#041*: The Puerto Rican Coffee PlantationTak's dispatch released on 30 July 2015

Puerto Rican Coffee Beans in Hand

His glasses are perched low on his nose. His baggy grey khakis are littered with dirt stains and paint blotches. He ambles around his Puerto Rican Coffee Plantation showing his trees bearing fruit while a few workers are busy picking nearby.

He explains that some of his green—or unroasted beans—are sold to a purveyor in San Juan, Puerto Rico for inclusion in Nescafe instant coffee. In addition, after making sure you aren’t filming, he lets on that he also includes some other less than optimal beans and byproducts but that Nescafe drinkers are not typically ones with the most refined tastes and thus none the wiser.

Coffee used to be a big cash crop in Puerto Rico, given Puerto Rico’s perfect coffee growing landscape and climate. However, the island is now producing some of the lowest amounts since coffee production started. So much so, that they are importing and/or cutting Puerto Rican coffee with that from other regions such as Mexico

“The problem,” the plantation owner bellows over a cup of coffee on his sprawling veranda, “is that we have to follow minimum wage laws and environmental standards of the United States, which other countries don’t have to do. Thus, our coffee is more expensive.”

“There is also a shortage of coffee pickers to harvest the beans, with somewhere between a third and three-quarters of coffee beans on various farms going unpicked each harvest. The government has tried using inmate labour but that scared farm hands. The problem is younger people don’t want to work because they can get welfare here.”

“Meanwhile, I am growing cacoa and looking at ways to diversify from coffee, but at the end of the day, it is like living in paradise here.”

He pulls out a pair of glasses. He pours a splash for himself and takes a sip to taste.

“How is it,” you ask.

“Ehh,” he utters and pauses for a moment with a face of slight dissatisfaction, “it’s alright”.

Maybe his wife usually makes the coffee.

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New York, NY
Internationally-published photographer with a passion for creative food, fine products, unique cultures and underground music. Twitter / Instagram / Email

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