About 3 years ago, the CESMACH Co-op started a coffee nursery designed specifically to renew the crop lost to Roya. This Year, CESMACH planted 700,000 trees from their nursery in the surrounding coffee producing communities of Sierra Madre de Chiapas and will see production from these trees in 3 years, at the same time expecting to improve quality. We are proud to be part of the initiatives that CESMACH Co-op are taking in their fight against Roya, and we are excited for what's to come for Sierra Madre de Chiapas.
In 2011, Café Imports green buyer Piero Cristiani was sourcing in Mexico with our producer partners at CESMACH, and saw that there were a considerable number of women producers dropping coffee off for processing. On the heels of our women's producer program in Guatemala with CODECH, Piero presented the program to CESMACH, in which coffee from independent women coffee producers are kept seperated. A premium is paid for these coffees, in an effort to support these strong women who, more often that not, are providing for their family as a single parent.
The country of Mexico has never been a player in the High-End Specialty Coffee world until recently. The perception of many in the industry is that Mexican coffee is mediocre to say the least. This is not entirely true by any means. There is huge potential in Mexican coffee and things will only get better. We’ve been sourcing coffee from the south of Mexico in the state of Chiapas from a couple different cooperatives, Finca Triunfo Verde (FTV) and Campesinos Ecologicos de la Sierra Madre de Chiapas (CESMACH). The cup quality on these has been solid year after year. Both of these commercialize their coffee through a 3rd party allowing them to do what they do best, produce solid coffee. There is no reason why this area can’t produce great coffee! They have all the conditions such as: heirloom coffee varieties (Bourbon, Typica), great altitude (1200-1750masl), and passionate coffee growers who want to produce high quality micro lots. The location is extremely close to the Guatemala border and Huehuetenango.
Cafe Imports, along with the cooperatives, invested in a quality control program. An assessment was made in different areas that impact cup quality such as: varieties, fertilization, picking, processing, and lot selection. They were already doing a great job but there are some areas that could use some tweaking. The cooperatives were extremely excited to be part in this program. The plan is to have a certified Q Grader from each cooperative and have a centralized cupping lab to aid in lot selection in order to increase the overall quality of the coffee they are producing and give feedback to the producers on their quality.
Some members of the cooperatives were excited about being able to produce micro lots which are farm and variety specific. This year we will be bringing a couple of these to complement our full container lots.
About the the farms and El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve
Farms are located in the buffer zone of El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve. The biosphere is located in the highlands of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve is one of the world’s most diverse forest reserves. This reserve contains Mesoamerica’s largest continuous cloud forest, and it serves as a refuge to thousands of plant and animal species. El Triunfo is a rare and valuable sanctuary that requires continued protection. All the coffee they produce is shade grown, and biological corridors are created in order to facilitate bird and animal migration.
This coffee is ID6058, and we scored it 92 points on a PSS basis. This was one of the best Mexican coffees we have ever tasted. Here is the story behind it....
The world of quality coffee never ceases to enrich, fulfill, and stimulate the lives of those involved in it's journey from crop to cup. Café Imports finds itself yet again in the coffee-filled hills of Mexico's southern Chiapas region; strengthening existing relationships and seeking out new ones. After a series of travel from Mexico City, to Tuxtla Guiterriez, through the culture-rich city of San Cristobal de Las Casas and over the slopes to the west, Piero Cristiani and myself make it to the pueblo of Tenejapa, a small town rooted deeply in it's indigenous beginnings. This year we have decided to book an entire container of high-end coffees from the Tzeltal people that reside in the Tenejapa sub-region, near the city of Chiktôntuk.
Upon arrival we are welcomed with a ceremony consisting of the tribe's elders dressed from head to toe in their lasting culture's attire accompanied by traditional music. Sombreros draped with a plethora of brightly colored tassels, black sheep-skin vests fastened with copper-stamped buttons, fine-stitched woolen skirts, and bull-horn flasks containing the local brew; a fermented corn liquor. As customary, the guests are offered a taste and the music and dance commences. A twelve string guitar accompanied by a hand-made harp and fiddle fill the city center with song as the tribe's elders dance along in step. Seeing the almost ninety year-old supreme elders two-stepping along left me no choice but to join the movement for a song or two. After the ceremony commences we continue through the city in search of coffee. We eventually find ourselves in a small warehouse housing a few dozen burlap sacks of the Tzeltal's coffee. As spanish is a second language for the habitants of these hills, we befriend a twelve year-old boy to help us translate our questions into the local dialect of Tzeltal. With his help we are able to casually interview a few farmers and understand their take on coffee production in the area.
To my understanding, coffee is viewed with a different perspective by the indigenous people of Chiktonuk. When asked, "What does coffee mean to you?" each farmer garnered the same response, "To drink and to sell". Honestly, I was initially disappointed in the footage I was capturing; it seemed rather vapid and slightly depressing when compared with the enriched views that many Costa Rican and Colombian farmers maintain. My role in the Café Imports team is to film and create media of coffee producers in hopes of translating their values and methods into an accessible form that roasters and consumers can utilize; these responses were a curveball for me. We finished our visit of the purchasing point and continued to the farms. Mid-hike through the jungle-like coffee farm, I came to a realization. Coffee has a different meaning to the Tzeltal people. This crop is a major part of their culture and lifestyle, but selling it is an adaptation.
The massive unpruned Bourbon trees and spot-planting method give testament to this. Pickers are more like gatherers in their rather slow process of winding through the forest, bending plants in all directions to reach mature cherries on upper shoots. Having cupped this coffee into the high eighties with notes of blueberries and honey butter, I was eager to see the Tzeltal's processing methods. Yet again, I find an original style. After being gathered from the farm, the ripe cherries remain in the sack they were collected in overnight and undergo a slight dry-fermentation process before pulping. The softened cherries are pulped the next morning. This pre-fermentation process most likely accounts for the strong berry aroma and sweetness in cup. As this is a newly sourced coffee, I am eager to see which roasters will be the first to develop a supportive profile to highlight the qualities of this bean.
Our stay in Chiapas was generously accommodated by E-Café, a unique organization that is relatively new to the quality coffee world. The majority of their coffee staff are Korean non-profit volunteers that live and teach at a boarding school in Comítan, Chiapas. E-Café profits are used to fund the boarding school. Many of the students are children of coffee farmers that E-Café works with. At the E-Café location in Comítan lies one of the most complex dry mills we have seen. Based on rice mill designs, Teddy has designed a custom dry mill for coffee, with a linear flow and home-made peaberry sorter.
From the coffee forests of the Tzeltal people, through the custom designs of a Korean missionary, and to the labs of Café Imports, this coffee's unique journey holds true to it's cup; both complex and flavorful.
Nueva Linda is a Specialty Coffee Estate located in the Sierra Madre mountains of Southern Mexico in the state of Chiapas. The farm shares a buffer with the Triunfo Biospehere reserve, a tropical cloud forest preserve of some 50,000 acres, which helps to temper a changing climate and provide rich soil and clean water.
Don Octavio Moguel Farrera started in coffee farming as a driver in another farm, from there a love to produce coffee was born. After years of effort and hard work he purchased a small farm and began his life of quality coffee production.
He pulps his coffee, uses demucilage machines to remove the sugars, washes in clean water and dries in the sun.
This farm is en route to RA certification, way out in the middle of nowhere and one of the most beautiful estates I have ever seen and it has a great cup.