Dominican Republic Coffee: Guide + The Best Brands to Try
Coffee from the Dominican Republic doesn’t get a lot of recognition on the global scene. But that’s not because it doesn’t exist or because it isn’t delicious. It’s because Dominicans like it so much that they drink most of it before the rest of the world gets a chance.
Luckily, a fraction of the country’s exceptional coffee makes it to market. So we’ve tracked down the top six. Try any of these brands, and you’ll understand why Dominicans don’t want to share!
At A Glance:
- OUR TOP PICK: Volcanica Dominican Red Honey Coffee
- Budget Pick: Love of Coffee Dominican Barahona
- Classic Taste: Santo Domingo Pure Ground Coffee
The 3 Best Dominican Republic Coffees
Coffee from the Dominican Republic tends to be smooth, well-balanced, and easy to drink. You’ll find it with a variety of roast levels and flavour profiles. That’s great news, because no matter your taste, there’s a perfect option for you!
1. Volcanica Dominican Red Honey Coffee – Best Overall
Roast level: Light-Medium
- Tasting notes: Strawberry, Stone Fruit
- Ground or whole bean: Either
Volcanica sources only top-quality coffee beans from the world’s best growing regions. This unique coffee comes from the Jarabacoa region of the Dominican Republic, an area known for producing coffee with a complex character.
It is not just a single-origin; it’s a microlot coffee, with all the beans from a single estate. This allows you to really experience the flavours of the origin. Volcanica has opted for a lighter roast with this in mind, so the caramelized tastes of the roasting process don’t overtake the subtleties of the coffee.
Volcanica Dominican Red Honey Coffee takes its name from the red honey processing method. This method removes only some of the coffee cherry before drying. As the beans dry, the remaining fruity pulp and mucilage add sweet and floral flavors. The resulting coffee is smooth and balanced with notes of strawberries and stone fruit. We recommend brewing this as a pour over or Aeropress.
2. Love of Coffee Dominican Barahona – Budget Pick
Roast level: not specified
- Tasting notes: Caramel, vanilla and almonds
- Ground or whole bean: Either
The Love of Coffee is a small independent coffee roaster in Essex. The company offers an incredible list of single origins and blends, with more than 100 different Arabicas to choose from. They also have a secret weapon at the helm: their head roaster Colin. He was a founding member and former president of the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe, so you can be assured he knows his stuff. As with the best roasters, your coffee will be roasted to order.
This is another coffee from the popular growing region of Barahona. The shade grown beans develop aromas of vanilla, with caramel, vanilla and almond in the cup. The aftertaste is clean with a sugarcane sweetness. This single origin makes a great choice for either pour over or espresso brewing. When brewed as a pour over it’s best served black, but as espresso it also makes a great base for a flat white.
3. Santo Domingo Pure Ground Coffee – Classic Taste
Roast level: Medium
- Tasting notes: Hazelnut, vanilla and caramel
- Ground or whole bean: Ground coffee
If you want to enjoy coffee as the Dominicans do, check out the Cafe Santo Domingo Espresso coffee. Cafe Santo Domingo is THE BIGGEST COFFEE BRAND in the Dominican Republic. Both Dominicans and people around the world love it, which is why they ship it worldwide.
Generally, we always recommend buying whole beans and grinding them just before brewing, but if you haven’t invested in a quality grinder, this is a good option. Even if it’s not at peak freshness, Santo Domingo has flavours that are strong enough to still pack a punch.
Speaking of those flavours, you can expect notes of hazelnut, with caramel sweetness and an aroma of vanilla. You can expect a medium bodied cup with a balance between bitterness and sweetness. It’s a great choice for brewing with a cafetière, drip coffee maker or Moka pot.
How to Choose the Best Dominican Republic Coffee
|Volcanica Dominican Red Honey Coffee||
|Love of Coffee Dominican Barahona||
|Santo Domingo Pure Ground Coffee||
Coffee is grown throughout the Dominican Republic, which means you’ll have lots of flavour profiles to choose from because each region has a unique environment. You’ll also want to consider roast level, certifications, and whether or not you wish to grind your coffee.
Sound confusing? Don’t worry. This buyer’s guide is here to walk you through it.
Coffee Growing Regions and Flavour Profiles
The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern half of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti. Both countries share a beautiful landscape, rich farmland, and an often under-appreciated coffee production industry.
Though it’s a small country, the Dominican Republic produces a surprisingly diverse selection of coffee. It has six central coffee-growing regions spread across four mountain ranges. They’re scattered throughout the country, each with a specific altitude, soil, and microclimate contributing distinct flavours.
The government recognises the officially delegated regions of the Cibao Valley, Bani, Azua, San Jose de Ocoa, Barahona, and Juncalito. However, small farms exist in many less prominent areas as well.
