Caribbean Coffees

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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If you're looking for a robust yet fairly smooth coffee with a great depth of flavor, look toward the Caribbean. Sometimes described as chocolaty, sometimes as fruity, these beans are all Coffea arabica varieties. That is, they are smoother in taste and lighter in caffeine than the Coffea canephora robusta beans. Robustas are typically grown along the lowlands of the West African coast and used in Italian and French roasts for espresso.

Introducing the Caribbean Coffees

This is not to say that Caribbean coffees are anything near colorless, vapid, or tasteless. Nor are they by any stretch of the imagination identical to one another, despite sharing a pleasant and fully rounded quality that can be attributed to coastal- rather than mountain-grown beans. The first step to distinguishing among them might be to consider their origins. In no particular order, we have Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.

The most famous, perhaps, of the Caribbean coffees is Jamaican Blue Mountain. It is justifiably so, the higher price tag aside, and boasts a wonderful balance and delicacy of body, acidity, and depth. Often compared to Hawaiian Kona, Blue Mountain is a fine brew. Sadly, thanks to its geographic and climatic location, the region is subject to hurricane damage. The 2004 crop, for example, was close to ruined by an unusual succession of devastating storms.

One weakness sometimes mentioned about the Caribbean coffees as a group is a slightly musty taste. This is sometimes attributed to the drying process, sometimes to storage, and sometimes to the nature of the bean. Consensus among coffee epicures and growers, however, favor the bean and fault processing. All in all, the Caribbean coffees--slightly sweet, mellow, and refined--are a delight!

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