Haiti’s coffee: Will it come back?
Jennifer Ward writes in The Atlantic:
In the 18th century, when Haiti was still a French colony, the country grew a grand cru of its own: beans of the original arabica typica varietal, the first species of coffee to be cultivated, far superior to the other major commercial varietal, robusta. Consumers in France and Italy coveted the island’s distinctive coffee, and the industry thrived. But after Haiti declared its independence in 1804, the coffee industry—like so much else on the island—declined to almost nothing. And during the U.S. embargo of the Haitian dictatorship in the mid 1990s, many farmers burned their coffee trees to make charcoal to sell in local markets.
A promising moment, however, was the arrival of a bean called Haitian Bleu.
But the beans didn’t win everyone over. George Howell (owner of his namesake coffee company and terroircoffee.com) carried it years ago when he owned the popular Boston-based roaster the Coffee Connection, which was later bought by Starbucks.
“It’s been a ‘cause coffee,’ not a quality coffee,” he said, noting that only shops that actively support social justice are likely to carry it. Nonetheless, he added that what’s happening in Haiti has piqued his interest. “You feel bad. They’ve been so neglected for so long.”
But belief in Haiti’s potential as a high-quality coffee producer runs strong among coffee professionals…