Puerto Rican Coffee: Taste, Plantation, Best Products
Puerto Rico is one of the few places in the USA territories where coffee is grown with Hawaii being the most prominent. And while there is not much coffee grown there, you can still get it in the market.
The island is more famous for its Yauco Selecto coffee that is grown at elevations of more than 3,000 feet above sea level in the southwestern mountains that many coffee connoisseurs consider the best Puerto Rican coffee. But, there are still many other Puerto Rican coffee types available.
And although things are not so rosy now for the coffee industry on the island, in the 19th century it was one of the largest coffee producers in the world. In some years like 1896, it was among the top 10 coffee producers in the world.
Here we help shed more light on this fantastic island coffee by highlighting the things that make it special, and we also give you recommendations with an overview of some of the best coffee from this US territory.
Flavor Profile – When it comes to the flavor profile, good Puerto Rican coffee has what is fondly referred to as the "island profile" which is quite similar to what you get with other island-grown coffee beans like Hawaiian Kona and Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. This flavor profile provides a soft cup that is more balanced and not too acidic.
Aroma – Given the growing conditions of Puerto Rican coffee, you will get caramel and sweet chocolate flavors. However, like any other coffee type, the Actual aroma that you get will be highly dependent on the varietal and also the particular region of the island where it is grown.
History of Planting Puerto Rican Coffee
It is hard to get clear historical accounts with origins of things like coffee in most countries and Puerto Rican coffee is no exception as there are different accounts on when coffee was first introduced to the country and where it came from.
One account claims that the first coffee tree was introduced in the country a French immigrant in the early 1700s. It was an Arabica coffee tree but either it did not do very well on the Island and was not properly cared for as there is no history of it leading to a larger plantation.
The other more widely accepted account claims that coffee was first introduced to the island from the neighboring island of Martinique during the Spanish colonial rule and it was mostly grown for local consumption.
And by the end of the 18th century, Puerto Rico was producing up to a million pounds of coffee every year making it the world's 7th largest coffee producer in this period.
However, coffee production would take a huge dip in 1898 as the USA officially took over the territory from the Spanish. For the USA, sugarcane was seen to be more economically viable and so the authorities encouraged farmers to adopt it in place of coffee. And a series of natural disasters like hurricanes further led to the decline of coffee production.
Resurgence of Coffee
While coffee farming in Puerto Rico has been on a downward spiral for a long time, in the last few decades there have been efforts to restore it to its former glory.
Currently, the territory produces a little under a million pounds of coffee every year which might be tiny when compared to other coffee producing countries but is still quite significant. The island still does not produce enough to meet local consumption needs, and so it is a net importer as coffee is imported from countries like Mexico to meet local demand.
Over the years, small coffee producers and cooperatives have been emerging, and they are more focused on improving the quality and quantity of Puerto Rican coffee, and most now sell premium quality coffee beans at a small scale level.
How It Is Produced
Like with a majority of other coffee-growing countries, most of the coffee in Puerto Rico is grown by small scale farmers with small farms.
A typical coffee farmer in Puerto Rico will have anywhere between 1 and 100 acres of land, but there are still a few remaining large plantation and estates with hundreds if not more acres planted in coffee.
These small farms will produce around 1,000 pounds of coffee per year and in total the island now produces a little under 1 million pounds of coffee every year.
The quantity of coffee produced on the island is a small fraction of global production with exports accounting for only 0.01% of the total amount of coffee produced globally.
While Puerto Rico might not produce anywhere as much coffee as Brazil or Colombia, it still has a favorable climate and geography for growing coffee.
Coffee is widely grown across the small island at altitudes of around 740 to 850 meters above sea level. And the territory also has rich volcanic soils that are well-drained to make them perfect for the growth of coffee.
Puerto Rico also gets enough sunshine and dry periods every year which are also vital for the growth of coffee and for drying the beans once harvest. Also, the hilly and humid coffee-producing areas get around 75 inches of rainfall annually which ensures the crops get enough water.
With Puerto Rican coffee, you also get a variety of coffee types which is typical of most coffee growing areas. The high-quality Arabica coffee type is the most commonly grown across the island, but there are also a few farmers that experiment with the Robusta type.
The most common varietals of coffee you can get in Puerto Rico are Bourbon, Caturra and the less common Limon varietal. Also, some coffee farmers still plant Typica which is one of the oldest Arabica varietals, and you can also get Catimor and Pacas in some regions.
Major Coffee Growing Regions
While most of the island has conducive environments for the growth of coffee, most of the coffee from Puerto Rico is cultivated in specific regions which include the following.
This is one of the most famous coffee-producing regions in Puerto Rico, and it is famous for the Yauco Selecto. The coffee is grown in mountains in the southwestern end of the island with altitudes of up to 3,500 feet above sea level. Coffee from this region is full-bodied and many connoisseurs consider it fairly gentle, well-balanced and with a milder flavor
Adjuntas is a smaller municipality built on the sides of mountains with elevations of up to 4,000 feet. Although it is a small municipality, it still produces a lot of coffee beans as per Puerto Rican standards. About 30% of coffee consumed on the island comes from this municipality.
