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Coffees From the Dominican Republic
The primary product grown on coffee farms in the Dominican Republic is Arabica. Because domestic demand is so high, quality control tends to be pitched at the commodity coffee level, rather than the specialty level. However, importers that know the individual growers well have managed to identify the highest quality farms and source coffees from them.
The Dominican Republic is quite a diverse country with many microclimates. There are six main growing regions and each one has its own distinct coffee profile. The main regions are Azua, Cibao, Bani, Juncalito and Barahona.
Most coffees are grown between 600m and 1450m above sea level. One interesting benefit of the microclimates and the diverse topography of the Dominican Republic is that it is possible for coffee to be harvested all-year round, although the peak harvesting periods are between November and late-April.
The Modern Coffee Industry
Most of the coffee growing farms in the Dominican Republic are quite small – covering less than three hectares. The vast majority of the coffee is shade-grown, with pine, guava trees and macadamia trees being the primary sources of shade. Most coffee growers use organic methods, although a lot of the farmers have not yet formally had their farms certified as such. This may change as farmers educate themselves about the benefits of appealing to the western specialty coffee markets. For most farmers, acquiring the certification is a mere formality since they already use ethical and sustainable coffee growing techniques.
It is common for farmers to process their coffee themselves using wet mills or “beneficios humedos”. They will de-pulp cherries within 24 hours of hares, ferment them naturally and then was them on their own small mills before drying them in the sun and then transporting them, in parchment, to a dry mill where the processed beans will be prepared for sale.
The best coffee will be selected for export, and tends to ship during July and August.
The Dominican Republic has a mature commodity coffee industry, but it has not yet conquered the specialty market. However, there are a lot of established farmers that are interested in improving the quality of the coffee that they produce, and making Arabicas that appeal to a more discerning customer. Exporters such as Agricafe are working with local growers to support them as they improve their processes. The country has fertile soils, high altitude, and a great climate, so it will most definitely be a source of amazing coffees over the next few years as the market matures.