Puerto Rico is an archipelago made up of more than 100 islands, islets, and cays with much of the landscape taken over by the Cordillera Central mountain range. It is situated in the Caribbean between the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Coffee arrived in Puerto Rico in the 18th century and has been known for its strength and smooth and creamy texture.
Puerto Rican coffee production has steadily decreased in the last few decades, but some of the strongest coffee comes from this region.
In this article, we’ll discuss need-to-know facts about Puerto Rican coffee and some suggestions on popular Puerto Rican coffee brands to try.
About Puerto Rican Coffee
Coffee used to be a top cash crop in Puerto Rico. The beans produce a smooth and strong cup of coffee that is highly desired by coffee consumers.
Let’s take a look at Puerto Rico’s coffee history, the benefits of its beans, and things to look for when you’re buying Puerto Rican coffee.
History of Puerto Rican Coffee
The amount of coffee that’s exported from Puerto Rico today is just a small fraction of how much the area used to produce in the past. Coffee was first introduced to Puerto Rico in the 18th century and by the 19th century, the coffee industry took off.
Puerto Rico used to be one of the main coffee exporters for the United States, but over the last few decades production has declined significantly. This is mainly due to several social, political, and environmental factors that have taken a toll on its coffee industry.
In 2012, there were about 5,000 coffee farms in Puerto Rico. This number has fallen substantially to approximately 2,000 farms by 2018.
Most of the coffee farms in Puerto Rico are individually or family-owned. As Puerto Rico began shifting to the manufacturing industry, the agriculture industry began to diminish.
Much of the coffee that Puerto Rico produces is also consumed locally, which has contributed to its reduced exportation.
However, there are still many farms that produce coffee beans to be exported around the world. It is just not as common as in other coffee-producing countries.
Where Is Puerto Rican Coffee Grown?
The best Puerto Rican coffee is produced in the mountains and hillsides in the central region of the territory. The coffee plants grown in this area are typically shade-grown and flourish in higher altitudes.
Although Puerto Rican coffee farms are not nearly as abundant as they used to be, they are still spread throughout various parts of the territory. Regions, where coffee is commonly produced, include:
Coffee produced in Jayuya and Lares is likely to be grown at much higher altitudes than in other regions because these areas contain some of the highest mountain peaks in the territory.
Most of the coffee produced by Puerto Rico is not Strictly High Grown (SHG), which is generally of higher quality. It is often grown at 1,000 meters or below because the mountains in the territory do not reach very high elevations.
Coffee grown between 900 and 1,200 meters above sea level is considered High Grown (HG), which can still produce good quality coffee. Coffee grown on the mountains and hillsides are more likely to be shade-grown, which is beneficial to the environment and development of the beans.
Anything under 900 meters is considered Central Standard. Coffee grown at lower altitudes tend to be average or low quality, but the beans are typically less acidic.
Benefits of Puerto Rican Coffee
Most Puerto Rican coffee farms grow Arabica beans, which are considered to have a better taste than other bean varieties. There are some benefits to Puerto Rican coffee beans that some countries are not able to offer.
Some of the most common benefits that come with Puerto Rican coffee include:
- Stronger than other coffee beans
- Smooth texture
- Intense aroma
- Full body
Coffee beans that come from Puerto Rico tend to be stronger than other beans. If you’re looking for a coffee that has an extra kick of caffeine, Puerto Rican coffee may be something you’d like to try.
Puerto Rican coffee offers a smooth texture, often described as creamy. It is also known for its intense aromas and full body. For these reasons, many local Puerto Ricans enjoy their coffee black or with very little milk or cream.
The most common ways Puerto Rican coffee is consumed by locals include espresso (pocillo), espresso with steamed milk (cortadito), and lattes (café con leche).
What to Look for When Shopping for Puerto Rican Coffee Brands
There are some main characteristics of Puerto Rican coffee that you might want to keep an eye out for. If you’re looking to find a pure Puerto Rican coffee brand, you may want to consider the following:
- Type of body
- Altitude level
- Type of roast
Many Puerto Rican coffee brands advertise their coffee as full body. This means that the viscosity of the coffee tends to feel heavier, or thicker when you take a sip. Full-bodied coffee also generally locks in more of the rich flavor of the beans.
