Coffee production was established in the island of Saint- Domingue (Hispaniola) by French settlers in the 18th century.
The uprisings from 1790 onwards, culminating in the establishment of the independent state of Haiti in 1804, resulted in the flight of French plantation owners, accompanied by many of their African slaves, to the neighbouring island of Cuba, then under Spanish rule.
They were granted lands in the south-eastern part of the island in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra, at that time largely not settled and eminently suitable for coffee growing because of its climate and natural forest cover.
They quickly established coffee plantations (cafetales) over a very large area, introducing and improving the techniques and layouts developed in Haiti and elsewhere. They were to be joined by other coffee planters, from Metropolitan France and elsewhere (Catalans, English, Germans, and North Americans, as well as criollos from other parts of the region), throughout the 19th century. There was extensive physical and cultural intermingling with the criollo population, of Spanish ethnic origin, in the region, and a vigorous multiethnic culture developed.