Are you tired of the same old brews and craving something new and exciting? Maybe something that is extremely hard to find?
Get ready to awaken your senses with the rich, flavorful, and unique taste of Puerto Rican coffee.
In this comprehensive buying guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the vibrant coffee-growing regions of Puerto Rico that you didn’t even know existed.
We will also introduce you to the best Puerto Rican coffee brands so that you can experience the magic of these delicious beans for yourself.
Ready? Let’s get into it.
- Puerto Rico’s coffee industry dates back to the early 18th century and became one of the island’s most important agricultural industries in the mid-19th century.
- Climate change and Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused the Puerto Rican coffee industry to dwindle, but there has been a recent push to jumpstart it again.
- Puerto Rican coffee is rare and unique due to its limited production and high local demand, leaving very little to be exported.
- Most Puerto Rican coffee is grown on small family-owned farms using sustainable and organic practices, with the washed method being the most common processing method.
- Puerto Rican coffee is known for its rich, bold, and full-bodied flavor profile with common tasting notes of chocolate, caramel, and honey.
- Puerto Rico is home to several coffee-growing regions, including Yauco, Jayuya, Adjuntas, and Utuado, each with its own unique flavor profile and growing conditions.
- The best Puerto Rican coffee brands we recommend are Volcanica Coffee, Cafe Lareno and Yaucono.
Coffee History in Puerto Rico
Many people don’t even realize that Puerto Rico produces coffee. It’s extremely hard to come across a bag of Puerto Rican coffee beans, as most of the coffee produced there is consumed locally or sold to tourists.
The history of coffee in Puerto Rico dates back to the early 18th century when the Spanish brought the first coffee plants to the island. However, it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that coffee production really took off, becoming one of the island’s most important agricultural industries.
When the United States annexed Puerto Rico and it became an American territory in 1898, coffee was Puerto Rico’s principal export staple product. (1) The US started emphasizing growing sugar cane over coffee, so Puerto Rican coffee production began to decline, despite the plant thriving in the island’s fertile soil and tropical climate.
In recent years, climate change and Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated an estimated 85% of coffee plants, causing the industry to dwindle. (2) However, there has been a recent insurgence for jumpstarting the coffee industry in Puerto Rico.
What is Special About Puerto Rican Coffee?
Perhaps the main factor making Puerto Rican coffee so special is that it’s hard to find.
In the specialty coffee industry, it holds a special place as a rare and unique offering. Due to its limited production and high demand locally, it can be difficult to find outside of Puerto Rico, making it a very sought-after, rare coffee.
Coffee in Puerto Rico is typically grown on small family-owned coffee farms, where the producers take great care in cultivating and harvesting the cherries by hand. Even the most famous coffee farm on the island, Hacienda San Pedro, is still a family-owned business.
Most coffee is processed using the washed – or “wet” – method. This means that the freshly harvested cherries are passed through a pulping machine to separate the skin from the bean. Then, the farmers submerge the beans in tanks of water to initiate a fermentation process that helps get rid of the sticky mucilage layer.
While this method consumes a lot of water, it’s not a problem in Puerto Rico. The rainy season lasts about eight months of the year, from April to November.
Most small farmers use sustainable and organic practices, even though the bags you come across might not have any certifications on them. These certifications are simply too expensive for most producers.
Puerto Rican Coffee Flavor Profiles
Puerto Rican coffee is known for its rich, bold, and full-bodied flavor profile, with distinct tasting notes that are influenced by the island’s unique growing conditions and processing methods.
One of the most common tasting notes found in Puerto Rican coffee is chocolate. This flavor note can range from sweet milk chocolate to more bittersweet dark chocolate. This is often accompanied by notes of caramel, toffee, or honey.
You can generally expect Puerto Rican coffee to be rich, sweet, nutty, and low in acidity. Sometimes, more complex coffee from the area will present notes of berries or tropical fruits, adding a bit more bright acidity to your brew.
Of course, the way the farmers process their beans after picking the cherries will greatly influence the final taste. Naturals will be a bit more fruity and sweet, while washed coffees might be cleaner with more acidity.
How Do Locals Make Their Coffee?
There are two common ways that most Puerto Ricans make and drink their coffee.
The first method that’s popular among locals is drinking their coffee “black”. The people of Puerto Rico have been using a device called the “greca” (or moka pot) for many generations. First, they take finely ground coffee from the island and put it in the filter of the greca. Second, they add water to the reservoir and place the filter on top.
After boiling on the stove, the end result is much like an Italian moka pot: strong with a full body and rich flavor.
The other most famous way to consume coffee in Puerto Rico is by drinking a “café con leche” (coffee with milk).
While coffee is made using the greca, residents of the island will simmer whole milk in a separate saucepan. Once everything is warmed up, they will fill their cups halfway with coffee, then add sugar and milk.
Some people even put instant coffee, sugar, and milk in a saucepan together, creating a super quick version of “café con leche”. If you visit Puerto Rico, you are sure to see both types being made.
The people of Puerto Rico drink coffee as a part of most social gatherings, so it’s consumed during the morning and afternoon. Coffee is generally served with sweet and savory pastries, such as quesitos, maduros, tripletas, or flan. (3)
Sounds delicious… get me to Puerto Rico ASAP!
Coffee Growing Regions in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is home to several coffee-growing regions, each with its own unique flavor profile and growing conditions. Many benefit from high altitudes, rich volcanic soil, and ample rainfall. Shade-grown coffee is the norm in Puerto Rico and is perfect for Arabica beans.
