Delicious and Simply Extraordinary Creole Coffee
Haitian coffees are shade-grown natural tasting coffees high in quality and consistency.
Our thirst for coffee seems almost insatiable. By one estimate, 3,300 cups of coffee are consumed every second of the day worldwide. Today, the world market for all types of coffee is conservatively estimated at US$11 billion per year. However impressive these figures are, though, they tell us only part of the coffee story. People are not simply drinking more coffee. They are increasingly discerning about the quality and taste of the coffee they consume—weighing the health effects of different types of coffees consumed—and they are increasingly knowledgeable about the environmental effects of coffee production.
Consumer awareness about the quality of different coffees has increased steadily in recent years. Market studies show that consumers are more discriminating about differences between groups of coffee, including distinctions based on product origin, taste characteristics, such as smoothness, aroma and acidity, organic characteristics, and other factors.
The Benefits of Haitian Shade-grown Coffee
1) Environmental Benefits
• In many areas of Haiti, coffee plots are the only forested areas remaining on mountainsides. Given considerable pressures on land and forests, shade-grown coffee areas can help protect remaining forests from the clearing of hundreds of acres annually for different commercial activities.
• Since Arabica coffee grows on steep mountain slopes, this type of production provides protection from soil erosion and prevents the loss of important watersheds.
• Shade coffee plants and adjacent shade trees play an important role in carbon sequestration, and hence their environmental value will increase as the international climate agenda proceeds.
• Shade coffee areas are an important habitat for a variety of bird species, both residential and migratory. Next to virgin forests, shade-grown coffee provides the best habitat for many hundreds of different bird species.
• In addition to protecting natural habitats, shade coffee areas help conserve the diversity of native trees and the biodiversity of tropical forests. In addition, shade-grown coffee provides important ground cover during the dry season, which conserves topsoils and their nutrients, and supplies natural habitats for species other than birds, including mammals and reptiles.
2) Health Benefits
• Unlike sun-tolerant, intensely produced hybrid coffees that rely on pesticides and other agrochemicals in their production, Haitian shade-grown coffee is for the most part organically grown. Haitian Coffee produced in this manner receives enough nutrients naturally from adjacent trees, bushes, and grasses. However, results of the market survey suggest that more work is needed in explaining to consumers the relationship between health benefits, better taste and environmental benefits.
• There is a complementary relationship between shade-grown and organic coffee. However, they are not identical terms: shade-grown coffee may or may not be organically grown: that is, in some countries, shade-grown coffee is grown with chemical inputs, although in Haiti the vast majority of shade-grown coffee uses none. Likewise, organically grown coffee may or may not be shade-grown. Again, in Haiti the vast majority of organic coffee is also shade-grown coffee.
• This study confirms the findings of other studies which demonstrate that “organic” production of foodstuffs is becoming a powerful marketing concept. In particular, consumers around the world are becoming increasingly aware of organic coffee, and the world market for organic coffee is growing at rates of 10–15 percent per annum in many consumer countries, particularly in Northern Europe. (Recent studies suggest that European consumers are much more aware of organic coffee and certified organic coffee than North Americans. This can be explained both by the higher percentage of organic farms in Europe, government support of organic farming through, for instance, European Council Resolution 2092/91, more effective consumer education and awareness campaigns, and cultural factors.
3) Better Taste
• Some argue that because it is grown on mountain slopes, at higher altitudes and without chemical inputs, Hatian shade-grown coffee tastes better: the coffee beans ripen more slowly, allowing them to develop a higher sugar content which produces a smoother, richer, better taste.
• Although there are standard criteria used by coffee tasting experts to judge coffee quality—texture, aroma, acidity—taste among most consumers is less exacting, and more subjective. At the same time, with the growth of specialty coffee markets and coffeehouses in Canada, the United States and Europe, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of differences in coffee quality tastes. They are starting to appreciate differences between blends and single origin coffees, and to be able to match a roast to a particular coffee brand. At the same time, this study shows that providing information to consumers about coffees is a balancing act: while consumers want information about their coffees, they don’t want too much. Instead, they want simple, clear and compact information that can be quickly grasped.
4) Social Benefits
• The fact that Haitian coffee is typically produced by small landowners means that shade-coffee production delivers multiple benefits to producers and their families apart from revenues from coffee. These other benefits include the firewood, medicinal plants, fruits—including oranges, mangos, avocados and greens.
• Social benefits also include a greater connection between families and the land, and greater community cohesion and the protection of community values, compared to large-scale, intensive coffee production.
5) Economic Benefits
• Coffee is the main source of income for many Haitians. This income is crucial to meeting all expenses, including those for food, medicine, education and so forth. Shade-grown coffee production is thought to be a more viable economic activity over the long run than chemical intensive, sun-grown coffee. Different reasons have been advanced for this, including the highly volatile nature of world coffee markets, which means that small farmers may not be able to afford expensive chemical inputs during periods of depressed world prices.
• Among the recent examples of this difference in approaches to food criteria are efforts by the EU to halt imports of beef from the United States and other countries that was treated with growth hormones, and the high degree of consumer efforts to block imports into Europe of foods produced with biotechnology. Farmers may not be able to afford expensive chemical inputs during periods of depressed world prices.