When you think of coffee, you might think of it coming from Colombia or Ethiopia. However, Haiti was once one of the largest exporters of coffee, whose percentage of world coffee exports has now dwindled to less than 0.008%. The downward spiral of Haiti's coffee export industry is mainly due to the country's economic and political turmoil. However, as chronicled recently in the Wall Street Journal, Haitian brews are gaining a resurgence in US coffeeshops.
Single-origin coffees are growing in popularity even though they can be more expensive. One such coffee from Haiti, Blue Forest from the Thiotte region, is an heirloom typica variety, which has been unaltered from the original bean from Ethiopia.
Farmers are able to sell their beans through co-ops such as Coopcab, which represents several coffee cooperatives and farmers around Haiti. Most of the coffee produced by Coopcab is exported and sold to the Dominican Republic where it is blended with lesser-grade coffee for maximum profit. However, La Colombe Torrefaction, a U.S. based coffee roaster, bought 85,000 pounds of the single-bean Blue Forest variety to roast and sell in their cafes in its purest form. La Colombe is partnering with a Coopcab so that a Haitian coffee renaissance can start brewing.
La Colombe is also helping Coopcab get certified by the Rainforest Alliance, which will help promote further trade of Haitian beans with coffee brokers and wholesalers. Even local cafes like Building on Bond, in Boerum Hill in Brooklyn, New York, have started carrying the Blue Forest coffee and selling it by the cup and by the bag. They have gotten such a positive reaction that the beans are flying off the shelves at 40 pounds a week!
Chefs and small food business can have a hand in the renaissance of a coffee bean. Some of the best restaurants and chefs in New York City, including Jean-Georges and Ai Fiori, may also start carrying the Haitian brew.
Have you tried Hatian coffee?
Photo: puuikibeach on flickr