If you are looking for high-quality Puerto Rican coffee beans, Lares is a good place to start your search as the region grows some of the highest quality beans in the island. Although it has a small footprint, the municipality still produces a decent quantity of coffee beans annually.
Jayuya is another small municipality that is right at the center of the island. It is a region with high altitudes and the second-highest peak on the island, Monte Jayuya. High-quality brand names like Jayaya, Tres Picachos, and San Pedro get their coffee beans from this region.
With the high elevations that characterize Ponce which is a city in the southern region of Puerto Rico, you get some of the finest quality coffee beans. And besides high elevations, the region also has fertile volcanic soils that ensure the coffee beans produced here are highly flavorful.
Best Brewing Methods for Puerto Rican Coffee
Puerto Rican coffee beans have a well-balanced and milder flavor which allows them to be brewed in a variety of ways. Whether you like a French press, drip coffee, pour-over or espresso, these beans will be perfect. All you need to do is choose the right roast and grind.
However, in Puerto Rico, coffee is served in three main ways which are the traditional café con leche, espresso, and Cortadito but you can also get Americano although it is less common.
Café con Leche – Café con leche is your best pick if you want to enjoy a more traditional Puerto Rican cup of coffee. Although there are several variations if this coffee, most will entail combining stovetop brewed and coffee sock strained coffee with a large pour of milk.
Espresso – The Puerto Rican espresso is similar to a typical Italian espresso because it is also made with an espresso machine and usually served black with no milk. And locally it is referred to as “pocillo” which is also the name of the small cup the beverage is served in.
Cortadito – If you are familiar with Cuban coffee, you should know Cortadito as it is quite popular in the country. It is an espresso-based beverage similar to Cortado, and it entails adding a layer of steamed milk to a shot of espresso.
Summary of Facts about Puerto Rican Coffee
1. Puerto Rico accounts for around 0.01% of the world's total coffee production
2. Most of the coffee is grown by small scale farmers with 1 to 100 acres
3. The coffee industry in Puerto Rico employs more than 22,000 people
4. Puerto Rico still imports more than 2/3 of the coffee consumed in the country
5. Harvest season is between August and March
6. The coffee is relatively high priced given the higher production costs in the USA
7. Most of the coffee is often found in 45-kg bags instead of the standard 69-kg bags
8. Over 60,000 acres are planted in coffee in the island
4 Best Puerto Rican Coffees
1. Yaucono Ground Puerto Rican Coffee
Yaucono has been the leading Puerto Rican coffee brand for a long time, and they are famed for only using the best beans that the country has to offer.
This ground coffee is as good as it can get if you are looking for Puerto Rican coffee for different brewing methods and what makes it even better is that the beans are always freshly roasted before grinding and packaging for maximum freshness.
Also, with these coffer grounds, you get 100% Puerto Rican coffee with this brand as it does not add any substandard and cheap quality blends from other regions.
For those that prefer to buy whole bean Puerto Rican coffee and grind them to their preferred fineness, Alto Grande has you covered with these premium quality beans.
The beans are 100% premium quality Arabica, and so you can be confident that you are getting the finest coffee quality. Also, they will help take your coffee experience a notch higher with an intense and extraordinary aroma.
When it comes to the taste profile, these beans will give you a rare and exotic taste and a full body characterized by chocolate undertones. And the beans will come in a medium to dark roast that not only preserves maximum flavor and aroma but are also ideal for a variety of brewing methods.
Café El Coqui makes this Puerto Rican coffee for the coffee lovers looking for top quality coffee that comes at a smaller price tag per ounce.
This is 100% Puerto Rican coffee, and so you can be confident that you are getting the real thing and not cheap knockoff blends. The coffee is also grown in San Sebastian one of the main coffee growing regions in Puerto Rico that is famous for rich and highly flavorful coffee.
Also, the coffee is full-bodied and will feature a nutty-taste and with hints of citrus that will ensure you always end up with a richer and more flavorful cup of coffee.
The coffee comes in a medium to dark roast which is ideal for most coffee drinkers, and the grind consistency will also be perfect for different brewing methods.
Here is another inexpensive Puerto Rican coffee that maintains the high-quality and delicious taste that this coffee is known for across the world.
These are 100% Puerto Rican beans from the Lares region of the country that is known for producing some of the highest quality coffee in the country. And because it only produces a small amount of coffee, you are also getting some of the rarest Puerto Rican coffee beans.
The coffee comes in a medium roast which is always ideal for ensuring a perfect balance of flavor, aroma, and acidity, and any coffee lover will love it. Also, the medium roast will work well for all kinds of brewing methods from French press to pour-over.
And to ensure your coffee remains fresh for the longest possible, it is well-packaged in a multi-layer and airtight pack.
Puerto Rico takes pride in being one of the few US states and territories that produce coffee, and it has been producing it for over two centuries now.
Although the territory does not produce as much coffee as it did in the 19th century, it still grows a significant percentage consumed locally.
And while getting Puerto Rican coffee is not always easy, there are still many top brands that process and sell it, and so you should be able to lay hands on a pack with a little look around.
This piece should make finding the best Puerto Rican coffee even easier because we also review some of the best brands currently on the market.