Dominicans and coffee go together like… well they just go together.
It is rare to find a Dominican who doesn’t love coffee. There is a special bond between people and one of the country’s main export commodities, and it is no coincidence that sugar is an important ingredient in the proper cup of Dominican coffee. Sugar is another traditional pillar of the economy here, and to say you like your coffee without sugar is unpatriotic. It follows then that to say you don’t drink coffee at all is tantamount to treason. (This little theory of mine quickly shatters when you consider the fact that smoking is widely disapproved of, yet tobacco is another important Dominican crop.)
Before visiting the Dominican Republic I had been very disappointed with the quality of coffee served in coffee- producing countries. It seemed that the good stuff was always reserved for the export market. My first experience with drinking Central American coffee in Central America was memorable for the fact that I thought I had been served the liquid from a tin of black olives. Colombian coffee in Venezuela tasted better than Colombian coffee in Colombia, in my experience anyway.
It came as a welcome surprise that the Dominican Republic breaks that mould. The coffee here is remarkably good. The best known popular brand is all you could ask for, which means that you don’t have to spend more on premium brands for a really good cup of coffee. There are also several brands of organic coffee, slightly more expensive and all of extremely good quality.
You will be welcomed with a cup of coffee in the humblest Dominican home, and it is considered very bad form to refuse such an offer. People who have next to nothing will always have some coffee to offer the visitor. I have a problem with very sweet coffee, and prefer not to drink coffee later than mid afternoon, but find it hard to say no to a cup in these circumstances.
Traditional Dominican campesino coffee is not made with the usual ‘greca’ but with a colador, a filter resembling a small butterfly net which brews the coffee in hot water. The ‘greca’ is the aluminium stove-top coffee maker commonly used in Spanish, Italian and French kitchens. ‘Cafe colado’ is weaker than ‘greca’ coffee, and I have heard that the closest equivalent is coffee made in a cafetiere, my personal preference.
Having grown up in a rather unsophisticated family – when it came to coffee drinking anyway – and gone on to become a ‘real’ coffee snob, it amused me while on a visit to a remote village in the south of the country to see Dominican campesinos sitting around drinking delicious cups of the real thing and discussing this exciting ‘new’ product that had just reached the local colmado. You guessed… the dreaded ‘instant’ drink. Is that what is known as progress?