Remember Haitian coffee? Remember low coffee prices? If you remember one, you probably can remember both. They are related. In the day when coffee was cheap (and certainly not as good), Haiti’s coffee was one of the most famous, as this tiny country produced HALF of the world’s supply back in the 1700’s and early 1800’s. After that, the political instability of the country plus the low prices led to a virtual end of the industry. There was no Haitian coffee to be had anywhere.
Recently, possibly due to Haiti’s disastrous earthquake of two years ago, attempts are being made to revive the industry. One of these efforts was reported this week in Canada’s Telegraph Journal. Robert Lehnert, 22, conceived of his coffee business after working in a health clinic on Haiti last spring. Based in Ontario Canada, he has started importing and roasting small shipments of coffee from Haiti’s Xaragua (pronounced Zaragua) region. Though Lehnert is planning on making a profit, he’s insisting that his coffee results from an industry that develops “in a fair, ethical and environmentally conscious manner.”
He’s doing his part by paying above fair trade prices and planting a new coffee tree for every bag of coffee sold, which is done online and at several small grocery stores. Another Canadian roaster had this to say about Haitian coffee: “The coffees we’ve been getting recently from Haiti are some of the best coffees I’ve had from anywhere in the world. It is excellent coffee. It’s just that almost nobody has seen it.” Labeled the “poorest country in the western hemisphere”, Haiti stands a chance of rising above the label if the coffee industry can be revived to what it used to be. They have a ready market in their neighboring US, which has one of the highest demands for coffee in the world.