The Slow Food movement has emerged as a worldwide force that advocates for a healthier, tastier, more sustainably grown alternative to fast food. Founded by the Italian culinary writer Carlo Petrini in 1986, the movement's 100,000-plus members in 150 countries strive to preserve traditional and regional cooking techniques while promoting the small, personally overseen farming of plants, seeds and livestock that protects local ecosystems.
The goal is to promote local small enterprises that can produce healthier, more sustainable products that offer an alternative to large-scale corporate agribusiness.
I recently visited a boutique coffee plantation, Cafe Lucero, where the care taken in growing, harvesting, sorting, roasting and brewing the perfect cup of coffee is emblematic of what the movement is all about. Located on 216 acres high in the verdant mountains of Puerto Rico, this family-owned plantation is tiny compared to the massive farms that supply coffee beans to mega-sellers such as Maxwell House or Starbucks.
It is, in fact, a labor love that is overseen by co-owner and coffee gourmet Lucemy Velazquez. To her highly sensitive nose and trained palate there are as many subtle differences in the flavors of a fine cup of coffee as there are in a glass of the finest wine.
And many of the terms she uses to describe those differences — robustness, finish, acidity, smokiness and fruitiness — are the same terms used at wine tastings. It is that level of sensitivity that has earned her the position of judge at coffee-tasting competitions around the world.
Cafe Lucero is harvested in the volcanic mountains that rise to the east of Puerto Rico's second largest city, Ponce. The plantation itself is located in San Patricio, adjacent to the towns of Adjuntas and Jayuya. It is situated at 2,500 feet above sea level, where the rain is plentiful, the air is cool and the soil is rich, making it ideal for growing coffee.
Getting to Cafe Lucero is, however, a challenge. It is about 60 miles from Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan, and 25 miles from Ponce. My group's Puerto Rican driver even got confused on the winding two-lane mountain roads. In the end we had to call for help, and Velazquez came and guided us to her front gate.
From that moment on we were treated with hospitality that began with a walking tour that wound its way along the plantation's steep hillsides, where brightly colored coffee beans could be seen ripening.
The focal point of the tour was the "factory," a metal-roofed building where several members of the staff were painstakingly hand-sorting recently harvested beans, separating them based on their color, ripeness and any impurities.
The size of the staff is small, and the feeling is one of a family operation.
Outpatient ROBOTIC HYSTERECTOMY. Trust an experienced Robotic Surgeon.