Historians credit the Boston Tea Party in 1773 for creating a nation of coffee drinkers overnight, and coffee has been allied with democracy ever since. After the Sons of Liberty dumped King George’s tea into Boston’s harbor our founders looked instead to the West Indian colonies of Spain and France to supply them with coffee, the new patriotic elixir. Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba, Guadeloupe, and Puerto Rico happily filled the bill for 150 years, rewarding America’s switch to coffee with fine arabicas grown in near-ideal island conditions.
Puerto Rico, which began growing coffee around 1750, shares nearly identical longitude, topography, and climate with its more celebrated coffee growing neighbor to the west, Jamaica. During the half century preceding 1928, Puerto Rico produced between 30 and 50 million pounds of coffee yearly.
But in 1926 and 1928, great storms and hurricanes decimated the island’s plantations, bankrupting the growers and opening the door to Brazil’s emergence as the world’s leading coffee supplier. Puerto Rico has since traveled the road toward an industrial economy, with huge US investments and an increasingly skilled labor force. Most of those workers shed no tears for the hard life of coffee production they left behind.
Yet a small coffee crop is still produced on the island’s old growths and on a number of revitalized plantations. The quality is excellent. Despite the fact that Puerto Ricans must supplement their annual production of 200,000 bags with imports of almost 100,000 bags, mostly from the Dominican Republic, the increase in world interest and prices for premium coffees has prompted a trickle of exports. Some of Puerto Rico’s highest grades are finding their way to our shores, offered through independent roasters like Coffee Works.
Yauco (jow-co) Selecto is the top grade of Puerto Rican coffee. It is grown at an altitude of 3,000 feet on the South island mountain range of Yauco (see map), the island’s premier coffee region for over 150 years. The excellent soil of the region, 60 percent slope, consistent rainfall, and cool nights are ideal for coffee cultivation. These factors ensure the long, slow growing season needed for excellent arabica flavor complexity and character to develop.
While we are fans of many estate and island coffees, the richness and full-bodied balance gives Yauco a special place in our cups.
We are proud to be able to offer for this month the exciting and delicious Yauco Selecto for your appreciation and enjoyment.