Cuba bets on specialty coffee to boost industry

MANICARAGUA, CUBA (AFP) – In the verdant, fertile mountains of Cuba, farmer Jesus Chaviano hopes to add his arabica beans to a list of specialty coffees that the nation hopes will revive a declining industry.

It is harvest time on Chaviano’s eight-hectare plantation in the central Guamuaya mountain range, and his 42,000 coffee plants are bursting with ripe, reddish fruit beneath avocado and banana trees.

At an altitude of 800 meters, the conditions are optimal for the eight varieties of high-quality arabica coffee beans that he planted “with his own hands.”

While Cuba has been cultivating coffee for nearly three centuries, it has never produced the coveted specialty coffees with distinctive flavor profiles that result from careful cultivation in a specific terroir.

In the past two decades, both the demand for and price of premium coffee have increased on the international market.

“I believe this is the path we must take: pursuing specialty coffees. Not large quantities, but small batches that sell well,” Chaviano, 46, stated.

Jesus Chaviano, a coffee farmer, inspects the quality of the coffee beans on his Jibacoa plantation.
The first five specialty coffees will be introduced in December at the inaugural Cuba-Cafe producers fair, which is taking place in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba.

The names and origins of the selected coffees are kept confidential.

Ramon Ramos, scientific director of Cuba’s National Institute of Agroforestry Research, stated, “We’re taking the first concrete steps to add value to this coffee.” He added, “with the same production and yield, it will be sold for a significantly higher price.”

According to Ramos, the price for one thousand kilograms of commercial coffee was established by the French colonists who fled Haiti in the eighteenth century and brought the culture of coffee cultivation to Cuba.

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