Locally Sourced Coffee! Yum!

Visiting a Local Coffee Farm in Puerto Rico

Nestled in the rolling hills of Utuado, Puerto Rico, you'll discover Café Gran Batey. (This is a link to "PR Day Trips," which we'd like to write for some day. Lots of good ideas for fun adventures on their site!)

Café Gran Batey is a small, family-run coffee farm tucked into the Caguana area of the island. The farm is run by Lotty, Bernardo, and their son Daniel. Both Bernardo and Daniel are degreed agronomists.

When we arrived, we weren’t sure we were even in the right place. It looked like we were just heading down someone's driveway. There are two houses on the property, and thankfully there was someone working in one. He was kind enough to get one of the farm owners for us, Lotty.

I (Julie) had called previously to make a reservation, which I highly recommend. I did this in Spanish, so I wasn't quite sure if I actually understood the directions and time we were supposed to arrive correctly!

After we realized that I would need to be the translator for our group, we found out from Lotty that her husband was in the hospital. We were so surprised that she was able to actually take the time to give us the tour, considering her circumstances.

Lotty took us around the small farm, and described the entire coffee-making process from start to finish. It was fascinating.

We had an abbreviated time in the actual  field (the farm part of the tour) as we were experiencing some moderate rain at the time. We did, however, get to go into the  two or three different buildings and hear about the different aspects of coffee making.

One of the distinctions she told us about their coffee is that all the beans are single sourced, 100% Arabica. This produces a smooth medium blend roasted coffee. She stated, and we agree, that Arabica is the best coffee bean in the world for flavor.

Their harvesting season is primarily August through October. Lotty told of how it is becoming more and more difficult to find help to harvest the beans. Many workers leave Puerto Rico to continue their education in the US and don’t return. 

Of course, we said we would love to return and help harvest during the upcoming season. ;-) Lyndon said we'd work for peanuts...er, coffee beans!

Lotty also told us about a partnership they have with Michigan State University. The students attend classes online at nearby home-dorms. Then they have different agricultural based lab projects at various farms in the area. On her farm they are studying the ant population. If I understood her correctly, there are 75 different varieties of ants located on her farm! And they all affect the plants differently. Who knew?

Once the coffee beans are harvested (the deep red color means they are ready), the various machines strip away the four layers covering the actual bean. After several rounds of peeling and cleaning through their big machines, the beans are moved into a greenhouse to dry. The beans are spread out onto screen covered tables where they dry. 

Here we are inspecting the drying beans with our brother and sister-in-law.

As we were visiting in February and they were not in their harvest season, Lotty is mostly explaining the processes, not showing us.

She did, however, point out that she was drying beans for another farmer. She wanted to make sure we knew that they were NOT the 100% Arabica beans that they used and did not produce that wonderful of a coffee. 

So I jokingly asked her if those were the kind of beans they might use for McDonalds coffee. She added that grocery store type coffees are often made from a variety of beans from a variety of countries, so they don’t produce a consistent flavor.

Here she is showing us the good stuff!

The final stop was a store/museum, that included a kitchen and dining room and roasting building. As with all farmers, nothing goes to waste, and that includes buildings. 

We saw where the beans were sorted. We learned that the beans need to be of a uniform size to roast at the same pace, so the smaller ones we sorted out and taken home by the farmhands.

Lotty was so gracious. She served us two rounds of coffee. The first one just black coffee, so we could absorb all the natural flavors. 

Then she gave us a lesson on how to make the perfect cup of Puerto Rican coffee. First you make the coffee in an Italian coffee percolator. Then you heat milk, it needs to be whole milk.

Finally you combine the two. She recommends a 40/60 ratio of coffee to milk. She really is a master roaster, brewer, and hostess. I forgot to mention, she also served us coffee cake. The best of genuine hospitality.

It's so sad to think that the small farm production like Café Gran Batey might not exist in the near future. The lack of labor, lack of interest, and the ravages of annual hurricanes all impact the future of small batch agriculture.

Green beans, not greenbeans. 

If you are looking for an authentic locally sourced experience, this is the place to go. Unlike other places, Café Gran Batey does not charge for their tours. Of course, our group bought four pounds of coffee, at $18.00 a pound, and also gave Lotty a tip. 

If you'd like to purchase coffee from the farm you literally text Lotty at
1 787-636-5442 and tell her how much you want (1/2 pound or pound) and what address to mail it to. I highly recommend Lotty, her farm tour, her coffee, and the experience!


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