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Grupo Ñuu, Caballo Rucio

La Mixteca, Oaxaca, Mexico
Partner since: 2022 Traceable to: 25-30 families Altitude: 1,450 - 1,650

Cherries are floated, pulped and placed with water in fermentation vats for 18-24 hours before 2-3 rounds of washing followed by 2-3 days of drying in full sun – often on a rooftop – before moving to shaded patio or raised beds for 12-16 days with regular rotations and hand picking.

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Community Context

Grupo Ñuu is made up of 25-30 Mestizo and Mixteco families who work together to preserve the traditions and heritage of their grandparents through their committment to coffee. Their work includes reconstituting soils, using a blend of organic methods and modern delivery methods. In the same way they adjust traditional processing methods based on feedback from other origins. This region is heavily shaded, and coffee is viewed as the primary way of retaining the old growth forests which help to keep the farms a cool 21-23C / 70-73F during the day. Driven by the combination of coastal winds and steep mountains, the temperature here drops a full 10C / 20F on average at night – making it the perfect climate for berries to develop more complex sugars and acidity.

This is a rare Mountainous Cloud Forest; Bosque Mesófilo de Montaña, island-like ecosystems which create, and are fed by their own clouds, and which are home to ~ 10% of Mexico’s animal species even if only representing .5% of land. This is the Sierra Madre Occidental, La Mixteca Region, known for steep slopes pocketed with communities, each with their own history and unique flavor. Grupo Ñuu is a new, small group who chose a name that has a meaning between ‘life’, ‘place’ and ‘people’. The group was formed and supported by Terra Coffeas Mexico.

Terra Coffeas Mexico is a new (2022) collaboration to bring 80 years of operational expertise from the mill to export – in the form of long-time family-business Galguera Gomez – together with fresh perspectives from a young, CQI-calibrated team of on-the-ground mobilizers – led by the passionate Frida Mendoza. Their team includes engineers, agronomists, biologists, chemists, cuppers, artists and, of course, coffee lovers, all together for the common goal of agroecológico – the intentional purposing of international standards for quality, productivity and traceability, towards the advancement of local cultural practices, environmental resources, and economic outcomes.

This group is on the ground, investing their time and advancing producers consultancy services, well before the harvest begins. They have a narrow focus that allows them to truly partner with producers, reviewing farm, processing and export processes as a peer. While visiting the farms, Terra Coffeas staff also look to the household. They work with producers to fill out a customized family work plan that recognizes roles related to harvest and processing, and offer to pay an additional premium for women-produced coffees. And this is such a coffee, where women producers received an addition .15 – .20 USD / KG premium (2022).

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.