Producing over sixty per cent of the world’s organic coffee, Mexico is responsible for a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to specialty coffee.
As with many Central and South American countries, coffee first arrived in Mexico with Spanish colonists in the eighteenth century. Their exports ramped up significantly in the 1800s as the appetite for coffee increased and demand grew across the United States and Europe. At this time, the majority of coffee production came from the mountainous southern regions bordering Guatemala, owned by wealthy Europeans with large land holdings.
Today however, Mexican coffee is produced by hundreds of small-holder farms forming collectives to export their produce for fair prices. These farms vary in size but are typically smaller than three hectares.
Sixty per cent of the world’s organic coffee (produced without the use of (expensive) fertilisers and pesticides) comes from Mexico. Thanks to accessible natural fertilisers such as animal droppings and manure, organic coffee has become synonymous with Mexico and is becoming increasingly sought after in the industry today.
There are fifteen different coffee-producing regions in Mexico.
The mountainous volcanic regions of southern Mexico in particular produce exceptional specialty coffee. Mexican specialty coffee flavour broadly tends to be light-bodied and smooth, with subtle nutty and floral flavours, but thanks to its varied topography and climates, can range from milk chocolate and almond to sweet roast hazelnut and cherry, depending on where it’s sourced.
Among the most popular specialty coffee regions in Mexico are Chiapas in the Southeast (1300-1700 masl), neighbouring Oaxaca to the West (900-1650 masl) and Veracruz (1100-1600 masl) just North. Although geographically close, these regions produce vastly different flavours thanks to their varying altitudes and microclimates.
Mexican coffee doesn’t typically feature in many coffee drinkers’ go-to origins, but specialty coffee from these regions can rival the delicate and balanced flavour profiles of the highly sought-after Guatemalan coffee just across the border.
With close proximity to both the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, Mexican coffee production benefits from seasonal rainfall providing a consistent water source to process their coffee. You’ll find almost ninety per cent of Mexican coffee exported is washed, resulting in bright, crisp flavours in the cup.
Washed coffee is reliant on nutrient-rich soil to provide flavour in the cup. Thanks to the volcanic soils in southern Mexico, lower temperatures in the mountains and the prevalence of shade-grown coffee plants, cherries ripen slowly, allowing them to develop exceptional flavour which can be experienced in the cup.
The remaining ten per cent of Mexican specialty coffee is natural processed and honey-processed, imparting varying amounts of fruitier flavours on the coffee.
With the majority of the Mexican specialty coffee industry being made up of small-holder farms and co-ops, working with local importers allows us to source some of the finest specialty coffee in Mexico knowing producers and farmers are receiving a premium price for their best coffee.
In 2021 our Head of Coffee in London, Nuno, went on a trip organised by Ensambles to their own coffee farm, El Equimite, in Veracruz. Ensambles is an importer our UK team work with who source excellent coffee in four of the fifteen Mexican coffee-producing regions — Chiapas, Veracruz, Oaxaca and Guerrero.
Visiting the El Equimite farm has lead to us purchasing their impressive coffee. Being one of only two biodynamic coffee farms in Mexico, and the only one solely focusing on specialty coffee production, this is an incredible partnership for us to showcase.
Mexican coffee is a comparatively new offering here at Allpress. While not featuring much in our Southern Hemisphere roasteries, our UK team feature Mexican coffee in Our Coffee Galaxy regularly. The team have been working with Ensambles Cafés Mexicanos since 2020, buying their Xochiltepec lot, among others.
While understated, Mexican specialty coffee has been making waves in the industry for the past few years. With incredible attention to detail and improved channels for exporting their coffee to the world, expect to see more Mexican specialty coffee on the shelves in the near future.