Journey of a Haitian Coffee Bean

haiti coffee bean

Why do you travel? Maybe it’s to try new foods, maybe it’s to meet new people. Maybe you travel to help others who seem to have less than you or maybe you want to run to new and distant lands (definitely me, all the time). Maybe it’s because you can. Whatever your reasons, it’s time you traveled Haiti.  

Not only is Haiti beautiful, friendly, and has perfect temperatures, it has that sense of home you’re not going to find in other places. The culture of Haiti is extremely welcoming and loving, and maybe it’s just the hot sun, but they always seem to have the warmest embraces waiting for visitors. So how can you get to Haiti? Come with Singing Rooster!

Haitian sunset

Singing Rooster has been working in Haiti since 2009. We work with coffee farmers and co-operatives, as well as artists in Croix-des-Bouquets (the metal art district) to get their products into US market. (Yes, Haiti produces coffee, and it’s delicious!) We buy the coffee at a minimum of $3.50 per lb. (almost triple what Fair Trade requires), which ensures that farmers are taken care of and, in turn, can take care of their families. We work with each artist to make sure they get a fair price for their work as well. This is what’s at the heart and soul of Singing Rooster: buying quality Haitian products at a price that benefits the farmers and artists and gives them the ability to be independent.

keelia trively singing rooster

I’m Keelia Trively Singing Rooster’s public relations and social media maven. I traveled to Haiti on the Rooster’s January 2019 Coffee Lands trip. Here’s my account.

Day 1: You’ll arrive in Port-au-Prince and head to a local hotel. We’ll go over trip details, introduce everyone (don’t worry, we won’t make you play those terrible ice breaker games you did in school), and start learning a few Creole phrases. Some travelers might be nervous for the following days, some may be ready to go and eager to start the journey, but for both this will be a good night to get your mind and heart in the right place to truly experience what rural Haiti has to offer.

Day 2: Make sure you eat a good breakfast (this will be provided) because we have a long drive to Thiotte over rough terrain. But don’t worry, this is where you can become best friends with the other people on the trip! Before we embark, we’ll stop at our roastery and processing center and take a tour. You’ll get to learn some history of Haiti (bring something to take notes, there will be quizzes), and you might get to see coffee beans being roasted or sorted or packed into bags, depending on when you come (the more times you come, the more chances you’ll have to see each of these things).

Riverbed road to Thiotte, Haiti

Then we’ll load up in our Toyota Land Cruiser and head off into the mountains! We’ll stop at the Pine Forest Saturday Market (who knew Haiti has pine forests??) and get some fruits and vegetables. This is one of the largest markets, so your Creole training will come in handy! You can practice by bartering for the fruits, or you can let one of our trusted guides do this for you (this is what I did, and it was definitely for the better). Though the drive is long and bumpy, the views are breathtaking. You’ll want to bring a camera, and don’t worry about losing them out the window on a crazy bump, our guide, Justin Dena, and our intern, Keelia Trively (AKA yours truly) are excellent at taking these types of pictures. We’ll get these views captured so you can always remember the beauty of Haiti (and be able to entice your friends to come once you go back home!) We will then visit a farmer co-op processing station where you can meet some of our incredibly hardworking farmers and get to see first hand why they do what they do. Just for a sneak peek (since you’ve taken some time to read this post) here is one of my favorite quotes from interviewing farmers:

“I have been farming coffee for many years. I learned from my parents, who learned from theirs, and it has been something passed down through many generations. I have 3 children and they are all involved in coffee. We love the flavor of Haitian coffee, it tastes so different from any other type of coffee. When you drink a cup of our coffee, you do so much more than just drink coffee. You are giving a farmer, like myself, the ability to provide for his children. This is all we want as people.” -Chrisnel

Chrisnel,Haitian coffee farmer, Singing Rooster

After you fall in love with our farmers (I know I certainly did) and learn some facts about coffee, we’ll go to another local hotel and stay the night. After a 4-hour drive and some time to hike, a cold shower and a nice bed are going to be exactly what you’re looking for (and it’s exactly what you’ll get). This completes day 2! 

Day 3: Another bright and sunny morning with some more travel (but not as long as day 2). We’ll see a demonstration farm where you’ll learn how coffee grows, and how it’s transforming the landscape of Haiti (for those who have been to the Dominican Republic, this is where you’ll really see the difference in the 2 sides of the island).

Deforestation is a major problem in Haiti; coffee allows farmers to not only have the financial stability to support their families, they also have to plant shade trees (since coffee needs 50% shade and 50% sunlight) which means … more trees for Haiti! Better environment for Haiti! Everybody wins! Taking care of the people and the environment, at the same time? Where do I sign up?! (Just check out the bottom of this post!) There will be some trekking involved on this day, so make sure you have some comfy shoes and a good attitude because we’re going to get down and dirty the Haitian way (small, slightly rocky, sometimes slippery paths, sometimes no paths) but with even more of those breathtaking views. I say this from experience, being a part of the landscape, actually walking the paths and feeling the grass and different plants in your hands and around your feet, is so much better than simply riding in a vehicle through the landscape. This is where you’ll start to truly understand what goes into your (many) cups of coffee every day.

