We’re introducing a new coffee from Haiti, but this story goes a lot further than the package you see on the shelf. Our head Workshop Roaster, Hugh Morretta, describes what makes this coffee so special.
To me, the Caribbean nation of Haiti represents a long and tragic story. From hundreds of years of colonialism and its destruction to a catastrophic modern history, the people of Haiti today have persevered through incredible hardship.
Much of the world turned its attention to Haiti after a 2010 7.0 magnitude earthquake. In 2013, with a grant from the Clinton Foundation, La Colombe established a 30-acre demonstration farm, a nursery, and a farmer training program in Southeast Haiti near the village of Te Lonj. The goal of the aptly-named Haiti Coffee Academy is to provide local smallholder farmers with material and educational resources to increase yield, quality, and sustainability in coffee cultivation.
After improving access to clean water by expanding the community’s reservoir, the Academy planted its first seedlings in 2014. They planted coffee that was known for high yield and was disease resistance, with long-term sustainability being their focus. Four coffee plants were chosen based on their proven success on Brazilian coffee farms: Mundo Novo, Red Catuai, Yellow Catuai, and Catigua. Since it takes 4 -5 years for plants to reach maturity and produce a viable harvest this is the first year that we’re able to taste the fruits (pun intended) of our labor.
The coffee harvested from these four coffee varieties at the Academy allows us to experience the effect of origin on a coffee plant. They offer a familiar rich nuttiness similar to what we’ve all experienced with Brazilian coffees but they also possess unique qualities that are primarily the result of the soil, air, climate, and water conditions present while growing in Haiti. The sum of these growing conditions is, in coffee (and wine), referred to as Terroir. Haiti’s terroir has affected the way in which these Brazilian plants grew, creating coffee that has never been produced before. It’s a coffee unlike any other.
The high quality of this first harvest from the academy only hints at Haitian coffee’s potential. It’s a testament to the strength of the Haitian people and their ability to persevere. I can’t wait to be blown away by what Haitian coffees reach my cupping table next year and for years to come.
Written by our head Workshop Roaster, Hugh Morretta.