STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 5, Number 5

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 34 of 63

STiR coffee and tea 35 "Right now, we are indeed drinking less coffee in total than we were drinking 15 years ago," said Germán L. Negrón González. The industry veteran estimates that Puerto Rico's to- tal coffee consumption has fallen by 28% in volume and 22% in per-capita consumption (to around six pounds per person per year) since 2000. Even so, the island still consumes about six times as much coffee as it produces, with one company — Puerto Rico Cof- fee Roasters — controlling nearly 80% of the island's coffee market. Negrón, 38, is general manager of PR Coffee Roasters, which in 2010 bought the illustrious Alto Grande coffee brand from Suiza Dairy, itself a subsidiary of Peru's Grupo Gloria. His company buys beans from about 1,700 growers at $300 to $320 per quintal, and processes well over half the island's total coffee production. "Last year's crop was the lowest ever, but I see a lot of opti- mism and good things coming," Negrón said over a traditional Puerto Rican lunch in the mountain town of Lares. "This crop will be larger than the last one, and next one will be even larger. People have been planting a lot, especially since last year." PR Coffee Roasters, the product of a 2010 consolidation of three companies — Café Encantos, Café Yaucono, and Café Crema — is headquartered in the San Juan suburb of Bayamón. The company owns a 270-acre farm in Maricao and a 1,000-acre farm in Manatí (the latter had been used by the Land Authority of Puerto Rico to grow pineapples, but had been abandoned for 15 years) as well as roasting and manufacturing facilities in the southern port city of Ponce. Puerto Rico has about 4,000 coffee growers, with cultivation concentrated in 22 of the island's 78 municipalities. The leading coffee producing municipality is Adjuntas, followed closely by other nearby mountain towns. "Coffee is the only product for which growers are 100% guaranteed that the government or private sector will buy their product. They know they will sell 100% of what they produce. It's a strength for the industry to have a guarantee that all the coffee you produce will be purchased," said Negron, who start- ed Café Encanto as a university project and has been in the business for 16 years. One of Puerto Rico's most prominent coffee-growing families plans to open a five-star boutique mountain resort aimed at wealthy tourists passionate about coffee. Hotel Hacienda Lealtad, located off Highway 4131 near the Puerto Rican town of Lares, will open for business sometime this December with 20 rooms, said project manager Baltasar Soto. "A hacienda like this you won't find anywhere else in Puerto Rico or the Caribbean," said Soto, 59, whose younger brother Edwin is president of Café Lealtad, which grows and packages coffee for local consumption and export. The hotel is an attempt to recreate the atmosphere of Lares as it was in the 1830s, when Puerto Rico — then a Spanish colony — was among the world's premier coffee exporters. At the time, Hacienda Le- altad belonged to Miguel Marquéz y Enseñal of Spain and was the largest coffee plantation on the island, according to Baltasar Soto. The property consists of six restored structures. It has two antique horse-drawn carriages on display, and features a museum with antique furniture, framed portraits and various artifacts from Puerto Rico's co- lonial past, ranging from a 19th century washing machine to a domino set and native musical instruments. The hotel's planners could not have picked a more politically sym- bolic location for their new property. In 1868 — a good 30 years before the Spanish-American War — pro-independence rebels demanding liberation from Spain led an uprising there. Even though the move- ment, known as El Grito de Lares [The Cry of Lares] was put down quickly, to this day advocates of Puerto Rican independence from the United States look upon it as the beginning of their struggle for self- determination. In some ways, Hotel Hacienda Lealtad will be similar to Hacienda Buena Vista — located north of Ponce. The latter site was established in 1853 as a corn mill to feed area slaves. Nightly room rates at the new hotel have not been established, though Soto said his potential market is clearly tourists from the US mainland and possibly Europe. Accommodations will include a restaurant serving local, a wine cellar, and international cuisine, and a heliport that will whisk guests from San Juan's Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport to the moun- tain property in 23 minutes (the trip by car takes about two hours). The resort also features its own waterwheel and a nature park with trails, and already has its own Facebook page. — By Larry Luxner Hacienda Lealtad plans boutique hotel based on P.R. coffee tradition Bayron Aranda Suárez, a Colombian coffee consultant for Café Hacienda Lealtad, checks on roya-resistant coffee seedlings at a nursery near Lares Museum featuring 19th century artifacts at a restored coffee plantation in the mountains near Lares. It's part of the new Hacienda Lealtad hotel to be inaugurated soon.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of STiR coffee and tea magazine - Volume 5, Number 5