Baristas, Coffee Culture's Ambassador's
Dominicans are known to drink copious amounts of two of its major cash crops in tandem: coffee and sugar, consumed almost in equal parts per serving.
Strong, short, and sweet – made by stovetop with the Greca coffee maker – is deemed “traditional” Dominican coffee. Part of this could be custom, but the sugar could also be a way to cover up the low-quality beans. In James Hoffman’s World Atlas of Coffee there’s an acknowledgement that, perhaps, Dominican coffee quality is lower because of the high local consumption. Indeed, according to the International Coffee Organization, Dominicans consumed around 95 percent of the 400,000 bags produced in the country in 2015. As such, locally produced coffee is most likely to make it to a cup on the Dominican half of Hispaniola Island, which the country shares with Haiti.
The question of quality of locally available coffee could be a sad commentary on local coffee producers’ investment in domestic coffee culture versus the business of export. But the Dominican Republic’s largest coffee brand, Café Santo Domingo (produced by parent company INDUBAN), wants to change that image. And hopefully, with it, they’ll change the culture. But the company recognizes that a long-held tradition of consuming strong-short sweet coffee isn’t going to change just by improving the quality of the bean or the roast – they need to train certain people on the front lines. “To offer high quality coffee,” says INDUBAN Marketing Manager, Omar Rodriguez, “you have to move all of coffee culture.” They realize this can only be done through the barista. And to do that, the barista profession needs to be elevated.
Café Santo Domingo is going all in on this endeavor to professionalize the Dominican barista through the establishment of the Instituto del Café Santo Domingo in 2017 to train baristas in the art of specialty coffee brewing, latte art, and all that goes into a quality cup of coffee. They’re doing this all with locally roasted Café Santo Domingo beans.