Words by Jesse Serwer—
Chances are, if you have never been to Haiti, you have never tried Haitian coffee. Unlike other coffee-producing regions such as Colombia, Jamaica and Indonesia, coffee growers in Haiti produce mainly for domestic consumption, not export. Though Haiti was the world’s largest coffee producer (in the late 1700s, when Haiti was the most profitable colony on the planet, it was responsible for something like half of the world’s coffee) making its coffee growers, by and large, never modernized their plantations to accommodate mass production. While this means less cash has trickled into the Haitian economy through the profitable industry (all of Haiti’s coffer is Arabaica, the high-quality bean used in gourmet coffees), the silver lining is that coffee from Haiti may be the most authentic in the world. “We kept the original tipica tree,” Douglas Wiener, the fourth-generation grower behind popular brand Cafe Selecto, said in this video interview. “When you drink coffee from Haiti, it’s like drinking coffee from 200 years ago.”
Thanks to these unique traditions and a growing interest in all thing Aytien, coffee from Haiti now represents a major opportunity for the current generation of Haitian coffee growers, as international consumers (and particularly those in the US; Japan, for instance, has been on board for years) become more aware of the great-tasting, aromatic and cheap coffee that’s been right under their noses.
Jean René Faustin, Fabien Dodard and Jean Sebastien Dodard, three Haitian entrepreneurs living in The U.S. recently launched KafePaNou.com to distribute and promote Haitian coffee blends, including Cafe Selecto (10 oz. bags of Cafe Selecto Gourmet sell for $7.99 in both bean and ground form, cheaper than many imported and name-brand coffees in the supermarket) and the similarly popular Cafe Rebo (10 ozs. for $6.99). Besides for selling it, they also keep a blog keeping you up on their runnings. And they’re not the only company working to bring Haitian coffee to the masses in the U.S. and abroad. Just Haiti is a fair-trade coffee brand which launched in 2006, with all profits going directly to growers and their families (12 oz. packages are a steal at $6). Cafe Xaragua and Cafe Kreyol are newly formed fair-trade sellers out of Canada and the US, which have partnered with growers in and around Blue Pine Forest, a high-altitude region that’s been compared to Jamaica’s Blue Mountains for its distinctly flavorful beans. But, at under $15 for a 10-0z. bag, Blue Forest coffee is considerably more affordable than its Jamaican counterpart.
So while you might not be able to find Haitian coffee in your local supermarket or coffee shop just yet, you can now get it quite easily, and cheaply.