Brazil, Indonesia, and Colombia aren’t the only coffee-growing countries in the world. You might be surprised to know that the Caribbean is also a major producer of specialty coffee1.
The term the Caribbean refers to the Caribbean Sea and the regions surrounding it. This region includes countries such as Jamaica, Hawaii, Dominican Republic, and Cuba. Thanks to their geographic location, and microclimates, they are highly suitable for coffee production.
Martinique’s Caribbean island2 was the first region in the entire American continent where the coffee plant was first planted. King Louis XIV gifted the coffee plant in 17143. A few seeds from that plant were bought to the American continent. According to the National Coffee Association, this plant was the mother of all coffee plants we see today in Central America, the Caribbean, and the South.
This is why most coffee experts assume that most coffee plants in this region are of the Typica variety4, as the mother plant was of this kind. But the Caribbean has other different types of coffee varieties as well.
Since then, Coffee is a major cash crop in all of the Caribbean. Despite having 300 years of history, the Caribbean has failed to compete with the other big exporters of coffee, such as Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia.
Breaking Down Caribbean Coffee Production
Each Caribbean island has its microclimate5; thus, the taste and flavor of coffee from these islands are different. However, most of them have similar microclimates. Thanks to the abundance of mountains, every country in this region has rich soil and good rainfall. Due to high rainfall, washed processing is still the predominant method of coffee processing in the region. Furthermore, the humidity, temperature, and altitude are highly suitable for coffee production in the region.
Farmers in this region have the flexibility of diversifying their coffee production. As a result, they can go into a direct contract with buyers and meet their specifications. Furthermore, it has enabled farmers to focus more on sustainability and production efficiency.
Despite having these many geographical advantages, most of the Caribbean countries are relatively small in size. As a result, their coffee farms are also small. This size difference is why the Caribbean islands cannot compete with the global coffee-producing giants.
There is one more disadvantage. Caribbean countries cannot benefit from the new technologies that are meant to increase production. This is because most of these modern techniques are suitable for large-scale coffee production. Compared to the Caribbean coffee farms, these technologies cannot be properly applied and capitalized on.
Till now, we have only talked about the geographical advantages that the Caribbean has for Coffee Production. Now let’s see the disadvantages.
The climate in the Caribbean is very volatile. The entire region is susceptible to tropical storms, earthquakes, and hurricanes. This volatile weather is a big challenge for farmers. When hit by a flash flood, they have no option but to give up on their harvest. By the time the water dries up, the coffee plants die due to submersion.
A Guide To Some Major Caribbean Coffee Production Origins
Haiti, one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean, considers coffee one of the most important cash crops for its national economy. Currently, it is the 28th largest coffee producer in the world.
Most mountainous regions in the Caribbean are located in Haiti. This particular geographical feature has gifted Haiti with the ideal microclimates for coffee production.
Who hasn’t heard about Cuba and its heavenly beaches? But did you know Cuba is also a significant producer of Coffee? The country has risen in popularity for its Specialty Coffee production in recent years, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Coffee from Cuba is known for its sugary flavor, low acidity, and sweet aftertaste. Cuba made a big mistake in the early 20th century. They tried to Nationalize the entire coffee sector. We all know, in today’s capitalistic society, every country must encourage independent businesses to capitalize on the global market economy.
However, right after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba opened up its market to foreign buyers and encouraged independent coffee farms. Since then Cuban coffee production has recovered slowly. It is yet to receive 100% of its production capacity as it was before the Nationalization.
Now, Let’s look at the Dominican Republic for a moment. It is the most visited island in all of the Caribbean. It has a population of only 11 million people. And in terms of production volume, it is the 27th largest coffee exporter in the world.
Farmers in the Dominican Republic were first introduced to coffee back in the 18th century. In the beginning, only small-scale household-level farmers started growing it. By the 19th century, these farmers met the domestic demand and started exporting coffee abroad.
There are over 50,000 coffee farms in the country, and it produces 400,000 bags of coffee, each weighing 60kgs. Almost 98% of the entire country’s coffee plants are Arabica. Most coffee farms in the Dominican Republic are located around the five mountainous regions spread across the country.
The Caribbean might be lagging in terms of Coffee production and failing to capitalize on its full production potential. However, the region is now seeing a recent influx of Foreign Investment which will help the stakeholders increase production efficiency by exploiting new coffee cultivation methods.