Coffee Grinder, by Jose Ramos
Back in the late 1800s, European coffee connoisseurs considered coffee from Puerto Rico to be in a class by itself, the standard by which other coffees were measured. They eagerly awaited shipments of beans labeled from Yauco, Jayuya, Maricao and other communities in the western Cordillera Central. In the cool climate of the higher elevations, the Arabica coffee shrub did extremely well. In winter months workers would fan out on the coffee estates, picking the ripe red beans by hand and taking them to the farms to be processed. The beans were rinsed and de-pulped, dried on concrete slabs in the sun, de-husked and shipped primarily from the port in Ponce to the major cities of Europe.
In the 20th century, markets changed with the transfer of Puerto Rico from Spain to the US, and several major hurricanes destroyed much of the remaining crop. Coffee production continued at a much smaller scale and pride in the rich taste of Puerto Rican coffee was confined mainly to local connoisseurs.
Many local restaurants and hotels serve their guests 100% Puerto Rico coffee, and stores and supermarkets offer buyers a multitude of Island brands. In addition, several coffee-tasting shops and cafes showcase Island-grown Arabica beans. Many of the retail shops in Old San Juan sell the bean.