The Dominican Republic and its Coffee

By Robert Nickel

According to a very old Turkish proverb, "coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love." How do you like your coffee? Sweet or bitter? Black or with cream? Strong or watered down? Coffee has long been a vice for people from every walk of life, in almost every culture in the world, for hundreds and hundreds of years. The fragrant roasted beans of the coffee plant can produce squeals of delight in any coffee lover, but the scent of a really wonderful blend from a land known for its talent in producing the very best bean will make the diehard coffee fan weak in the knees.

So where do the best beans come from? Who has perfected the art of cultivating, harvesting, roasting and grading the beans? The history of coffee as a beverage goes back to Ethiopia, before year 5 CE. Beginning around 700 CE the Arabs began consuming coffee, and interestingly its use spread in direct relation to the spread of Islam. For the coffee purist, Ethiopian beans may be their top choice. However, as was illustrated by the evolution of chocolate, just because a nation was the first to use something doesn't mean they are the best. The Aztecs were the first to consume the cocoa bean, but we all know the best chocolate comes from Belgium.

Ethiopian beans are good, very good in fact. Then again, so are Turkish beans and Brazilian beans and Italian beans etc. Just as German chocolate is very good, but not quite as fabulous as Belgian. Every coffee lover has their preference. Some swear by the Hawaiian Kona blend, or the Jamaican Blue Mountain bean; but for those who like their coffee rich and dark, Dominican beans are best. The acidity of the beans from the Dominican Republic is very low in comparison to other parts of the world. Since the beans are a dark variety, most people think the coffee will taste bitter. Not so! Dominican beans are unique in that their flavor is full, sweet and free of bitterness.

Coffee plantations in the Dominican Republic are largely family owned and run. There are a few commercial farms, but for the most part the private farmers are responsible for Dominican coffee production. Beans are hand-picked, ensuring only the ones at full ripeness are harvested. Then the beans are washed in a huge tub of water, which serves a dual purpose of weeding out the bad from the good; bad beans sink, good beans float. Then the beans are graded, as dense beans produce the best coffee. Fermentation takes a day, then drying another one to two weeks. Then roasting, sorting and packaging. This is just a cursory description of the coffee growing and processing process, the rest is often guarded by farmers as valuable industry secrets.

The Dominican Republic doesn't often jump to people's minds when thinking of a fabulous pot of coffee, but they are a nation who knows the bean. The mountains of the Dominican are covered with forests of coffee plants and the streets of the villages are ripe with coffee vendors. Sit down and have a cup the Dominican way: hot, strong and sweet!

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