The most common varietals of Puerto Rican coffee are Bourbon, Typica, Pacas, and Catimor. (4)
- Yauco: Located in the southwestern part of the island, Yauco is one of the oldest and most well-known coffee-growing regions in Puerto Rico. The coffee grown in Yauco is characterized by its full-bodied flavor, with notes of chocolate and caramel, and a bright acidity. The region has an altitude of 2,500 to 3,000 feet above sea level, with plenty of volcanic soil and rainfall for optimal growing conditions.
- Jayuya: Located in the central mountain range of the island, Jayuya is known for its high-altitude coffee farms, with some farms located at over 4,000 feet above sea level. The coffee grown here has notes of chocolate, fruit, and nutty flavors. The cooler temperatures and higher altitudes in Jayuya create ideal growing conditions for coffee, leading to a slower maturation process and more complex flavors.
- Adjuntas: Another coffee-growing region located in the central mountain range of the island, Adjuntas is known for its rich, full-bodied coffee with notes of chocolate and nuts. The region has an altitude of around 2,500 feet above sea level, with a cool and moist climate that is ideal for coffee cultivation.
- Utuado: Located in the central part of the island, Utuado is a newer coffee-growing region in Puerto Rico. The coffee grown in Utuado is characterized by its bright acidity, with notes of tropical fruit and caramel. The region has an altitude of around 1,500 to 2,000 feet above sea level with a warm and humid climate.
- Lares: Located in the central part of the island, Lares is known for producing coffee with a medium body and a bright, citrusy acidity. The region has an altitude of around 2,000 to 2,500 feet above sea level, with a mild climate and abundant rainfall.
- Ciales: Located in the central mountain range of the island, Ciales is known for its high-quality coffee with a full body and notes of chocolate and fruit. The region has an altitude of around 2,500 to 3,000 feet above sea level, with a cool and moist climate.
Best Puerto Rican Coffee Brands to Try
Since Puerto Rican coffee can be so difficult to find, we’ve included some of our favorite Puerto Rican coffee brands that you can buy online. Try some delicious Puerto Rican coffee without traveling to the island by sampling one of the bags below.
Tip: Don’t forget to check if these Puerto Rican coffee brands offer whole beans or ground coffee. We recommend always choosing whole beans for the freshest cup of joe if you have a way to grind them at home.
Volcanica Puerto Rican Coffee
One of our favorite Puerto Rico coffee brands is this roaster, which is currently stocked up on beans from one of the most well-known farms in Puerto Rico: Hacienda San Pedro. As one of the few specialty coffee producers left on the island, this coffee is packed with sweet notes of chocolate and complex spices. You can order it in a variety of sizes, with either whole beans or ground for your brewing style of choice.
As a light/medium roast, you will be able to enjoy the complex flavors from this single origin coffee that was shade-grown above 2,500 feet. The beans were processed using the washed method and naturally sun-dried, which adds a clean finish to the final cup.
This medium roast coffee works really well with pour-over or infusion-style brewing methods, such as a Chemex, V60, Melitta, or French Press.
This medium roast is perfect if you prefer a roast that is a little darker. This family business has been in the Puerto Rican coffee market for over 30 years and takes care of every step of the coffee process, including picking, pulping, processing, drying, roasting, and shipping.
Located in the region of Lares, this coffee has a medium body with good sweetness and a slight citrusy acidity. Those who have purchased bags left reviews that it’s “extremely smooth without any bitterness” and “great for pour-over and espresso”. Save on shipping and get this 2-pack of roasted coffee beans.
Yaucono Ground Puerto Rican Coffee
If you don’t mind buying your coffee pre-ground, this “medium” roast will satisfy anyone looking for a rich, strong brew. We think it’s a bit dark to still be classified as a medium roast, but that’s what the label claims! Since this coffee is finely ground, it will taste great as espresso or in an AeroPress.
This “Yaucono” coffee is produced in the region of Yauco, the oldest and most famous coffee-growing region in Puerto Rico. Expect a full body and rich, chocolatey notes in this coffee. Yaucono is also part of a sustainability movement calls “sembrando el bien” (sowing the good), which focuses on preserving the environment and connecting the community on the island.
Frequently Asked Questions
Puerto Rico-style coffee typically refers to the traditional way of preparing coffee on the island, which involves using a stovetop coffee maker called a “greca” or “moka pot.” Café con leche (coffee with milk) is the most common type of Puerto Rican coffee beverage, which combines coffee made in the greca with sugar and milk simmering in a separate saucepan.
Puerto Rican coffee consists primarily of Arabica coffee beans. Because Puerto Rican coffee grows in mountains at high altitudes, the Arabica varieties of Bourbon, Typica, Pacas, and Catimor do very well. The volcanic soil and shaded terrain also help Arabica coffee beans thrive. However, some specialty coffee producers are beginning to experiment with high-quality Robusta on the island.
Alright, that’s a wrap on everything you need to know about Puerto Rican coffees!
In this guide, you learned the history of coffee in Puerto Rico, where it grows, and how coffee growers process their beans. We even gave you a few of our recommendations for the best Puerto Rican coffee beans to try, including a phenomenal medium roast from beans sourced from Hacienda San Pedro.
We hope you enjoy the rare and special coffee that this country has to offer.
Check our coffee beans guide if you want to explore more about the best coffee beans worldwide.
- The Coffee Economy – https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/abs/agrarian-puerto-rico/coffee-economy/DA5932EEC4C8AE3A007CC7FCE6C6A401
- Puerto Rico bets on a coffee comeback – https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45552959
- PUERTO RICAN CAFÉ CON LECHE – https://salimaskitchen.com/cafe-con-leche