Most Dominican Republic coffee farms are small, at less than 3 hectares each, and family-run. The plants are typically shade-grown, thriving under a canopy of macadamia and guava trees. The main varietals of Arabica coffee you’ll encounter are Typica, Caturra, Catuaí, Bourbon, and Mundo Novo. Robusta beans are also grown, but they’re relatively rare and never exported (1).
Most coffee beans grown in the Dominican Republic are wet-processed (also known as washed processed), which means that they remove coffee cherry fruit before drying. Washed coffees tend to be cleaner tasting and are more consistent in their flavours than dry-processed coffee.
Honey processing is also popular in the country. In this case, some of the coffee fruit remains during the drying process. It’s more difficult to control than wet processing.
When done well, honey processing contributes a sweet character to the final coffee.
Because the Dominican Republic has such a diversity of growing conditions, it’s hard to assign a specific flavour to coffee from the country.
The Dominican Republic’s variable weather and coffee varietals make for an equally variable finished cup, depending on where the beans were grown and how they were roasted.
You’ll find earthy, nutty, sweet, and full-bodied coffees that make excellent espresso in some regions. In others, you’ll find bright, fruity, and acidic coffees that are fantastic brewed as a pour over.
Your Favourite Roast is the Right Roast.
Dominican Republic coffee tends to be well-balanced and clean in flavour, similar to Central American origins like Nicaragua and Guatemala, so it takes well to pretty much any roast level. On top of that, the diversity of coffee growing regions means that different coffee beans from within the country may be best highlighted with a particular roast.
As a consumer, this is great news!
You don’t have to adapt your tastes to enjoy the best Dominican Republic coffee. Whether you prefer a fruity light roast or a chocolatey dark roast, there’s already a brand to meet your needs.
Coffee Certifications Matter But Not Too Much.
If you’re a conscious consumer, there’s a good chance you’re checking your bag of coffee beans for labels like Organic or Fair Trade. Good for you! It’s important to care about the environmental and socioeconomic conditions at coffee’s origin.
These certifications can indeed be a reliable way of knowing how your Dominican Republic coffee was grown and marketed. That said, they aren’t a substitute for doing a bit of research into the brand you plan to support.
For example, many different organisations can award a Fair Trade type of certification, each with their criteria. A direct trade model is a better system for both consumers and producers in many cases.
In direct trade, for which there is no certification, producers, and importers negotiate directly, cutting out the certifying middle man. This promotes better prices for farmers and better quality beans for Dominican coffee lovers (2).
A number of importers and exporters in the coffee business are saying we can get more money into the pockets of farmers through direct trade than if we use the Fairtrade Labelling Organisations model.
While the definition of Organic is a bit more precise than that of Fair Trade, it also falls out of favour as a priority for specialty coffee companies. Often small farmers are sustainably growing coffee beans and simply lack the resources to obtain official certification.
Grind Your Own Beans When Possible.
The best way to ensure your coffee is as fresh and flavourful as possible is to grind it yourself right before brewing. So where possible, we always advise that you buy whole coffee beans. This is particularly important with lighter roasts, which tend to have milder flavours quickly lost as the coffee goes stale.
However, not everyone has the time or money for grinding at home, and buying ground Dominican Republic coffee isn’t the worst thing in the world, especially for bold and powerful darker roasts. Look for brands that turn over their stock quickly or, better yet, grind fresh to order. Try to buy in smaller quantities, and store your coffee in a proper coffee canister in a cool place to keep it tasting fresh.
The Dominican Republic doesn’t get a lot of press on the world stage as a coffee-producing nation. But as it turns out, that’s not because they don’t grow great coffee; it’s because they drink most of it themselves!
With a diversity of growing regions, microclimates, and varietals, there is a Dominican coffee that will suit any coffee lover, whether you’re in search of a chocolatey espresso or a fruity pour over brew.
Dominicans drink coffee in a variety of ways. They don’t have any specific national beverage. It is common to see coffee consumed black with sugar at home, often brewed in a Moka pot. At the cafe, cafe con Leche and Americano are popular orders.
In 2013, nearly half a million bags of coffee beans were grown in the Dominican Republic or around 30 million kilos. However, only about 20% is destined for export, which means the Dominican Republic makes up less than 1% of the global coffee market.
Coffee from Haiti is excellent. Despite the country’s economic woes, it produces some exceptional coffee beans. That said, quality can vary widely, so it is crucial to find a reliable brand. At its best, Haitian coffee is rich, well-rounded, and full-bodied.
- Fedenia, L. (2017, March 30). Diving into Dominican Coffee Production. Retrieved from https://freshcup.com/diving-into-dominican-coffee-production/
- Haight, C. (2011). The Problem With Fair Trade Coffee. Retrieved from https://ssir.org/articles/entry/the_problem_with_fair_trade_coffee