About Haitian coffee — Haiti is a small place – only slightly larger than Vermont. Plus, much of it is vertical: 65%. Haiti is the most mountainous nation in the Caribbean.
Coffee Trees Thrive Haiti : Mountains aren’t good for most agriculture, but they’re IDEAL for coffee growing; coffee trees thrive in moist but well-drained soil at high altitudes. The higher the altitude, the bigger/harder the bean, the better the coffee.
Coffee = Income + Environmentally Essential Because coffee trees are water-intensive, they do best growing in shade. Fruit trees provide ideal canopies where fruit becomes additional food. Moreover, coffee plays an important role in the reforestation of Haiti.
Farmer Owned Co-ops : Although small, Roosters are tenacious. We’re quickly building a network with small-scale farmer cooperatives; we source coffee from all major coffee regions in Haiti.
( brief ) History of Haitian Coffee Gabriel de Clieu brought coffee seedlings to Martinique around 1720. Those sprouts flourished, and 50 years later there were 18,000 coffee trees enabling Jesuits to spread cultivation to Haiti, Mexico and other Caribbean Islands.
Because of the world’s taste for coffee, French colonial plantations relied heavily on African slave laborers. In 1788, Haiti supplied half the world’s coffee.
Revolution : Dreadful slave conditions and brutality resulted in the first successful slave revolution in 1804. After independence, coffee remained one of Haiti’s major export crops, peaking around 1850. In the 1940’s Haiti’s coffee sector made a brief comeback where in 1949, Haiti was the third largest coffee exporter in the world. Thereafter, like before, coffee production and exportation made rapid declines.
Since 1950, Haitian coffee, once again, has been forgotten for many reasons:
Political instability / the brutal dictatorship of the Duvalier years, 1957-1986, brought about economic demise - including coffee exports.
Like many countries, after the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement in 1989, coffee production fell with the onset of low market prices.
During the U.S. embargo in the mid 1990s [boycotting the Aristead regime], many farmers burned coffee trees to make charcoal (Haitians buy charcoal at the market to use as cooking fuel).
Decades of political unrest and government corruption made farmers too afraid to come down from the mountains to sell crops.
Between 2000 and 2001, worldwide oversupply caused coffee prices to drop to their lowest levels in 100 years.
Over time, Haitian farmers lost skills needed to grow, harvest, and process coffee, and Brazil eventually cornered the regional market, aided by modern facilities.
Seeds for an upswing in Haitian coffee production were planted in the 90’s when better coffee processing plants were developed. Ensuring growers a good price by cutting out local middlemen and selling directly to the United States also made things better. Furthermore, training in land management, shade canopies and coffee seedling programs launched practices that, today, are bearing fruits of long and hard labor.
In spite of near collapse, coffee continues as a backbone of Haiti’s economy; Haitians have a resiliency to weather, corruption and political unrest.