Meet Domenico Celli from Forgotten Forest
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Meet Domenico Celli from Forgotten Forest

Reviving forgotten lands and the Puerto Rican coffee industry.

Mar 02, 2024

by: Domenico Celli | @forgottenforestpr

In October 2023, we released single-origin whole coffee beans for purchase on our website in partnership with Forgotten Forest. The goal was to get ethically-sourced Puerto Rican coffee in the hands of more coffee lovers while also supporting the transformation of the Puerto Rican coffee industry after the disastrous impacts of Hurricane Maria.

This article is from Domenico Celli Borrero, founder of Forgotten Forest, as he delves into his mission with Forgotten Forest and the comunidad he has built surrounding Puerto Rican coffee!

¡Saludos desde La Cordillera de Puerto Rico! My name is Domenico Celli Borrero, and I am a proud Nuyorrican & the founder of Forgotten Forest, a coffee-driven social enterprise based in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico. Today, I’m excited to share my journey and mission to revive forgotten lands and lifestyles in mountains of Puerto Rico. The passion and dedication of many who share this vision have created a community, which in turn has shaped Forgotten Forest into what it is today.

A Journey of Discovery

My journey began as a Political Science & Global Studies student, where I embarked on a project to uncover the challenges faced by small farmers in Puerto Rico. Inspired by my childhood experiences and concern for the deteriorating quality of life and ecological outcomes en La Cordillera, I delved deeper into the issues plaguing the island's food systems.

In 2017, I planned a one-month trip to interview farmers and stakeholders, but fate had other plans. Hurricane Maria struck, extending my stay to over four months. During this time, I witnessed the resilience of our Puerto Rican people and their determination to rebuild. I camped out on farmers' porches, helped process emergency relief applications, and launched a volunteer program that brought together individuals from around the world.

Domenico Celli on the farm with two partners

From Vision to Action

Motivated by the desire to help farmers and transform the coffee industry, I made the decision to move to Puerto Rico after finishing college. Despite facing numerous challenges, I dedicated myself to assisting farmers in applying for aid and writing grants. Along the way, I organized events under the name "Puentes Naturales" (Natural Bridges) to connect like-minded individuals and organizations.

Through these efforts, I formed partnerships with local nonprofits and organizations, scaling my project and benefiting more farmers. It was during this time that we made an incredible discovery—a long-forgotten heirloom coffee varietal, Typica 401. We came to uncover that this is Puerto Rico's original varietal— a descendent of the coffee that first came to the Caribbean from Yemen in the early 1700s. This discovery ignited my imagination and inspired a demonstration project to revive production of this variety, showcasing the potential for high-value agriculture and organic agroforestry systems. The bigger vision here, is to demonstrate the potential for specialty and value-added agriculture to empower small scale farmers.

Cultivating plants on the farm

The Forgotten Forest Community

Today, Forgotten Forest is more than just a brand. It is a community of over 50 like-minded farmers, organization and individuals committed to quality, organic practices, and transparency. We have established three nursery sites specializing in producing heirloom coffee seedlings, native shade tree seedlings, and erosion-mitigating plants. Our distributed supply chain consists of small-scale producers of organic inputs, ensuring sustainability at every step.

At the heart of our community is Centro Tanama, our central hub. It serves as a basecamp for community connections, purchasing and processing, research and development, technical training, educational experiences, and cultural events.

Life on the farm picture

La Comunidad Rio Prieto con Loisa

In partnership with Loisa, we’re proud to offer equitably-produced, single-origin coffee from Rio Prieto, one of La Cordillera’s most famous microclimates. This whole bean coffee is roasted at the source, offering a distinct tropical fruit acidity and crisp aftertaste. 

La Comunidad Rio Prieto is our first variety from Rio Prieto, Yauco, and features beans from a selection of 25 smallholders who came together to pick ripe coffee during the remaining two months of the 2023 harvest. Yauco remains a prominent coffee-producing town, due to its unique terroir that is influenced by leeward winds blowing off the nearby ocean, and elevation which produces a significantly elongated growing season. The growing season extends past the rainy season, which typically coincides with peak harvest in other regions. 

Here’s what coffee lovers have to say about La Comunidad Rio Prieto!

Coffee reviews

Looking to the future

The journey of Forgotten Forest is a testament to the power of passion, dedication, and community. Through our vertically integrated social enterprise, we are reviving forgotten lands and lifestyles in Puerto Rico. By embracing organic practices, preserving agricultural heritage, and enriching the land itself, we are forging an alternative path in the coffee industry.

Coffee beans

Join us on this journey of discovery, resilience, and community as we work to ensure an Unforgettable future of Puerto Rican agriculture. Together, we can create a sustainable and thriving agrarian resurgence, tree by tree, bag by bag and cup by cup.

¡Desde La Cordillera pa’l mundo!