Home processed; cherries are pulped, dry fermented and washed before drying on raised beds
Oaxacan coffee is grown on small plots spread over a large, diverse range. Well, three ranges actually. Oaxaca is where the Sierra Madre del Sur and Sierra Mixteca ranges come together to form the Sierra Madre Occidental as it heads north. Guadalupe Miramar is right here at this intersection. It’s an active Mixteca community, the Mixtec name for the place being Ñuñume (meaning above the clouds). At 5700 feet, steep slopes capture the Pacific mists and feed an otherwise arid pine forest. This is home to some of Mexico’s finest coffees and strongest farmer groups.
Sierra Mixteca de Yucuhiti Unidos is an indigenous group that represents six communities. With the encouragement of a Pennsylvanian preacher, this community got their start in specialty back in the 80s. With the help of buyers like Stumptown and Sustainable Harvest, they have a track record for producing coffee at its very best. But then la roya hit. Yields went down, and qualities dipped. 2017 was their first rebound year, but it was too late to keep customers. What they want now is to earn a spot on your menu. They are in the mood for a come-back, and we have their back.
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.