Day 4: More farms! To my city people, this will be new, so I suggest taking a lot of pictures, but don’t be scared! This adventure is for everyone! To my small-town country people (this is more where I come from), you’re going to feel right at home. But still, bring your camera! You’re going to want to remember this scenery forever (and it’s the perfect thing to show off to your friends and family and get them interested as well!) Also, please bring questions! Haitians are super friendly and willing to answer questions. They love sharing their knowledge (and their coffee) with everyone! If you think your Creole is pretty decent, you can ask them yourself, or you can grab a guide and they will interpret for you. Be as curious as a kid! This is what’s going to make your time in Haiti a thousand times better than what I or anyone else at Singing Rooster could make it for you: your own curiosity. There are no stupid questions!

Day 5: Travel day! If you missed any shots on your way to Thiotte, here’s your second chance! We’ll take the same way out as we did in (because there is no other option), so keep your cameras out and your eyes open. We’ll head to Croix des Bouquets and you’ll have a chance to visit the Metal Art District there. I recommend bringing some cash because you’re guaranteed to find a piece you love. We work with many artists here, and they are all wonderful people as well as fantastic artists! They use recycled oil drums, cut the tops and bottoms off, pound it into a flat sheet, and then use a hammer and chisel to cut out their designs. You’ll be mesmerized watching these guys (I know I was), and many of them love having their picture taken when done respectfully.

I know many people get nervous in markets like this one, and being a young female I definitely used to be one of those people. But these guys are so friendly and they were all very respectful, I never felt uncomfortable or like I needed a second person with me (although I did have help when bartering for a certain painting, thank you, Justin).

If you have an idea for a custom piece, something you’ve been thinking about for a while or something you think of on the spot, they can do that! Once everyone is done shopping and looking around, we’ll head to a hotel and spend the night.

Day 6: Time to relax at Haiti’s largest waterfall – Saut-d’Eau (Haitian Creole: Sodo).  Bring a swimsuit (or clothes you can get wet in)! This place is beautiful, and you’re going to want to get in the water because this 100-foot tall fall is said to have cleansing properties — to free you of bad luck and to bring to bring peace, love and joy.

This goes back to being in nature versus driving through it. Water has powerful properties and often powerful values in many societies, so having this wash over you, with an open mind, you can really feel all your burdens and fears and worries being washed off. Finding your Zen is not required, but the cool water is a nice contrast to the hot sun.

Day 7: Wake up to coffee and breakfast. We’ll talk about the whole trip, see what you enjoyed and what we can do better for your next visit to Haiti (you’ll want to come back, I promise), and say our sad goodbyes. You’ll be taken back to the airport and back home.

Your Haitian journey does not have to stop here!!

Keep buying Singing Rooster coffee! That’s the best way to guarantee farmers you met continue being able to support families. Buy for yourself or for a friend! Get youroffice or company to buy. Know a nonprofit? We have a fundraising with Haitian coffee program! #yourcupmatters

Tell your friends about us! This can be through just talking about Singing Rooster and Haiti whenever you get the chance, following and sharing our social media posts (all put out by me, so if you have comments or suggestions please reach out to me, I would love to hear them!), you could also have a coffee party! Get a group together, make some Haitian coffee, and sit and talk. A lot of people still have never tried Haitian coffee, so just getting a cup in front of them helps us grow so much! The more people who know about us, the bigger the market gets for Haitian coffee, the more people will want to go to Haiti, and the more financially stable our farmers and artists will be!

Stay invested in people! This is what makes Singing Rooster so unique: we are invested in the people of Haiti. Our heart’s desire is to see the people of Haiti independent and thriving, like they all deserve to be. Not dependent on aid from foreign countries, not dependent on people from foreign countries. Completely independent. This is what they want, so this is what we want.

We love Haiti. We want you to love Haiti as much as we do. The best way to do that is for you to come to Haiti and see what Singing Rooster is all about. Come see what Haiti is all about. This experience will open your eyes, mind, and heart to who Haiti is. What you’ll see is that Haiti is kind, loving, warm, funny. Haiti is full of beauty and grace and determination like you wouldn’t believe. Haiti is so hopeful, so cheerful, so full of people who want to share their work with the world. The groups we take to Haiti are small, and that’s for a reason. When we travel in smaller groups to places we’ve never been before, places off the map, off the path, we find parts of ourselves we didn’t know we were even missing.

This trip will change you. It’ll change the way you look at a single cup of coffee, it’ll change the way you look at farmers, it’ll change the way you look at your own life, at the whole world. You’ll start to think differently, interact with people differently. You’ll be inspired to do some crazy things because you’ve seen the crazy things other people can do. This goes beyond farmers, this goes beyond artists, beyond coffee, beyond you and me. This goes beyond. I can tell you everything I went through, every thought that ran through my mind since my feet touched Haitian soil, but none of it will prepare you for what you’re going to feel. Even if this trip doesn’t change you as it did for me, you will never be able to look at your cup of coffee the same again. After following a single coffee seed from being planted in the ground, to seeing the coffee trees grow, to picking and de-pulping cherries, washing and drying the beans, sorting, roasting, grinding, packaging the coffee, to finally making your morning cup of joe, it’s guaranteed to taste differently, and you’re guaranteed to look at it differently.

If this sounds like the trip for you (and I’m really hoping it does) learn more here about touring Haiti’s coffee lands. We will be excited to talk with you and share what we know about this experience. I know I can’t wait to see you on this adventure!!

With love,

Your favorite Media Maven, Keelia Trively
keelia@singingrooster.org