Every year it’s something. Volcanoes. Roya. Currency collapse. Internal politics. Corruption. Lack of financing. Lack of labor. Every year our partners in Mexico are faced with some force majeure, yet they still come through with some mind-changing examples of what is possible across the further reaches of Mexico.
Over the years, we’ve traveled deeper and deeper into Guerrero, Colima, Oaxaca, and most recently Chiapas to find partners producing exceptional coffees. Every year we find more reasons to come back. The people, the coffees, the palatable progress — it’s worth it. The challenge is also real. Building supply-chains with languages that leap from Spanish to indigenous languages like Chinateca, Mixtec, Zapotec, Mazateco, and Mixe. These are daisy-chains of trust passed down through the generation, now combined with new needs for transparency and financing and communication and sweeping improvements from picking to processing, drying and storage.
This year’s force majeure is Covid-19. As quarantine set-in across America, the United States of Mexico were operating freely. March was peak harvest, and we were approving offers from our remote cupping labs. There was more excitement than ever about what we were tasting.
Then quarantine hit Mexico, and hard. Samples got tied up en route. No labor was available at mills. Police were enforcing stay-at-home orders aggressively and still were in Oaxaca in early June.
Lots that represented years of investment and efforts across eight supply-chains, hundreds of farmers, and nearly two dozen communities got stuck mid-export.
It’s painful when you finally get what you ask for, and then don’t know what to do with it. We are left cupping jaw-dropping lots wondering what comes next.
What does come next? The coffees we approved in March, and again in June will see an arrival in late July – early August. Truly amazing coffees that come to us through truly inspiring efforts are on their way!
We took a chance on these coffees, because we believe in the communities and want these programs to be here next year. The coffees themselves are good, real good on their own merit. You’ll like what you taste.
Good rains led to an early, even, and productive harvest across southern Mexico. Samples peaked in March, but fell off due to quarantine with PSS coming back available in late May. June shipments will lead to late July and early August arrivals.
Shipments / Arrivals
late Feb – early April
mid March – early June
June / July-Aug
Better Drying, Selection
Targeting 85-86 pts on SCA, Less than .55 MA, 10.5-11% MC
Efforts to expand the use of shade nets in Sierra Sur and La Mixteca paid off this year, as did incentives towards selective harvesting in La Canada. The absence of auctions and closing of domestic markets led to a greater availability of micro-lots this year. Unfortunately, many of these were blended into regional lots during quarantine. So while we only expect a few competition-grade nano-lots this year, we are also seeing higher qualities and complexities in regional blends.
Consolidate logistics and financing through 1-2 supply-chains in each of the major regions of Oaxaca.
Separate out micro-lots and blend the rest into traceable, organic 85-86 pt lots.
Seek out new microlot suppliers, particularly in La Canada Oaxaca and Chiapas.
Support existing relationships, advance improvement projects, and rewards efforts with premiums.
Oaxaca, Sierra Sur – continue support of UNECAFE in Lachao.
Oaxaca, La Mixteca – continue support of Huerta del Rio in Putla
Oaxaca, La Canada – introduce new partner, 5 Red de Deciembre, with a regional lot and microlots.
Concordia, Chiapas – expand relationship with CAFECO; install cuppers in bodega
Explore new sources for microlots, particularly in Veracruz
Improve rates on local pre-crop financing
Specific community updates & 2020 Mexico offers here
Mexico is an important partner to us at Crop to Cup. They’ve got all that it takes to produce profiles at prices that can succeed across our menus. Yet, as they learned with La Roya: when buyers disappeared along with the harvest, they need consistency to invest in specialty.
The 2019 harvests arrived in late summer, giving them only a few months to sell before quarantine. And now, just as these beans are seeing the light of day again, the 2020 crop is arriving. While we’ve been able to maintain our commitments, we were not able to expand with our partners. We were not able to purchase more decaf or top-off containers with the interesting new coffees we came across.
Looking forward, we hope that 85-86 point coffees from across Mexico’s growing regions can find a place on specialty menus across the United States. From cold brew and espresso to wholesale blends, from single-origin pour-overs to bizarre competition lots. We are bringing in a smattering of these this year to show what’s possible, and hope you will come along for the ride.