Coffee: Coffee was introduced to Haiti in 1725 by the Jesuits in the commune of Terrier Rouge from arabica seedlings from Martinique. A decade later coffee was planted at Dondon, another community located at an altitude of 450 meters in the département du Nord. Coffee then spread to all 10 departments thriving in colonial times. Haiti became a valuable producer on the international market producing 50% of the world’s coffee. The decline of the coffee sector in Haiti started around the beginning of the 1970s with the lowering of the price of coffee on the international market. From 1971 to 1982, the coffee acreage rose to approximately 140,000 hectars. In 2010, coffee was down to 115,000 hectars producing an average 250 kg per hectare nationally, due to pestilence and lack of use of fertilizers. The result was a decrease in domestic production from 45,720 tonnes in 1962 to 21,000 tonnes in 2006.
In the early 1990's coffee cultivation in Haiti was affected by trade embargos, as well as coffee rust (Hemileia vastatrix), a fungal disease that attacked the coffee bean plant. (Coffee Research Institute, CRS). With the help of USAID and the Inter American Development Bank, the Fédération des Associations Caféières Natives (FACN) was created in an effort to improve the processing and quality of Haiti’s coffee. This coffee was trademarked Haitian Blue and improved sales through contracts through 2005 for some regions in Haiti (Development Alternatives, Inc.). The FACN is currently bankrupt.
Until recently, few Haitians (150,000-200,000:CRS report) could make a living growing coffee and the knowledge was becoming lost with the passing of the older generation. There was more value in cutting the trees for charcoal than processing and selling the beans. The name Haitian Blue became synonymous with wet processed coffee from anywhere in Haiti. The trademark restrictions are no longer being respected. The reputation of Haitian Blue is still revered in knowledgeable circles but not widely known among consumers.
Since 2011, millions of coffee seedlings have been planted throughout Haiti, by numerous organization, and Haitian farmers. Haiti Coffee Co was instrumental in helping nurseries and farmers obtain Haitian Blue Mountain seeds, seedling bags, EM1 Microbial Inoculants, access to experts and modern coffee knowledge. These efforts have paid off and resulted in the largest coffee harvest in decades. (Awaiting current statistics)
In Haiti, ripe cherries can be picked year round but the two peak seasons are Fall and Spring. This varies by location and depends year to year on the weather. Generally the best season is September to January with the peak being in October and November.