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Grupo de Trabajo Sierra Sur Ozolotepec

Sierra Sur, Oaxaca, La Pluma, Mexico
Partner since: 2023 Traceable to: 15 families Varietals: La Pluma Typica, Bourbon

Days are selected during peak harvest when a truck can come to pick up ripe fruits for processing back in Oaxaca using a series of tanks dedicated to controlled lactic fermentation. Cherries are washed then fermented in these tanks for 48 hours, during which they are inoculated a specific lactic yeast strain. Coffee is then washed with cold water then dried in direct sun for 24-48 hours before being transferred to shaded patios for 14-17 additional days of drying.

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Community Context

The ‘Free Producers of Santa Cruz Ozolotepec’ are 12 neighboring families who live outside of Santa Cruz Ozolotepec. Each was selected by Frida Mendoza of Terra Coffea Mexico, who has worked with these families for up to 15 years, for their location and plot management. During peak harvest these farmers notify Frida a day in which they think they can have the most, most ripe cherries. At that time Frida sends out a truck to collect these cherries and bring them back for processing in Oaxaca using a dedicated line of temperature controlled tanks for fermentation. This hardware was purchased to be a laboratory on post-harvest processing, each year using the best lessons from cuppings to inform the recipe for the year to come.

Country Context

Mexico is for coffee lovers. Few origins offer such variety, such competency, and such short flights to the farm. While often overlooked by their neighbors to the north, Mexico is the world’s 7th largest coffee producer, the largest exporter of organic coffees, and a fast-growing consumers of specialty coffee.

Seventy percent of Mexico’s crop comes from larger estates, concentrated around Veracruz, with the remaining thirty percent coming from 2 million smallholders, spread around the country but mostly in the Southern States of Chiapas and Oaxaca.

This is also where we find most of Mexico’s indigenous population, communities who moved higher and higher up-mountain, onto smaller and smaller plots of land, first to get away from colonial Spain, and later pushed by larger landowners during decades of highly political land reforms. In this way Mexico’s agrarian, coffee and Puebla movements are intertwined.

Though coffee arrived into Mexico two centuries earlier, it did not take off until the late 20th century.

In the 1970s a farmer friendly government came to power and encouraged smallholder production. Coffee exports skyrocketed nearly ten-fold over the next two decades. However, in the middle of this growth the government had to default on debt, cut back programs, and end a decade of federal support for smallholders. Price, markets and credit dwindled to drips – and on top of that – we got some Roya too. Oh, and did we mention the condition of the peso?

Into this distressed situation we see the rise of the coyote; middle-men who build truckloads of coffee up from 1-5 bag household level. Still today, buyers look for points of aggregation that can cut out middle-men but still give them access to volumes.