Did you know? Puerto Rico’s coffee history goes back to late 18th to 19th century, when one of the island’s biggest industry was the production and exportation of coffee to Europe. It was considered one of the finest coffee around the world.
The story goes that even the Pope bent some rules and changed the law so he could have of cup of Puerto Rican caffeine in the Vatican.
Coffee was introduced to Puerto Rico in 1736. The geographical location, mountainous terrain and unique soil conditions were ideal for growing coffee. It soon became a major export to Europe, and one of the most important cash crops on the island. Eventually, Puerto Rico developed into one of the world’s most important producers of fine coffee, a status which it lost after the devastation of its coffee crop by several major hurricanes. In 1898, the United States annexed the island from Spanish control, and it subsequently saw a decline in coffee production, as emphasis was more on growing sugar cane commercially.
Nevertheless, coffee cultivation and production has survived and is heavily treasured by many as part of their culture and traditions. Family-owned haciendas and new farms have continued to cultivate and produce coffee that is mostly consumed by locals.
Today, after the passing of Hurricane Maria, many crops and coffee farms have experienced devastation. Thankfully, the ideal tropical climate, mountains and soil of the island are helping to grow back new coffee trees. The farmers, with care and patience, are cultivating once again in their land to produce that dark and rich coffee 100% Puerto Rican arábica bean that makes such distinct coffee. Visitors to the island will see people of all ages enjoying a cup of coffee at any time of the day. It is part of the culture to sit down with friends and family or just take a quick break for either a cafê con leche (latte), espresso con leche or a cortadito.
In Puerto Rico, when people ask you: “Quieres un cafecito?” (Would you like some coffee?) this means it is time take it down a notch to really smell, taste and experience the sweet and smooth aroma and flavor of a cup of Puerto Rican café, just like abuela used to make.