Have you ever enjoyed a wonderful cup of coffee from Puerto Rican coffee?
You probably haven’t in recent years unless you have actually been to the island.
The island has not been exporting their coffee for a number of years but has been ramping up specialty coffee production in preparation to make a splash in the coffee scene.
Irma is going to absolutely destroy the Island, being one the largest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic, this storm is a real threat to life and property.
This storm is without a doubt going to throw a wrench into the Island’s plans to spread Puerto Rican coffee beans to the rest of the world.
Puerto Rican Coffee History
Puerto Rico has been a player in the coffee industry for over 280 years.
Although for the past 100 years the Island has taken a backseat in the coffee industry.
Up until 1899 Puerto Rico was the WORLD’S 4th largest producer of coffee.
And for good reason.
Puerto Rico has amazing conditions to produce coffee. The island has a perfect, sub tropical climate with mountains that provide elevations of between 2200-4390 feet and volcanic rich soils.
All of which are perfect building blocks to specialty coffee which is why the industry was thriving early on.
The island of Puerto Rico has a rich history of coffee production That has seen a huge decline for a couple of reasons.
Causes of decline
Puerto Rico is the biggest coffee producer of all of the US territories with Hawaii in second place.
In the 20th century Puerto Rico was acquired as a US territory which had both a positive and a negative effect on the coffee farming industry in puerto rico.
While being acquired helped develop the struggling island by giving it’s people access to higher education, it also increased production costs.
Making it difficult to compete with other high producing countries like brazil and Colombia.
As puerto Rico developed there was a social change in the people.
Many people moved from the mountain sides and traveled to live the life on the coasts of the islands. Leaving the coffee producing regions of the island with less workers to work the farms.
As the Islanders began getting higher education, agricultural jobs began to be looked down upon.
Lack of workers is not the only thing that is plaguing the Puerto Rican coffee industry.
The island also has to worry about the U.S. Exporting tariffs which have caused the price of puerto rican coffee to triple!
How Irma Will Affect Puerto Rican Coffee?
Tariffs and lack of workers aren’t the only things that the puerto rican coffee industry has to worry about.
Surprisingly this thriving industry changed practically overnight.
When the 1899 San Ciriaco hurricane overtook the island, absolutely destroying their coffee crops.
This was a category 3 hurricane with winds that peaked at 150 MPH.
Irma is this things bigger sister. Striking the Island as a category 4.
Irma is going to cause unimaginable destruction.
History is repeating itself and this is not always a good sign.
Irma is going to have devastating effects on the island with massive flooding and winds of 185+MPH ripping through it.
This is going to devastate the coffee farms on the island.
Coffee trees take years to grow to full maturity and begin producing.
Irma’s devastating effects will be felt by the coffee industry in Puerto Rico for years to come.
What to Expect From Puerto Rican Coffee
The situation might sound bleak and you are not wrong.
But there is always a way to move forward as long as your head is up.
The island has very impressive conditions for coffee to be grown in.
And focus should be on quality improvement.
While the hurricane will set the island back for a few years. with enough energy and focus puerto rico could become a major producer in the coffee industry once again.
The puerto rican island is already producing what is called a “super premium” grade coffee being sold by Alto Grande.
Another popular puerto rican coffee variety is Yauco Selecto.
A high quality Yauco can be compared to a Jamaican Blue Mountain. A Full bodied cup with a good amount of complexity and a well balanced flavor.
Some would say that puerto rican coffee is best enjoyed as an espresso but as you know in coffee there is no right or wrong answer.
You might like it as a pour over, maybe you will find out soon enough.
Puerto Rico was once a top coffee producing nation that has been stripped of its glory by trade tariffs, workers moving from producing areas, and more than one natural disaster. As Irma tears its way through the island, unfortunately, many homes and farms are going to be thrashed pushing the island’s plans of becoming a coffee exporting country further into the future.
But we should focus on the positives.
Puerto Rico has an amazing coffee growing environment. Combining rich volcanic soil, high altitudes for plenty of acidity and hard working farmers being armed with powerful coffee growing knowledge.
Please spread the word of the specialty coffee growing taking place in Puerto Rico and share this on Facebook, Twitter and any other social media site you like!