Over the holidays I had the chance to visit Cafe Tres Picachos in Jayuya, Puerto Rico. While I've been fully immersed in the coffee industry for nearly the past two years, this was the first chance I've had to actually travel to origin and experience coffee production up close and personal.
The journey to Jayuya from San Juan was challenging and exciting, with most of the traveling done on narrow roads climbing up and down mountains into the middle of the island.
When we arrived at the farm we were greeted by some of the family members and taken in a 4x4 up the mountain to check out some of the growing areas. The scenery was pretty incredible and gives you a real appreciation for how hard it can be to harvest coffee; very often the coffee shrubs are planted on steep inclines that can erode during rainstorms.
After checking out some of the shrubs, we were taken to the processing & washing station on the farm. Tres Picachos produces two grades of coffee: Regular & Gourmet. While both coffees are fully washed, Regular coffees could be harvested before they are completely ripe and mechanically dried. Gourmet coffees are harvested only at the peak of the ripeness, and dried on raised beds in a ventilated greenhouse. Almost all of the coffee is roasted on-site, but we brought home some unroasted Gourmet coffee :)
While coffee production has been on the decline since the 1960s in Puerto Rico, the rise of specialty coffee in the United States and abroad has sparked a new interest in specialty-grade coffee for many producers. Tres Picachos still has a long way to go before specialty coffee production makes up a meaningful portion of their business, but they're making great strides and dedicating an increasing amount of resources to the cultivation of high quality coffee.
If you're curious to try what high quality coffee from Puerto Rico tastes like, ask us about it the next time you're at the roaster. We will be sample roasting the pound of green Gourmet coffee we brought back with us over the course of the next few weeks and would be happy to share some with you.