The light body isn’t as buttery and has a more water-like feel to it. If you like light-bodied coffees, you might want to pay close attention to this when considering a Puerto Rican coffee brand.
Puerto Rico has an abundance of mountains, but even the highest elevations in the territory barely break even with Strictly High Grown altitudes of 1,200 meters or more.
If you’re looking for higher-quality beans, keep an eye out for coffee grown in mountainous regions, such as Jayuya and Lares.
Puerto Rican coffee often comes in medium to dark roasts. If you’re a big fan of lighter roasts, you may have a more difficult time finding a light roast coffee purely from Puerto Rico.
5 Puerto Rican Coffee Brands to Try
Alto Grande – Premium Whole Bean Coffee
- Full body
- Sweet aroma
- 100% Arabica beans
- Limited size options
Grown in the central mountain range of Lares, Puerto Rico, Alto Grande Premium Whole Bean Coffee is a full-bodied dark roast.
The beans are Strictly High Grown between 1,200 and 1,370 meters above sea level. The name of the coffee can be a bit deceiving so it’s important to note that this product does come already ground.
This coffee produces a bright cup with a sweet aroma and chocolate undertones. If you like a heavier cup of coffee complemented with a chocolatey flavor profile, you may enjoy Alto Grande’s premium dark roast coffee.
The real downfall is the limited size options, with the only choice being a 32 oz bag that comes in one or more units.
Café Oro de Puerto Rico
- Strong flavor
- Full body
- Limited size options
Café Oro de Puerto Rico is a family-owned coffee producer in Lares that offers a medium dark roast made from 100% Arabica beans. This coffee produces a smooth cup with sweet notes of caramel.
It is slightly acidic, which can be a pro or con depending on your preference. The beans are roasted, ground, and packaged in Puerto Rico. The coffee comes in a metallic packaging, which helps to preserve its freshness.
Café Hacienda San Pedro – Super Premium Peaberry Ground Coffee
- Sweet aroma
- Peaberry beans
Café Hacienda San Pedro Super Premium Peaberry Coffee is hand-picked in Jayuya on the Tres Picachos mountain. The beans are High Grown at 900 meters above sea level.
This single-origin coffee has a soft texture with a subtle caramel aroma and chocolate overtones. If you enjoy a smooth cup of coffee with a subtle sweetness and hint of spices, you may like this ground peaberry coffee.
Café La Finca – Premium Roasted Puerto Rican Coffee
- 100% Arabica beans
- Slightly pricey
Café La Finca is a family-owned coffee business in the mountains of Jayuya. The beans are hand-picked, processed, roasted, and ground in their Jayuya facilities.
This single-origin coffee is a medium roast made from 100% Arabica beans in altitudes above 1,000 meters. If you like a smooth cup of coffee that isn’t too acidic, you may enjoy Café La Finca Premium Roasted Puerto Rican Coffee.
Café Crema – Ground Puerto Rican Coffee
- Creamy and smooth texture
- Fine grind may clog filter
- Slightly bitter and earthy
Café Crema Ground Puerto Rican Coffee is a medium roast that is finely ground to bring out its intense flavors. The coffee produces a creamy and smooth cup with balanced acidity. It has somewhat of an earthy taste and is not very acidic.
The fine grind of this coffee brings some of the intense flavors of Puerto Rican coffee, but can also lead to some bitterness.
Final Thoughts: Puerto Rican Coffee Brands
Puerto Rico produces coffee beans that have some special attributes. It’s recommended as a medium to dark roast and is often stronger than many other coffees from around the world.
Common characteristics you’ll find with Puerto Rican coffee include:
- Full body
- Smooth and creamy
- Low to medium acidity
- Sweet notes of chocolate and caramel
Our top choice for Puerto Rican coffee brands is Alto Grande Premium Whole Bean Coffee. It comes from Lares, one of Puerto Rico’s main coffee-producing regions, and the beans are Strictly High Grown. It is a full-bodied dark roast with chocolatey notes and a sweet aroma, which Puerto Rican coffee is most known for.