Former British treasury minister Philip Oppenheim last month signed a deal with the Cuban government to invest some $4 million USD over the next five years in Cuban Coffee growing. Oppenheim has launched the Cuba Mountain Coffee Company, and plans to trade Cuban coffees under the name Alma de Cuba.
The 48-year-old former politician, journalist and businessman has a long history working with Cuba as a rum importer to England and as organizer of London’s Carnival de Cuba event. The investment represents the biggest boon to the struggling Cuban coffee industry in decades.
“By investing into nursery, root stocks, and the processes that strip the cherries from the beans, we will improve the quality and the quantity of the coffee produced,” Oppenheim said in a recent statement to the press. “We get these very rare coffee beans and the Cuban farmers get what they need to grow more.”
Cuba’s coffee industry flourished prior to the Fidel Castro-led revolution in the 1950s. Under the communist regime, the industry has suffered, with production picking up somewhat in the early 2000s due to increased exports to Asia and Europe.
In a recent Q&A with the Cuba Standard, Oppenheim said his company’s plan is to help improve coffee quality among the smallholder farms, suggesting that the Cuban landscape should make the country’s coffees “intrinsically good:”
There aren’t many areas in the world left that are suitable for development of high-quality coffee. There’s plenty of base arabica around, grown at sea level, but the market is leaning towards high-quality gourmet, single-origin coffee.
Before the Revolution, Cuba was the world’s largest exporter of quality coffee. Since then, for a variety of reasons, things began to decline. What we are trying to do is revive this as a great coffee-growing area, where the coffee is intrinsically good. Of course, there’s also magic to the Cuban name. People like Cuba, and therefore Cuba as a country of origin makes it a very saleable proposition.