Posted by: universallearningcentreblog | October 2, 2011

Haitian Coffee Snob

I’m late in celebrating National Coffee Day, but in my world it’s always a good day to celebrate coffee, so no worries.  Before even getting started, I should mention that I’m very opinionated about coffee, probably a coffee “snob,” but I am also very simple in my taste for coffee.  I’m not a big fan of that giant chain everyone seems so in love with; I find it bitter and burned too often and the wild flavors get in the way of the coffee itself.

Pumpkin Latte (my own homemade version)

Don’t get me wrong.  Every once in a while, I love a caramel macchiato or a pumpkin latte, but that’s definitely not something I want to wake up to every morning.  Give me a nice, strong, black cup of coffee.  And while I certainly would not pass up a demi-tasse of authentic-brewed-in-Europe espresso, I like my coffee to last long enough to sip on and savor for a while, not a tiny little cup that’s gone in 30 seconds.  Enter Haitian coffee.

Cafe Rebo is the Haitian coffee I had most recently and can say without a doubt that it's good stuff!! (http://www.rebo.ht/Products.htm)

Haitian coffee has a very long history that many, if not most, people outside Haiti do not know about.  Coffee beans were introduced to the Caribbean in the 1720’s and by the end of the century, Haiti was the world’s largest coffee producer.  Haitians ruled the world of coffee, while being ruled by the French who had colonized the country and after gaining independence.  They peaked in the mid 1800s and apparently rose again to be the third largest producer at the beginning of the 1950s, but then sank as the country fell into political turmoil through the next several decades.  The low price of coffee after the end of the International Coffee Agreement in the late 1980s seemed to have been the nail in the coffin, so to speak, and Haitian coffee workers “forgot” their skills as they moved to other sources of income.

Now, Haitian coffee is making somewhat of a comeback, at least that’s what coffee producers like Cafe Rebo and Haitian Bleu Coffee are hoping.  There are other producers too, of course, and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund got into the action by lending $150,000 to a cooperative of coffee growers in Haiti.  So now Haitian coffee isn’t just good, the profits go to a good cause, if you buy products produced by growers in the cooperative.

After reading about the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund’s effort, I was curious about Haitians’ own habits in regards to drinking coffee, and I’m going to leave it open to Haitians who might read this blog.  What I have seen is that many Haitians, both in the U.S. and in Haiti, tend to drink instant coffee, and American brands at that.  It seems odd to me that they’d choose horrible (remember, I’m a coffee snob) instant coffee when Haitian coffee should be readily available to them!

Volunteers, Chris Barnicle and Michelle Lemenager had instant coffee with this meal in Pilate, Haiti

I’ve got my theories, of course, such as maybe too much coffee is exported because of the high profit and people in Haiti are left without enough for their own homes.  Or, maybe it’s easier to store instant coffee in the humid climate.  I read a blog somewhere that indicated that the Haitians the blogger stayed with drank instant in the morning and authentic, fresh-brewed Haitian coffee in the evenings.  (Sorry, I can’t find it now that I want it, although there are tons of blogs out there about Haitian coffee, as a quick Google search will reveal.)  Perhaps Haitians are in a rush to get the day started and drink instant because it’s faster, and save the good stuff for evenings when they have time to enjoy and savor it.  I don’t know.

So I leave this to anyone reading.  Help me figure this out!  I’ll go a little nuts if I don’t get answers, so please comment, and if you know any Haitian coffee drinkers, please forward my request on to them.  I really want to know!  Thanks.  And tomorrow morning when I’m drinking my coffee, I’ll be jealously thinking of all the people drinking a good strong cup of Haitian coffee because I’m out and need to order some more…

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Responses

  1. I feel the same way about coffee – give me a nice strong cup of smooth black coffee. I don’t know about Haiti but when I lived in Peru, they also had instant coffee. I think it was Nescafe that they served at most of the restaurants. I’m not sure why unless it was about wasting boiled drinking water. MY coffee pot never has any excess but a restaurant might. I hope someone has some real insight!

    • I was lucky and got a Keurig for Christmas last year and have gotten even more snobbish with my coffee. I definitely don’t have excess water either!! I’ve seen Haitians drink Nescafe too, and Maxwell House.

  2. Hi there. I’m a Haitian living in the US for the past 20 years. I grew up drinking Rebo coffee every morning. It has always been and always will be my favorite. I can’t find it here (I live in AZ) but once in a while some friends will send me a couple of bags.
    I’m surprised to hear that some of my fellow Haitians drink instant. I never liked that stuff. Give me a strong cup of Rebo any day.
    When I don’t have any Haitian coffee available, I turn to Brazilian coffee. I find it here at the Asian stores and I satisfies my “addiction”.
    I’m glad you found out what I’ve always known and hoped everyone will eventually discover too.

  3. I am also haitian and i don’t know of any haitians here in NY that prefers instant over the real thing,i have my rebo coming to me every chance i get and there is nothing like it.Due to the restarint,i know many of us has settle for bustello or caribe but there’s nothing like cafe at home.

  4. Growing up in Haitit in the early 70’s – 80’s American coffee did make a mark for awhile (fad) it was cool and hip to have anything American , I remember having Nescafe in the house but it was consumed occasionally, Rebo was always the coffee of mornings.
    I can still smell the coffee being brewed early mornings as the sun rose the birds chirped.
    It was always boiled in a cloth stainer and as dark as ther deepest ocean cave. The taste and smell of Haitian coffee is different as Jamaica’s is from other coffees. It’s starting to be available online more now, one place to look for it is Amazon. I’m not sure why distributionis not more readily available to martkets like N.Y. – Boston – Miami –

    • Thanks for commenting! I would suspect that NY, Boston and Miami get Rebo more easily than anywhere else simply because of the number of Haitians in the area. Out here in Dallas, we just don’t have enough Haitians!


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