Welcome to Little Haiti Aims to Bring Haitian Coffee Culture to Miami

Welcome to Little Haiti Aims to Bring Haitian Coffee Culture to Miami

Story by Nicole Danna

Sisters and business partners Joann and Raynalda Milord want to suggest an easy alternative to Miami's celebrated cafecito.

Before you get your caffeinated panties in a bunch, hear them out. According to Joann, Cuba isn't the only Caribbean island with a strong coffee culture. To spread the word about Haitian coffee, the sisters formed Welcome to Little Haiti, a pandemic-born social-impact company.

"Our mission is to help make Haitian coffee as well-known as Cuban coffee," Joann, a former director for the Miami Haitian Chamber of Commerce, tells New Times. "Haitians are Miami’s second-largest ethnic group, one with its own rich history with coffee, so this felt like a natural progression for us. Coffee is something that's enjoyable to everyone, no matter what culture or ethnicity you're from."

A small nation roughly the size of Vermont, Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, has a complicated history with coffee. Not so long ago, it was considered the third-largest coffee producer in the world. But the past few decades have brought droughts, earthquakes, and political unrest that have combined to cause coffee production to slow considerably.

Even so, Haiti's mountainous regions make it ideal for growing coffee trees, which thrive in moist soil conditions at high altitude. It's these near-perfect conditions that play a role in imbuing Haitian coffee with a unique and bold aroma and taste profile.

Haiti has been exporting coffee around the world since the 1700s, when (as the story goes) a French naval officer brought the first coffee seedlings to Martinique and its neighboring islands. Several were said to have been transported from the greenhouses of the country's botanical garden, Jardin Royal des Plantes. Over the next 100 years, coffee became one of the island's most successful crops, alongside sugar plantations and indigo processing.

Today, thanks to an ever-increasing number of socially conscious consumers and global fair-trade policies, Haiti's coffee is staged to make a comeback. And Welcome to Little Haiti wants to show Miami how good Haitian coffee can be.

Moving forward, the sisters' mission to preserve and highlight Haitian culture will continue with a curated selection of traditional Haitian products. Their work is aimed at providing a positive economic impact that will empower Haitian entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

For now, however, the Welcome to Little Haiti online store will focus on the sale of its first roast, a fair-trade blend the sisters named their Bonjour Blend ($15).

The Bonjour Blend is a medium-dark French roast made of 100 percent Haitian Arabica beans. Sourced from small farms, the beans are cultivated, harvested, and processed following the same traditional methods that have been in place for more than 250 years.

Because Haitian coffee farmers have kept their growing methods mostly unchanged over the centuries, the characteristics of Haitian beans have remained likewise constant, says Joann — namely an assertive flavor with low acidity and an absence of bitterness.

"The process results in a smooth, dark, smoky flavor that has notes of raw bittersweet chocolate," Joann offers. "If you're ready venture outside the Cuban colada, this is a coffee for you."

While Cubans drink their coffee strong and sweet, Haitians prefer to keep things simple, adds Joann. Many — even children — enjoy drinking coffee black as opposed to using it as a vehicle for milk and sugar.

"I remember having my own little coupe to drink coffee when I was a kid in Haiti. That's how we were all raised," said Joann. "Today, I'm accustomed to drinking a dark-roasted coffee, so I wanted to make sure the Bonjour Blend was representative of what we know at home, while also being palatable to the masses."