Puerto Rico’s Castaner Mountain Coffee

High in the mist-filled mountains of Puerto Rico, along the central cordillera just east of the island’s center is an area known for its coffee for at least 100 years. This region of rich, volcanic soils and near perfect climate includes the barrios of Adjuntas, Lares, Maricao, Utuado, and Yauco (see map). The cool nights and warm sunny days, interrupted at times by afternoon showers, produce ideal conditions for coffee growing.

Puerto Rico map
Puerto Rico map

In discussions with the owners of local haciendas, they tell of the days when this area’s coffee was exported exclusively to European markets and was the foremost coffee served in the Vienna cafe culture of the late 1800′s.

There are a number of farmers in this mountainous region who are interested in growing the high quality coffee for which the area was historically known. Farmers such as Israel Gonzalez, in cooperation with the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), are refining older methods to meet today’s need for increased efficiency while maintaining the high standards of a previous era. Drying the coffee bean after removing the fruit is one area of interest. The goal is to achieve a slow, constant heat that dries the coffee without introducing contaminants from the heat source. New, innovative methods preserve the exceptional flavor and quality uniquely found in sun-dried coffee.

Puerto Rico Mountains
Puerto Rico Mountains

Another farmer, Pedro Bengochea who grew up in the area, has been involved in a number of studies conducted by the UPR that are looking for ways to significantly reduce the quantities of agricultural chemicals like herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides which have become common in the coffee growing business. Both Pedro and Israel work closely with the UPR Experimental Station to improve the quality of coffee and introduce safer methods of agriculture.

Coffee Drying
Pedro Bengochea drying coffee beans in the sun

Buen Provecho

Castaner Mountain Coffee can be compared to Jamaican Blue Mountain. It is similar in flavor and quality at a fraction of the price.

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Lanny Robins

Lanny Robins is a Family Physician, living and practicing in Eagle River, Wisconsin. He attended medical school in Guadalajara and then spent nine months working at the Mayaguez Medical Center through the University of Puerto Rico Medical School. After transferring to a small hospital in the interior of the island, Hospital Castaer, Lanny moved to the area for the next two years. During those two years he bought a small farm(finca) and learned about coffee, from both the growing and harvesting to processing, drying and roasting. He has now returned to Wisconsin to live, but still returns to Castaer on a fairly regular basis.

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