Bully Coffee from Puerto Rico
Given that this is an election year I’m going combine a little political trivia with the discussion of coffee. I’m also going to get more openly political than I normally do. I’m going to come out and just tell you who my favorite presidential politician is.
My favorite politician is…Teddy Roosevelt!
Teddy looking determined...and he was.
Yup, he of the old Bull Moose party and Rough Riders fame, who advised “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” and whose popularity inspired the creation of the Teddy Bear. That was a little disingenuous of me to name a past president, but it’s the truth, Theodore Roosevelt truly is my favorite president and as luck, for me, would have it, he was also a passionate coffee connoisseur. His place in the coffee world was secured with two things: one, when he requested that premium coffee from Puerto Rico, which he described as “grand!” be served at official state dinners and functions.
Roosevelt and the boys ready to kick some tail if'n they don't get some Puerto Rican coffee NOW!
Roosevelt chose wisely in requesting Puerto Rican coffee. It has been deemed one of the super premium coffees in the world for over a hundred years, and justifiably so. Puerto Rico shares much the same growing conditions as other coffee growing island countries of the Caribbean and the Hawaiian Islands. All have the high mountains (1,000 to over 3,500 feet), rich soil and equatorial weather that produce superior coffees. These coffees exhibit what is known as an “island profile,” a cup that is, generally speaking, incredibly smooth, very low in acid (described and tasted as brightness or bitterness) and well balanced with an almost buttery mouthfeel.
"You there! Get me a cup of Stumpjack Coffee now, dadburnit!"
Freshly roasted Puerto Rican, at an upper medium, full city roast, produces a distinct and delightful cocoa aroma for the first few days following the roast. It is not a coffee that rocks you with overpowering flavors or boldness. It’s soft, creamy and oh-so-smooth; a wonderful brew for people who either can’t drink a lot of coffee because of things like acid reflux or who just aren’t into bolder coffees. You may detect a gentle sweetness in the cup, and its mildness makes it the one that I enjoy best in the evening.
After drinking Stumpjack Coffee Roosevelt is in joyful mood and waves to crowd.
Puerto Rican coffee is, in fact, very similar to the famous Jamaican Blue Mountain (JBM). JMB has been marketed more effectively than Puerto Rican, but both compare very favorably in terms of taste, aroma and texture. At one time, however, Puerto Rican coffee was the premier coffee in the world. During the mid to late 19th century Puerto Rican was the most expensive coffee on the planet, and set a standard of quality that other premium coffee growers aspired to achieve. At our shop we only partially joke that “Puerto Rican is the coffee that the pope drinks.” At one time that was in fact the case, as it was indeed the coffee consumed at the Vatican, as well as by royalty and heads of state throughout Europe and the U.S.
However, a couple of hurricanes in the late 1800s crushed Puerto Rico’s coffee industry. The slow recovery following that devastation, along with certain political influences and the increasing profitability of the island’s sugar cane industry, were too much to overcome and the country never reclaimed its former dominance in the coffee world. That’s actually good news for us today. The coffee is as outstanding as ever and yet does not generally command the same prices as other similarly excellent island coffees. To be sure, it is not cheap, at anywhere from $20 to $28 or so per pound. But compared to JBM or Hawaiian Kona that both go upwards of $50 per pound it is quite a deal.The other thing that Roosevelt is famous for in the coffee world? After finishing a cup served him from the Maxwell House Hotel in Tennessee he uttered the phrase “It’s good to the last drop,” which became the popular slogan for Maxwell House Coffee.