Today is a first for me. I’m drinking Haitian coffee for the first time, at least that I know of. By the end of the 1700’s, Haiti was responsible for half of the world’s coffee supply. As the most mountainous country in the Caribbean, it has the environment for it, but as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, plagued by violence, natural disasters and embargoes, Haiti’s coffee growth has trickled to nearly a standstill. In 1804, Haiti was the first black country to gain independence from white colonists, hence the name of the company who brings us today’s coffee, 1804. Since then, Haitian coffee has gone through several boom and bust cycles, with brief resurgences in the mid-1800’s and the late 1940’s when they were still producing 1/3 of the world’s coffee. As dictators came to power in the country, US-led embargoes crippled Haiti financially. A country that had 80% of the workforce involved in agriculture dropped to only about 66% being involved in agriculture in the 1980’s. Coffee processing equipment rusted on the farms and generations lost the knowledge to grow and harvest coffee. During the worst years of violence, even the handful of Haitians still growing coffee were afraid to bring it down from the mountains. Many coffee trees were burned for charcoal in an attempt to boost Haiti’s economy that way, and the subsequent deforestation, coupled with climate change, has created a bad situation of erosion, drought, flooding and 2010’s massive earthquake. To say Haiti hasn’t had it easy is an understatement.
Today, company’s like 1804 Coffee and La Colombe, along with non-profits like the Clinton Foundation, are trying to use coffee to make life better in Haiti and bring a market back to life. Because of a coffee industry that all but died out and the isolation the country had because of embargoes for so long, the Typica plants still growing in Haiti are direct ancestors of the plants that produced the coffee that George Washington enjoyed. Over the years, when Haitian coffee has managed to get out of the country in good shape, it’s typically a crowd-pleaser. So, it’s with great pleasure today that I am able to write about 1804 Coffee’s Pine Fore, one of three current offerings from this new company. You can buy this coffee directly from 1804 Coffee (they roast and ship out of Oklahoma) for $15.95/12oz.
I don’t know much about 1804 Coffee as a company. They are based out of Oklahoma, so coffee is exported out of Haiti and then roasted here in the USA. Their blog and Instagram feed mention Oklahoma’s Topeca Coffee Roasters quite a bit, so perhaps Topeca contract roasts this for them. When I find out more details I will share them with you!
This coffee is Typica variety grown around 1,000masl and it’s wet processed. Because of a lack of water and infrastructure in Haiti, most Haitian coffee is dry-processed, so washed coffees are even more rare than this already rare crop from Haiti. 1804 offers tasting notes of, “citrus and cashew, hint of caramel, light and sweet.” I like 1804’s bag design. It’s simple and graphic and has the pertinent info about the coffee as well as the popular Creole phrase, lavi bon, which means “life is good” or “the good life.” Pine Fore is one of three Haitian coffees 1804 is offering right now, so hopefully I’ll be able to get my hands on future offerings to share with you dear readers!
These Pine Fore beans have a nice looking, light-looking roast on them out of the bag. The dry grounds smell awesome, really sweet and inviting. 1804 recommended I try this as both a pourover and espresso. So, for pourover I used my trusty 1:16 ratio in the notNeutral Gino dripper using Kalita 185 filters. Using 28g of coffee and 450g of water, I end up with a 3:30-3:45 brew time for most coffees, including this Pine Fore. The aroma on this coffee is sweet and simple, promising notes of chocolate, caramel and nuts to follow. Flavors are pretty in line with the aroma. This cup has nice balance. There is a caramel sweetness that is, for me, the highlight of this coffee. There is a slight tone of nuts in this coffee, too. Nothing really obvious, but maybe something along the lines of pecan or walnut. I would not consider this a “nutty” coffee, but there is a small dimension of nutty flavor nonetheless. The acidity is soft and there mostly for balance. Most of the acidity is a soft, sweet red apple note, but as the cup cooled and opened up I did get a pretty solid citric note out of it, too. Interestingly, the citrus acidity was short-lived and once it cooled past a certain temperature range, that soft malic acidity was the main component. As a filter coffee, this Pine Fore from 1804 Coffee is exceptionally easy to drink. It’s clean and doesn’t have a ton of complexity, but this would be a kick-butt daily drinker. It’s so well-balanced, being sweet, but not cloying, and having enough acidity to brighten the profile up, but not so much that someone would call it “sour” or “tart.” It has a little nuttiness but not so much that it’s a turn-off. I can see why this coffee is 1804’s crowd-pleaser. It’s just pleasant, easy to drink, really nice.
As espresso, 1804 really recommended it as a cortado (think 4-oz latte), but we don’t usually keep milk on-hand here at World Domination Headquarters in Kansas City, so I decided to just go with the way God intended and drink it naked. Well, the coffee was naked. I had clothes on. Now that you have that mental image burned into your cranium for life, I was really surprised by this coffee as espresso. First of all, I didn’t have to worry about any dial-in. The espresso gods were smiling upon me and the last SO espresso I pulled worked PERFECTLY for this one. The “mechanics” of this espresso were simply awesome for me. Usually with single origin espressos I get a lot of “spitters” out of the bottom of my naked portafilter and this one pulled super evenly, no spitters or channeling, on every shot. That’s somewhat rare for me for SOE’s. The pull on this Pine Fore is really pretty, too, and the shot had nice crema and body, again, not always the case for single origin shots. Flavor-wise, talk about a different coffee! Holy smokes! Pulling about a 1:2 ratio using 21-22g of coffee and ending up with about a 38-39g shot, I was getting a ton of lemon brightness and lots of walnut in the flavor. I know this will sound weird but I got distinct banana notes in one of the shots, too. The sweetness is there but this is a slightly tart shot. I’ll bet it is really nice in smaller milk drink like a cortado or small cappuccino, too.
I have to say I wasn’t expecting much from this coffee and I was surprised all the way around. 1804 Coffee has a new fan and I am a big believer in what they are trying to do for the people of Haiti with this venture. I hope I get a chance to try their other offerings because I am really impressed by this Pine Fore.