Mexico is a coffee origin on the rise, with a strong organic farming presence and a consistent decaf output. Let’s take a look at how they started making waves.

The History

Mexico was late to the coffee game; coffee didn’t arrive in the country until the Spanish bought plants from Cuba and the Dominican Republic in the late 18th century. The first coffee plantations started appearing in the late 1790s in the southeast state of Veracruz. Spanish colonialism was already deeply entrenched in the region and the focus was on the area’s vast mineral deposits. This meant that coffee and agriculture took a back seat as gold and silver mining took the forefront. 

The Spanish were slow to survey and distribute land, and this lack of  interest in coffee production allowed Indigenous coffee farming communities to retain small plots of land in remote mountains and isolated countryside in southern Mexico.

Only after the Mexican Revolution did smallholder farmers begin to invest in coffee cultivation in a serious way. Labour laws freed many indentured servants, who were previously working on coffee farms. Upon being freed, these former “serfs” brought the skills and seedlings to cultivate coffee farms in their communities. 

Still, coffee production was slow going until 1973 when the National Coffee Institute of Mexico (INMECAFE) was formed to help speed up the process. INMECAFE helped farmers with technical assistance, guaranteed purchases, and with selling on the international market. From 1973-1990, coffee production exploded in the rural countryside. It seemed like things were on the up and up until government support for INMECAFE immediately halted in 1989. Cooperatives were forced to form in order to help the coffee sector survive, something that is still largely in use today. 

The Present:

Today, Mexican farms look very different from the vast plantations of the past. Smallholders dominate the industry, with over 515,000 producers, 85% of whom are Indigenous, and 95% produced coffee in under three hectares. Much of the country’s coffee production is still organized through cooperatives, who were also the ones encouraging organic coffee production (8% of the coffee grown in Mexico is certified organic!). 

The Taste

Mexican coffees tend to be bigger bodied with a classic flavour profile. This makes them the perfect crowd-pleasing cup or a great base component for a blend. 90% of Mexican coffees are washed, leading to a distinct, clean profile. 

January 20, 2023 — Zara Snitman

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