Haiti finalized its independence from France on January 1st, 1804. It was the first successful slave revolt in the New World and was ripe with potential as sugarcane and coffee were exported at record levels. Over 50% of the world’s supply of coffee came from the small Caribbean island. Oh, how the times have changed.
The nation of Haiti has been beaten and battered by a variety of economic pressures and natural disasters. While the situation is bleaker now than it was 200 years ago, there are many great people and organizations working towards empowering Haitians in distress. One of these people is Eric English, Director of 1804 Coffee.
Eric and I have been in contact for several months. At first, it was to exchange coffee for feedback. A couple of months later, we met at the Dallas, TX Coffee Fest event. The news was not so positive when he emailed me with an update on his work in Haiti last week.
Hurricane Matthew caused serious damage to many of Haiti’s coffee growers. Some face a 20-30% loss of crops. Others face a barren farm.
For those without a large enough crop to repay the year’s loans and press on, only a few options remain:
- Seek funds for a full regeneration program, which could take years to yield results.
- Clear the land and grow vegetables.
- Sell the land and look for work in Port Au Prince.
If the Hurricane didn’t discourage coffee farming, the economic climate of the last one hundred years would have. Capital to maintain cash-flow throughout the year is not easily found, and poor infrastructure makes getting from the mountains to the export markets difficult. Furthermore, many farmers never learned to read or write, and learning about newer and better farming practices is challenging.
Eric and the 1804 Coffee team are currently developing plans for their first farm regeneration project in response to Matthew. The goals are to increase coffee production and reforest the Creole Garden, a multi-crop growing area designed to feed locals. They also plan to help the farm adopt practices that are generally better for the plants and more efficient.
We are a small start-up company and resources are limited, so raising awareness is key through our social media platforms. But our farm regeneration project couldn’t have come at a better time We believe this investment in our first farm will help to raise the hope of the community. As we are on the ground in Haiti, talking to farmers, they see us working, they know we will be around for the long term and able to provide more assistance in the future.
Eric is a very hands-on, in-the-field person. When I met him at Coffee Fest, his strong listening skills and compassion were immediately apparent to me. I do not doubt those attributes will catalyze many relationships and developments in Haiti. Coffee farmers of the island nation don’t need someone who demands change. They need someone who will listen and empower them to make their own change, someone like Eric.’
Gimme The Coffee
Eric and his crew are able to invest in the Haitian coffee community through the success of their coffee roasting venture, 1804 Coffee. Several months ago I was able to try some of their Pine Fore offering. I had never tasted coffee from Haiti before and wasn’t disappointed.
A gentle citrus flavor characterizes the first stage of the experience, followed by a rounded nuttiness. As you swallow the coffee, a rich honey sweetness fills your mouth and waits around for a while, causing you to want more. It’s a well-rounded coffee and will likely appeal to all coffee drinkers.
If you want to try some of Haiti’s best coffee and encourage a business supporting the island’s farmers, check out 1804 Coffee and buy a bag (or three) of their coffee.