Dominican Republic Coffee Overview

Expect a unique flavor profile from the higher altitude farms of the Dominican Rebublic

The Dominican Republic has a tradition of coffee production that dates back several centuries, and a unique coffee flavor profile that is from other Caribbean nations. One would expect Dominican coffees hold true to the soft, mild profile of “island coffees” in general, but our experience is not so: If you like clean tasting wet-processed coffees from Central America or Island coffees from the Caribbean or Hawaii, Dominican Republic coffee holds promise!

As far as the export coffee, there are often problems with the processing and exportation of lots. The coffee is either damaged at the mill, in storage awaiting export or in transport itself. Like other Caribbean coffee origins, the dried green beans are exposed to humidity fluctuations which can impart a taste of prematuring aging. This can taste like paper, cardboard, or jute bag. The other issue is that much coffee from here is picked and processed to a commercial standard, a lower grade, and good lots are mixed with bad.  We are hoping to uncover a great source for Dominican coffee that has a clean cup character, and have been cupping samples that are quite brilliant lately, showing the potential is far greater than other Caribbean coffees.

High Production, High Consumption in the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic produces a considerable amount of coffee (300-500k bags per year.) But most of it is consumed within the country itself. Less than 20% is exported. Consumption of coffee  in the country is around around 6.6 Lbs. per person per year. They like their coffee! 

While it is admirable to consume products locally, it presents a problem when it comes to specialty coffee and exports. Commercial grade coffees contain higher level of defects, and often involve a mixing of nice high grown coffee with lower grown lots. The result is average, or worse. But if it is sold at a good price, and perhaps often consumed with cream and sugar, the flavor issues are masked. There also isn’t much incentive to improve, which takes considerable labor and equipment upgrades to turn out a specialty grade coffee. 

Dominican Republic coffees are surprisingly diverse. But this often has to do with low grade versus high grade preparation, and low altitude versus high altitude.

Introduction of Coffee to the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic shares the island traditionally called Hispaniola with the nation of Haiti.

Coffee was first introduced in the Dominican Republic in 1715 and has been the principal crop of the small scale farmers.Coffee began to be exported circa 1872. In the early 20th century, the crop was cultivated in all the Cibao, principally in the district of Puerto Plata. The exportation of coffee from the Dominican Republic in 1900 amounted to 3,951,539 pounds

The country’s six growing regions – Cibao, Bani, Azua, Ocoa, Barahona and Juncalito – have been officially denominated by the government to better promote the individual profiles of the coffees from these distinct microclimates. However there may be as many as 25 distinct production zones around the island centered on its four mountain ranges. Most coffee on the island grows at between 600 and 1,450 meters above sea level. 

Given the extreme diversity of the island’s microclimates and topography and the near constant humid conditions, coffee is picked almost all year round at one place or another on the island, although the peak harvest period takes place from November to May, peaking in April around the Semana Santa (Holy Week) festival.

Dominican Republic Coffee Map Sweet Marias Coffee growing regions
Map of Coffee growing areas of Dominican Republic including La Vega, Cibao, Duarte, Mirabal, Valdesia, San Cristobal, Azua, Bauruco, Barahona, Elias Pina, Puerto Plata, Espillat

We don’t often offer it, but see if we have of Dominican Republic Coffee at Sweet Maria’s.

Country Profiles:

Coffee Farming is Generally Smallholder, Not Large Estates

Farms in the Dominican Republic are typically small – on average less than three hectares each – and much of the coffee is cultivated organically, though many farms are not officially certified. The majority is also shade-grown, often under a canopy of pine, macadamia and guava trees.

The varieties of coffee most often found are Typica, Caturra, Catuaí, Bourbon & Mundo Novo. The harvest period is generally September – May in the main regions: Cibao, Bani, Azua, Ocoa, Barahona &  Juncalito

Most Dominican producers process their coffee themselves in small wet mills. All coffee is wet-processed: cherries are de-pulped within 24 hours, naturally fermented, washed and dried in the sun. The beans in parchment are then transported to large dry mills where the coffee is prepared for export or for sale in the domestic market. Since 1981 the area cropped has substantially declined, but the production level has remained generally the same due to the adoption of modern technological improvements in processing.

There have been some newer efforts toward realizing the quality potential of Dominican Republic coffee. An example is Spirit Mountain an organic farm. 

We don’t often offer it, but see if we have of Dominican Republic Coffee at Sweet Maria’s.