On Fogo, the easternmost Cape Verdean island, coffee has been cultivated for over two hundred years. It was surely the Portuguese who introduced Coffea arabica, but the exact origins are unsure. Some say that they brought small coffee plants from Brazil, others that they came directly from Africa, without the intermediate step of passing through the great American country.
Coffee growing in Fogo is an act of challenging nature, because, even if the volcanic ground is rich in minerals, the semi-arid climate does not allow for enough water to get to the plantations, leading to yields which decrease every year, to an extent where the producers are concerned about the future of their plantations.
The cafezais are concentrated to the north of the island, on elevations between 1000 and 1600 meters above sea level in the municipal area of Mosteiros, in the towns of Galinheiro, Ribeira Filipe or São Filipe and Santa Catarina, but most of all in the Morgadio de Monte Queimado, where the biggest unified coffee producing property is situated. The Monte Queimado coffee won the price for “best coffee of the empire” at the colonial exposition in Porto in 1934.
The coffee is harvested between February and March and it is a natural, unwashed coffee. Unfortunately, it has rained very little in the past years, which has drastically reduced the harvests. Moreover, an unwillingness of the young people of the island to partake in the coffee harvest can be observed.
It needs to be pointed out that some producers of Mosteiros do not sell their green coffee abroad, but try to develop a way of completing the coffee producing chain on-site, from the plant to the packaging, trying thus to produce a finished product and not only be a supplier of raw material. One happy example is given by Dja’r Fogo – meaning Fogo Island in Creole – a producer who harvests and roasts a tiny amount of coffee a stone’s throw away from the store where he exhibits and sells a variety of packaged coffee.