Premium Gourmet Coffee beans from Puerto Rico go to waste because Puerto Rican coffee growers can’t find enough workers to harvest the beans, according to Julio Torres, executive vice president of Grupo Jimenez, the island nation’s leading producer. Jimenez is dismayed by the lack of willing harvest workers in a country with average 12 percent unemployment rate. He lamented in a New York Times article just two weeks ago on July 31, “Maybe they can train monkeys to do it.”

Maybe the monkeys already have management roles.

If Torres’ attitude is typical of Puerto Rican coffee producers, it’s little wonder that he can’t find willing workers. Picking coffee is not only extraordinarily difficult work, but skilled work, too. So very much of the final cup quality relies on the skill and judgment of the coffee picker, as a single under ripe or over ripe coffee bean will spoil the whole pot.

Show me a successful large coffee farm and I’ll show you a farm where the owners have lasting, positive relationships with their workers.

UPDATE: I’ve been able to track down the original article that the “trained monkeys” quote was extracted from, and it’s clearly a nasty case of lifting a quote out of context. Mr. Torres is actually quite respectful of the skilled coffee worker.

Puerto Rico, however, could still learn a lot about treating its coffee pickers from farms like Finca Dos Marias.

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