Dominican coffee is short, very sweet and extremely strong. Short because it is
served in a small, espresso-sized cup, sweet because it is made with generous
enamel-stripping amounts of sugar, and strong enough to make your eyeballs pop
out if you"re not used to it. It goes without saying that Dominican coffee is
delicious, and a well-deserved source of intense national pride. |
Coffee is the Dominican national non-alcoholic drink. Everybody drinks it. To
refuse an offer of a cafecito is seen as ungracious at best, and sometimes
Dominicans historically have actually been accustomed to a lesser refined coffee
that was made in the campo. This was before “better” international coffees were
introduced and based on their higher qualities, domestic coffees such as Café
Santo Domingo followed suit by refining the coffee they were selling.
Today, sweeter than sweet coffee is the standard way of drinking Dominican
coffee, and most Dominicans brew it together with the sugar. However, real
Dominican coffee connoisseurs say that diluting coffee with sugar takes away
from its natural flavor. There are some rare cases where the drinker prefers it
amargo, or bitter, but this is not very common. Sugar is the Dominican
Republic"s main cash crop, even more important to the national economy than
coffee, and to refrain from consuming it may be seen as an insult. As for people
who don"t even drink coffee, they are considered to be lost causes.
Coffee is usually drunk black or "solo (by itself). A café con leche (white
coffee) is confusingly known as a "medio pollo" – literally "half a chicken".
There is no particular time of day for drinking coffee – you may be offered a
cup at any hour.
Coffee beans are cultivated in several parts of the Dominican Republic – the
remote lush mountainsides of the south western provinces of Azua, Bani and
Bahoruco, and the verdant slopes of the northern cordilleras in Moca, San
Francisco and Salcedo, among others. Coffee is originally from Africa and was
brought over to the island of Hispaniola in the eighteenth century by the
Spanish colonists and soon became a lucrative farming product as well as a
national obsession. The coffee that is produced in the Dominican Republic is
Arabica, generally held to be the superior variety.
Coffee beans are actually seeds of coffee cherries. These cherries grow on
coffee trees and turn bright red when they ripen. They are found in clusters
along the branches of a coffee tree. The outer layer of the cherry is bitter,
however, the fruit underneath is sweet and has the look and feel of the inside
of a grape. Below that is a heavy, slimy substance which surrounds the bean and
helps to protect it. Below see pictures of how coffee cherries look before and
after they have been dried.
Trimethylxanthine or what is more commonly known as caffeine is what gives
coffee its kick. It is an addictive stimulant that affects the brain in the same
way that more powerful drugs do. Caffeine not only occurs in coffee but in a
number of other plants as well. The average 6 ounce cup of coffee contains about
100mg. of caffeine.
Dominican coffee, along with its Caribbean counterparts, is described by coffee
connoisseurs as “full-bodied with moderate acidity and uncomplicated flavors”.
According to them, these wet-processed coffees are best suited for dark-roasted
espresso blends. Coffee cultivated at lower altitudes tends to be softer and
In the Dominican Republic, a simple cup of coffee manages to cross all barriers
of class and wealth, and is equally revered and adored in the wealthiest
mansions of the sophisticated urban rich as it is in the poorest rural campesino
shack, as well as everywhere in between. In fact, caffeine"s properties as an
appetite suppressant and a stimulant probably accounts for much of its
popularity among the poor, but everyone, whether they own a mule or a Mercedes
Benz, can testify to the richness of the taste.
Visit any Dominican household, and however poor it may be, you will always be
offered a cup of coffee at the very least, and it is not customary to refuse it,
even if you are not usually a coffee drinker. If you are a coffee lover but are
averse to so much sugar, you will still need to drink at least a couple of token
sips in recognition of your hosts" hospitality. In the humblest houses this is
often all your hosts can afford, and therefore an important point of pride.