St Helena’s Coffee Production

In recognition of International Coffee Day, which takes place on Thursday 1st October, representatives from Enterprise St Helena (ESH), the Agriculture and Natural Resources Division (ANRD) and the main on-island coffee producers attended an informal workshop at Wellington House on Monday 28 September. The coffee producers present included both family run establishments which have offerings that focus on a local coffee experience – predominantly catering for the local and visitor market, and also coffee exporters, focusing on the international market. All spoke about their journey from initial establishment to the final product, from seed to cup, and the challenges currently affecting the industry. Constraints to yielding a viable profit included irregularity of weather patterns, pests, invasive weeds and the ability to secure labour at a reasonable cost. Coffee producers spoke of their passion for the trade, a “labour of love” process (with some pulping by hand) that results in a precise quality product; a product to be proud of, in order to maintain St Helena’s reputation with coffee connoisseurs. As most producers are small family run businesses they spoke about the very real challenge that they face in sustaining locally produced coffee into the future, namely attracting a younger generation into coffee cultivation – interested in continuing their legacy which commenced over 25 years ago. This challenge is recognized by the new programme launched by the International Coffee Organization (ICO) this year, to support the next generation of young people in coffee. This programme intends to provide the rightful combination of adequate financial support with skills development and training. Martin George, ESH Director of Investment said: “St Helena Coffee has always been a valued commodity and this is down to the passion and dedication of our invested producers. Besides its commercial value, it has its place in culture as a crafted product. The workshop gave the collective opportunity to get an updated understanding on St Helena Coffee, and to explore the future potential as one of our SEDP growth-areas.” The type of coffee found on St Helena is the Green Tipped Bourbon Arabica and it has remained preserved in its original qualities since the first plants were imported in the 18th century. In 2019, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) officially classified this coffee as a globally endangered variety. St Helena Coffee has gained international recognition for its rarity, disease-free and superb quality lining the shelves at the luxury London department store, Harrods. On St Helena, local producers have collaborated to celebrate International Coffee Day by showcasing a variety of coffee products at the Coffee Shop on Thursday 1 October from 10am – 12pm. The aim of International Coffee Day, is to bring together coffee lovers in a global celebration to share their love of coffee and support the millions of farmers whose livelihoods depend on it.