I just came back from an 11 day trip to Rincon Puerto Rico. I’ve been to Puerto Rico so many times that I’ve lost count, but in all of the times that I’ve gone I never ventured to any of the famous coffee plantations. This is very ironic because I’m so addicted to Starbucks that I’m a gold member. Therefore this time I made a point to myself that I was going to take a day and explore a plantation to get a first hand view of where the rich and flavorful Puerto Rican coffee comes from. I googled “Coffee Plantation Tours Puerto Rico” and found a “Ruta del Cafe” tour from Adventours that left from Mayaguez. I contacted the tour company and received confirmation from the owner (Hilda) that the plantation was open for a visit.
The trip up to the plantation was very long and up some really steep and narrow roads (yes all paved), Hilda who was our tour guide did a great job of pointing out various sites along the way. I was really glad to have Hilda driving, because I’ve driven up those same narrow curvy mountain roads to the organic farm Cielo Verde in the mountains of Mayaguez where we buy produce and did such a bad job last time that my mother swore off ever going up the mountain again (so needless to say she wasn’t amused when she agreed to accompany me on this tour and was forced to another drive up the mountain).
Once we reached our destination at Hacienda Palma Escrita (Cafe la Casona) in the mountain town of Marias we were treated to an extremely informative tour about the production of coffee. This Hacienda is a working hacienda and harvests coffee about 7 months out of the year. We got to see Arabica coffee growing on the trees, then we got to see the actual production facility, as well as the coffee beans in various stages from raw to roasted…it was really interesting, and I had no idea that after you peeled off the skin the coffee had to be cleaned, dried and roasted. The process was really intricate. I also got to understand how much the flavor of coffee is influenced by weather, ratio of sun to shade, temperature, precipitation and handling/production methods. It was almost as detailed as deciphering the different nuances in vintages of wine!
A tasting at the hacienda further confirmed the level of complexity of the coffee production process, there is a difference in depth of flavor from coffee brewed from 100% arabica beans and coffee brewed from a mix of arabica and robusta beans (robusta beans are considered less desirable than arabica but still yummy to me)…also different harvests produced subtly different flavors. I was in coffee heaven. This coffee was strong, but slightly sweet and smooth as silk. It was possibly the best coffee I’ve ever had! I told the owner that I own a Bed and Breakfast, Catskill Maison, and that I would be very interested in featuring her coffee on our breakfast table as well as in our wine bar once it’s constructed. I am so excited to have made this contact, we are incredibly committed in supporting local farmers and their products whenever possible, and there are clearly no coffee plantations in the Catskills, to have the ability to feature coffee from a local farmer, that is freshly harvested is a dream come true. Look for different blends from Cafe Casona produced specifically for Catskill Maison in the near future…this isn’t coffee that you can get from your local grocery store!