The Dominican Republic produces between 350,000-500,000 bags of Arabica per year, however, less than 20% of this volume is exported. This is partly because domestic coffee consumption is very high - the Dominican Republic has a coffee culture stretching back over two centuries and consumption hovers around 3kg per-capita.
Such a high level of internal consumption means that quality parameters have tended to be set by (relatively) mediocre internal standards, rather than by today’s higher specialty expectations. Nevertheless, the potential for finding high quality coffees and learning more about the growers and regions has led us to explore the two thirds of the beautiful Caribbean island that is the Dominican Republic.
The farms are spread throughout the country’s six growing regions: Cibao, Bani, Azua, Ocoa, Barahona and Juncalito. These have been officially denominated by the government to better promote the individual profiles of the coffees from these distinct microclimates. However there may be as many as 25 distinct production zones around the island, centred around its four mountain ranges.
The Domincan Republic’s coffee grows at between 600m and 1450m. Given the extreme diversity of the island’s microclimates and topography, coffee is usually being picked almost all year round at one place or another on the island, although the peak harvest period takes place from November to May, peaking in April around the Semana Santa (Holy Week) festival. The main coffee varieties cultivated are Típica, Caturra, Catuaí, Bourbon and Mundo Novo.
The farms are typically small – on average less than three hectares each – and much of the coffee production in the Dominican Republic is organic, though many farms are not officially certified. The majority is also shade-grown, often under a canopy of pine, macadamia and guava trees.
Most Dominican producers process their coffee themselves, in small wet mills called ‘beneficios humedos’. All coffee is wet-processed, cherries are de-pulped within 24 hours, naturally fermented, washed and dried in the sun. The beans in parchment are then transported to large dry mills where the coffee is prepared for export or for sale in the domestic market.
The new crop generally ships from the Dominican Republic in July/August.