich, low in acidity, and medium-bodied.
The all-around delicious coffees coming from the region tend to have mellow overtones that come from their smooth texture and soft, sweet taste.
Singing Rooster Inc.
Singing Rooster (8) is a non-profit organization specifically committed to revitalizing the Haitian coffee industry by supporting small producers. From selling merchandise to the high-end Haitian coffee itself, they are attempting to bring attention and focus onto the dying, yet still valuable, industry.
Major Growing Regions and Their Beans
Haiti’s main coffee-growing regions include a handful of its highest mountains, several of which are shared with the Dominican Republic (9).
These mountain regions include:
- The Massif du Nord, or “Northern Range”
- The Montagnes Noires, Chaîne des Matheux, and Montagnes du Trou d’Eau range
- The Massif de la Hotte
- The Massif de la Selle
Regions of the country marked for the potential to grow high-quality coffee include the following departments:
- Grand Anse
However, each area is highly atomized, and very little concrete information currently exists by region.
While coffee is grown all over the highlands of the tiny island nation, it is most certainly Haitian Blue or “Haitian Bleu” coffee beans that stand out from the pack.
Forming the bulk of the coffee coming out of Haiti, Haitian Bleu coffee beans come from a group of farming cooperatives who collectively sell under the iconic name.
Blue-green in color, the beans produced by this “cooperative of cooperatives” hit many of the high-end coffee musts. They’re shade-grown, wet-processed, and Fair Trade, making them both ethically sourced and environmentally sound… as well as just plain delicious.
Haitian Rebo Coffee
One of the top exporters of coffee from Haiti is Rebo, a company that has created a powerful network between themselves and many Haitian coffee farms.
Their primary goals include ensuring a good price for well-grown coffee, and helping get the beans into the market. They also train the farmers to help increase the overall quality of the coffee being grown.
You can see a great video about their company here:
The Current State Of The Haitian Coffee Industry
To put it simply: it’s a mess… but it’s getting better!
Ever since the coffee crisis (10) and other sanctions and trade embargoes in the 90s, during which many Haitian farmers simply gave up and moved on to other things, the country has struggled.
Haiti is also infamous for dealing with inner political turmoil, which is very disruptive to the current coffee industry.
In addition to coffee prices and politics in recent decades affecting profitability, environmental factors and plant diseases like coffee rust (11) have reared their ugly heads as well. In fact, the link in the previous sentence discusses how Haiti’s coffee production struggles are a harbinger for the surrounding coffee-growing countries of Central America, like Puerto Rico, El Salvador, and Jamaica, to take careful notice of!
Of course, the devastating 2010 earthquake (12) was the most defining and catastrophic factor in recent years. Not only did it affect the coffee industry, but it also killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians. The effects of the earthquake are still felt today.
The Haitian coffee industry is struggling, there’s no doubt about that. But thanks to many sustainable-minded groups like Singing Rooster and Rebo, it isn’t necessarily in danger of long-term unsustainability anymore.
Haiti Coffee Company (13) is another group that is working hard to try to revitalize the industry. With goals like “beyond Fair Trade” that focus on more than just decent wages, rather aiming for good treatment and exceptional wages, they’re trying to create incentives to keep Haiti’s coffee trees standing and producing for the future.
Where to Buy Haitian Coffee Beans
While there are a growing number of options out there for Haitian coffee, here are a few of our top selections of Haitian coffee brands to help point you in the right direction.
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|Volcanica Haitian Blue Coffee||
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1. Singing Rooster
A company devoted to helping the Haitian coffee industry
- Offers both green and roasted coffees
- Has a coffee subscription option
As we’ve seen, Singing Rooster is devoted to revitalizing the struggling Haitian coffee industry, and of course, part of that mission is accomplished by selling Haitian coffee!
Whether you’re looking for green coffees, roasted coffees, or even a coffee subscription, they’ve got you covered. You can check out their subscriptions, in particular, on their website here.
2. Cafe Kreyol Organic Zombie Desert
- Shade grown, Direct Trade, and Certified Organic
- Creates sustainable employment for Haitian farming families
Cafe Kreyol was born with a vision to revitalize Haiti’s floundering coffee industry. Farmers are paid well above average prices in exchange for premium beans, thereby supporting growers and ensuring consumers get an outstanding product.
And the results speak for themselves. These fantastic medium roast beans are rich with the flavor of buttery hazelnut. They are low in acidity, with a creamy mouthfeel and smooth finish, making this an easy-drinking coffee that you can enjoy all day long.
Volcanica is known for sourcing only high-end coffee beans from the world’s top growing regions. So the fact that this Haitian Blue Coffee is brand-new this year indicates that the country has finally come into its own as a grower of quality Arabica coffee.
These coffee beans of the Typica variety are organically grown at high elevation in Haiti’s central mountains. They are given a light roast, and the resulting smooth mouthfeel and light body are reminiscent of the famous Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. Expect flavors of almond butter, sweet cream, and tropical fruits like pineapple and pitaya.
Pairing: The Best Way to Roast and Brew Haitian Coffee Beans
Of course, once you’ve got your beans in hand, you’re going to want to turn them into that magic cuppa that satisfies your senses. With that in mind, here are our recommendations for how to roast and brew your Haitian coffee beans.
When it comes to roasting Haitian coffee beans, these mellow fellows are pretty resilient and open to whatever you want to try. While you can stop at the first crack, these beans can take the heat and are quite often pushed right to the second crack. In general, most suggestions take the roast level from medium to dark.
This page at Singing Rooster (14) has several options from their green selection, along with recommended roasting profiles for each one. It can be an excellent way to gauge how far to go with a particular roast.
The gentler nature of these beans means you won’t be getting as much of an explosion of brighter, more vibrant citrus or floral tastes. This rules out pour over or other drip methods as the optimal brewing option, as these are generally geared towards getting more of a pop in the overall aroma and taste.
Rather, right in line with their often darker roasting profile, Haitian coffee beans tend to make excellent espressos. Their mid-ranged body and smoothness create the perfect conditions for an espresso or espresso-based drink, providing a stable base on which to build, while not overpowering the beverage with its own flavor profile.
Jwi Kafe Ou! (Enjoy your Coffee!)
From its tumultuous past to its modern-day political, economic, and environmental woes, Haiti has a darker feel compared to most of the other coffee-growing countries across the globe.
But the truth is, the future is very bright for Haitian coffee.
For a nation that went from a coffee hero to nearly a coffee zero, the work of so many passionate coffee- and Haiti-loving enthusiasts is making great strides towards setting this country back on the road towards success.
If you enjoyed our overview of Haitian coffee, give us a shout out with your thoughts. Also, please consider taking a second to share the post. We’d be greatly obliged!