The Dufort family is at the genesis of the REBO coffee brand and has been active in the industry for over a century now. Around the 1900s, it was mostly known for its green coffee exports to Europe and particularly toward France, Italy, and Switzerland. In 1970, the company Jacques A. Dufort & Co. bought Haiti's first roasting plant from the Reimbold family and created the name REBO which also became the brand of its roasted coffee. In 1974, it's exporting bags of green coffee to the American market. The goal is to have them roasted and distributed in Haitian communities within the United States typically those living in New-York, Florida, and Illinois.
As the years go by, the small family company grows and expands its sphere of activity and its shareholder base to become REBO, S.A., a food-processing industry in 1998. On top of its coffee, REBO, S.A. also manufactures peanut butter, fruit jams and jellies, and imports commodities. However, the primary focus of REBO is still the production of a top quality coffee for a demanding Haitian community. Quality and customer satisfaction remain its focus.
REBO buys its coffee beans mainly from farmers and/or farmer associations/cooperatives from the regions of high altitude and of excellent reputation located in the southern part of Haiti, mostly in Thiotte, Port-à-Piment, Jérémie, and Beaumont. In the northern regions, the crops come from Baptiste, Gros Morne, Carisse, Mont-Organisé...
Since 2007, REBO works in partnership with a coffee growers association, the Union des Planteurs de l'Arrondissement de Belle Anse (UPAB). This partnership guarantees the quality of coffee bought by REBO. It also ensures an equitable trade for the growers through a mechanism that anticipates UPAB's coffee crop will always be bought providing it reflects the standards sought by REBO - which, in turn, reflect the wants of its customers. As early as the 2007-2008 crop season, this approach resulted in an increase of quality crops. Since then, the amount of coffee bought from UPAB more than doubled which gave that association a newfound vitality. This pilot production model will be duplicated with other associations throughout the country for coffee and other crops.
A coffee season stretches out from August to April. When the coffee cherries are ripe, they are harvested by hand in big baskets. This tedious and demanding work calls for constant comings and goings. A coffee tree can provide coffee during the course of a full month. Each cherry's maturity peaks at its own right time. Waiting for nature to do its job may be an old-fashioned method but it guarantees the complete and fine quality of each coffee cherry for REBO.
Once these highly selected cherries have been harvested according to REBO's standards, they are processed either through the dry method (known as "café pilé"), or through the wet method (known as "café lavé": washed coffee).
The coffee berries are then cleaned: their husk (or "skin") and part of their pulp are removed by mechanical means. Next, then the beans are spread into a thin layer and put to dry in the sun. The goal is to reach a humidity level of 12% to conserve the quality of the beans. At the REBO plant, in Port-au-Prince, the coffee beans are weighed. What follows is an industrial triage, where different types of machines are involved:
- Some machines separate the lighter beans from the heavier ones,
- Others take out the tiny rocks that get mixed in with the crops while drying outside in the sun along with the "parch" that surround the coffee bean
- Another specialized coffee machine equipped with a four-color processor sorts out the beans and separates the darker from the lighter ones
- A quality control is done at the end. It involves long black tables where the remaining beans are laid out in a thin layer. Sorters, traditionally women workers, take out the diseased and deformed beans that had escaped from the previous controls.
The purest green coffee is then stored in big hand-sewn jute bags, and sent out to be part of exports, or to be roasted for local consumption.