Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, is one of many countries in which coffee has been called upon to help heal the scars of war and alleviate poverty. During the mid 1990s conditions in Haiti were so dire owing to a United States-led embargo against the prevailing dictatorship that many farmers burned their coffee trees to produce charcoal for sale in local markets. Haiti coffee, another Caribbean origin with a long and distinguished tradition, virtually disappeared from the specialty coffee menu. Decades of disorder had so depressed the quality of this once celebrated origin that few in the coffee world probably even noticed or regretted its absence.
Today, however, with the help of an international development agency, a cooperative of over 7,000 farmers called Cafeieres Natives produces and markets a revived specialty coffee from Haiti trademarked Haitian Bleu. At its best, Haitian Bleu is rich, opulent and sweetly low-toned, another fine example of the Caribbean cup. It is difficult to control quality with 7,000 participating farmers, however, and Haitian Bleu can be very inconsistent. Nevertheless, if you like rich, full coffees with dry tones well balanced by sweetness, as many American coffee drinkers do, and if you want to make your dollars count to help the Western Hemisphere’s most impoverished farmers, Haitian Bleu is worth trying.