A Week-long Food Journey into Puerto Rico
Hacienda San Pedro
Avenida de Diego 318
San Juan, Puerto Rico
This week I’m dedicating five posts to foodways and fun food experiences in Puerto Rico. If you gotta grab lunch or kick-start your day in PR, here’s five ways to do it!
When I prepared for my trip, I was half way through all the things I would need to get in my suitcase for the trip back, and realized that I wanted to save room for my food souvenirs. You see, you aren’t supposed to check a suitcase coming into PR, but on your return, you can fill it with all sorts of goodies:
- Mountain-grown Coffee
- Dominican cigars rolled just across the bay
Well, the latter two items would have to wait until my next trip. (’cause better believe I’ll be going back. It’s a terrific place with a vibrant culture and strong foodways that are worth emulating.) But a week goes by so quickly there, especially when you know another work week awaits you when you get back home.
After a desperate realization that I was limited in the amount of time I’d have to purchase the coffee beans I’d heard so much about. The off-the-chain informed concierge Louise at La Concha directed me as I asked to Puebla supermarket, but then quickly encouraged me to bike about four blocks north of the place to a Puerto Rican- owned and operated shop specializing in whole bean coffee. I’d read in the Frommer’s that given the way the island sits geographically, the island should be able to produce coffee of the calibre that we see from Jamaican Blue Mountain and Kona in Hawai’i.
Hip, small shop with slight outside space in Santurce, just over the bridge on Avenida de Diego from the Condado tourista and wealthy area in San Juan, Hacienda San Pedro sits waiting for visitors to a shrine built by the friendly, passionate, and informed Etienne Cardona.
Santurce appears to be a chic arts area, or wants to be. The situation isn’t that clear from what I could see while I was there. Speaking with proprietor Etienne, it doesn’t appear that we were in an arts area, currently. It’s still evolving. There are barristers and hospital folks around that make up the lion’s share of his patrons. There are two major hospitals right in the immediate vicinity.
But Etienne brews a terrific Puerto Rican-only grown blend of coffee. I purchased two different 8 oz bags: half dark roast and half from a small fruit coffee they grow. There are no names like “Peaberry” or such. When I asked him to name the two different bags, all he wrote was the area: Jayuya. That’s the farm area that his father-in-law works. One bag of beans was machine picked, and one bag was hand-picked.
These beans are the Real McCoy, babes, full of flavor and producing a smoky, chalky, almost resin-like morning rush. Zip. Thankfully this is Puerto Rico, so tuck one in and go where the day takes you.
Apparently, in 1998 a hurricane named George wiped out the domestic coffee production in Jayuya, and Erienne’s father-in-law and the rest of the island’s agricultural leaders have been rebuilding ever since. This coffee-house is one of the first steps, Established four years ago, this coming July, Hacienda San Pedro has carried a torch for Puerto Rican brews. Recently, Etienne opened another shop in Hato Rey, San Juan’s Wall Street, that’s only been open a year, and he has high hopes.
Santurce used to be a business epicenter, but Etienne suggested that PR has a bit of a problem with consistency. For his part, in all his entrepreneurial spirit, Etienne dedicates himself to bringing only the best to the people of the island.
This coffee-house is one big bear of a man’s Herculean effort to do just that. And it’s well worth not only applauding the effort, but also visiting this temple to the Puerto Rican coffee bean.