Héctor Muñoz, the co-founder of Hacienda Muñoz in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, intently watched the timer on a handsome red stainless steel Bendig coffee roaster in Hacienda Muñoz’s Doppio Cafe. Because he roasts the coffee so dark, the beans must be released from the roaster at exactly the right instant or else the whole batch will burn, Muñoz explained. At that pivotal moment, he opened the roaster to release a waft of rich aroma into the roasting hut and a wave of perfectly toasted 100% arabica beans into the cooling mixer. He smiled as he scooped out a handful of beans for onlookers to taste. The bean, still warm, had a satisfying crunch and a toasted bitterness that left us craving an entire cup.
Hacienda Muñoz roasts have the mouthwatering piquant fragrance and sharp flavor that distinguishes traditional Puerto Rican coffee. Muñoz roasts and packs four varieties on property; House, Dark and Premium Dark as well as Traditional Puerto Rican coffee selected from beans grown in Yauco, Puerto Rico.
Coffee production is one of the newest additions to the original catering business that Muñoz and his mother Yiya began in 1999. Their hacienda has since grown to include Yiya’s Restaurant, Amanda’s Wood sports bar, Doppio Cafe, an event venue with a large patio and a guest villa all bordering the plantation. They established the plantation, which now boasts 74,000 coffee trees, in 2005 with the intention of creating jobs and empowering local farmers to help reinvigorate coffee cultivation in the area. Peacocks and chickens roam the property and the open architecture of the patio and buildings allows a 360 degree view of the lush rolling countryside dotted with rows of coffee trees.
Hacienda Muñoz is the closest coffee plantation and roasting house to the Rainforest Inn and provides a good reason to go on a picturesque hour-long drive through the El Yunque mountains. We made the trip on a Sunday intending to take their public coffee tour—which we later discovered only runs Wednesday through Saturday 10 am and 2 pm and by appointment only. Upon our arrival, we were graciously greeted by Joseph, the manager who, despite having a lot on his plate that afternoon, gave us a brief tour of the roasting house and restaurant. Since our initial plan was foiled, we could not pass up dinner at Yiya’s. As he did with many of his guests, Joseph checked in on us periodically to make sure everything was to our liking.
Yiya’s Restaurant provides an extensive and varied menu that features house specialties with a subtle spin on traditional Puerto Rican cuisine. We ordered the Filete de Salmón a la Parilla and the island’s esteemed dish mofongo, which surprised us with its smoked flavor and unique incorporation of ham in the plantain dough. The amiable waitress obliged to Bill’s request for a vegetarian version without blinking an eye and Renée concluded that the fried plantain tostones were the highlight of her meal. One of our interns, Chelsea, experienced her first ever monfongo since arriving in Puerto Rico. She ordered the chicken version and especially enjoyed its smoky ham flavor and the salsa criolla; the mofongo is topped with either this tomato-based sauce or a garlic sauce called salsa al ajillo. Another one of our interns, Mel, ordered the Lover’s Drink; a strawberry, piña colada and mango-layered frapé. Though she was reluctant at first to take a sip and disturb the artful layers, Mel slurped down the frapé in a matter of minutes once she dared a taste.
Our after-dinner coffee was a perfect finale to the outing. Bill ordered a cappuccino which, because of the generous portion of milk in the espresso, made for a satisfying drink closer to the traditional Puerto Rican café con leche. Mel ordered an americano and was pleased that she could recognize the distinct Puerto Rican flavor of the fresh dark roasted coffee beans. After tasting the final product, we cannot wait to get a look behind the scenes of Hacienda Muñoz coffee on their tour, and we will be sure to recommend our guests take the scenic trip and plan to spend an entire day at Hacienda Muñoz.