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Santa Catarina Juquila

Costa Chica, Oaxaca, Mexico
Partner since: 2021 Traceable to: 25-30 Households Altitude: 1300-1600 MASL

Fully washed with 12-24 hour delayed pulping, followed by ~24 hours of wet fermentation (in bag or cement tanks) before washing and drying on patios for an average of 14 days, after which It is stored in a farmers’ house until delivery to Oaxaca City.

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Community Context

La Costa is where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sierra Madre de Sur Mountain Range. Hot days and cool nights leave a heavy layer of dew which, with the ocean mist, makes ideal what would otherwise be an arid region for growing coffee. Here coffee is grown within pine forests and alongside Ash, Orange, Cuajinicuil, Ocotal and banana trees – but rarely, if ever, with any fertilizer or herbicide. It’s simply not the culture of the area, which prizes organic methods on primarily smallholder farms (800 -1000 trees). In this context it’s common to ferment for 1-2 days in wood or stone tanks, then set out to dry for 15+ days often under shade on rooftops. These practices can produce good coffee, but more controlled fermentation and drying can only come when there is training, equipment and incentive to invest in the next level of production. The group to do this here is called 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.