Perking Up for Caffeinated Treasure in the Caribbean
Possibly the world’s most famous coffee-growing location is Colombia, but many countries in and around the Caribbean also produce this flavorful bean. Most coffee-growing islands in the Caribbean, however, do not produce quantities large enough to export on a wide scale, like the plantations in Central and South America, which serve markets all over the world.
Coffee was discovered in Africa, but today this drink is popular worldwide. It was passed from the Ethiopians to Constantinople’s Ottoman Turks and even to Pope Clement VIII in Italy, who is said to have baptized the drink. There are many variations in the story of how the crop was transplanted to the Caribbean, but, needless to say, the region’s land turned out to be ideal for growing this popular bean.
The type of coffee plant most often grown in the Caribbean region is called “Arabica.” It was developed from plants grown in Saudi Arabia, inspiring the name. Coffee can be grown in many different climates, but each climate will create beans with subtle taste variations.
The higher the altitude, the more time the coffee plant will require to mature, but beans grown under these conditions are full and dense and yield the richest flavor. High altitudes are particularly important when growing coffee, which means that mountainous islands are usually better-known for their coffee than those with more level terrain.
Similarly, the geography of many Caribbean islands has played an important part in creating delicious coffee. Warm weather and volcanic soils combine to create perfect growing conditions for these plants, but each island will process the results differently.
Top Island Producers
While the Caribbean islands are known for sun and sand, so some visitors overlook their mountainous interiors while others enjoy hiking and climbing through these rougher regions. But whatever visitors long to do on their Caribbean vacations, they can anticipate a stimulating beverage to enjoy alongside the activity on every island. The most popular brews are found on these:
The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico is also a great island to visit for coffee, but most Puerto Rican coffee is consumed on the island, making it hard to find elsewhere, so aficionados may want to visit in order to try a cup. Some of the more popular Puerto Rican coffees are known for their creamy taste.
Jamaica is perhaps one of the best-known producers of Caribbean coffee. Its Blue Mountain area produces full-bodied and highly aromatic beans. However, if you’re visiting Jamaica, be wary of roadside vendors selling impostor Blue Mountain coffee. Still, true-blue coffee makes a great souvenir for those who love the drink.
The island of Hispaniola is home to two countries, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and each produces fine coffee. The Dominican Republic is one of the Caribbean’s largest coffee producers, and Haiti is enjoying a chance to make a name for itself as well. Fans of the dark roast should try the sweet Dominican coffee, while Haitian blends offer a more mellow taste, with plenty of flavors to suit many palates.
For those outside the United States, you may be able to find imported Cuban coffee, which is known for a heavy body and particularly fine dark roasts. However, these coffee products are nearly always exported to Europe and Japan. A word to the wise – don’t be confused by Cuban-style coffee, which is not the same thing as coffee from Cuba.
Although these island producers will never have the space to grow as much coffee as you’ll find in Central and South America, their island blends each offer something unique. So try a cup of something special – coffee from the Caribbean.