If there’s any specialty coffee origin that we think deserves way more attention than it currently gets, it would have to be Mexico.
This might be a bit surprising, especially when you consider the stats:
- Mexico is one of Latin America’s top coffee producing countries, only trailing behind powerhouses like Brazil, Colombia and Honduras.
- Mexico is the 9th largest coffee producing country in the world.
- The top source for imported coffee in the U.S is—you guessed it—Mexico.
Despite this prolific production, we don’t often see single-origin Mexican coffees featured on café menus—at least not nearly as much as neighboring Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. And when roasters do use Mexican coffees, they tend to just throw them into a blend.
Our founder, Jiyoon, recently traveled to Veracruz, Mexico to take part in judging the 2023 Mexico Cup of Excellence competition and her main takeaway couldn’t be more clear: Mexico has been producing world-class specialty coffees and everyone needs to get their hands on some.
History of coffee in Mexico
Like many other Latin American countries, coffee was introduced to Mexico by European settlers in the 1800’s. However, it was only after a series of agricultural revolutions and agrarian land reforms that took place in the first half of the 20th century and saw the redistribution of land from wealthy elites into the hands of indigenous peoples that coffee production really took off. By the 1980’s, coffee production became Mexico’s most valuable export crop with the states of Veracruz, Chiapas and Oaxaca dedicating over 70% of all arable land to growing coffee.
Today, coffee is still a major crop for Mexico; production forecasts for 2023/2024 at 4.1m bags (~272m tons).
Mexico’s coffee producing regions
While coffee is grown throughout Mexico, the vast majority of production is concentrated in the southern regions of Veracruz, Chiapas and Oaxaca. While each of these regions produces unique and distinctive coffees, what’s even more interesting is that each region specializes in different farming practices.
Veracruz is home to Mexico’s largest farming cooperatives and as well as its leading coffee research centers. Many Mexican coffee farmers will often travel to Veracruz annually to learn about the latest practices that they can then apply to their own farms.
Coffees from Veracruz are renowned for their clarity of flavor and their balance of ripe red fruit and caramel sweetness—much like the best coffees coming out of Colombia.
Situated on the Guatemalan border, Chiapas produces the most coffee out of all of Mexico’s regions at 40% of total yield. Chiapas also tends to be the most consistent region in both quantity and quality. Farmers in Chiapas have been more proactive than most at undertaking farm renovations, changing out old coffee trees and planting more disease-resistant varieties. While there might not be as many exciting or innovative coffees coming out of Chiapas compared to Oaxaca, what is being produced is still dependably solid and high-quality. You can expect stellar washed coffees with sugary sweetness and notes of cocoa and toffee.
Oaxacan coffees are truly singular, and this could be due in part to many farmers in this region eschewing more modern practices. Oaxaca might be the least technologically advanced of the three regions, but the coffees that farmers are producing are unlike any other. Farmers will often process coffees “en la manera vieja” or “the old way” in which coffees are allowed to ferment in large, permabel wooden tanks. Combined with painstakingly meticulous lot separation practices, this results in coffees that are wildly floral and exceptionally bright and fruity. These are definitely coffees that are unlike any other!
Mexico Cup of Excellence 2023
Over the course of 4 days, Jiyoon tasted 40 coffees that all scored over 86 points and were selected by a panel of 53 national judges.
By day 3, all coffees that scored over 87 points were entered into the final auction.
Day 4 was the toughest part: deciding the top 10 coffees out of all 40 amazing offerings.
This might have been one of the most diverse and interesting lineup of Cup of Excellence coffees yet! The winners are typically Geshas, but this year there were several obscure varieties that scored well, such as Obata and Marsellesa. These are both rare varieties that are known for their pronounced acidity and floral notes.
Bean & Bean’s Mexico Offerings
All of our decaf lovers out there have known for a while now how amazing Mexican coffee is since all of our decaf comes from Chiapas! It’s decaffeinated using a very labor-intensive, chemical-free process called Mountain Water Process that preserves all of the coffee’s original flavors. We love this decaf since we can drink it at all hours of the day, and we encourage everyone to give it a try!
Vanessa, a 3rd generation coffee farmer who took over Los Cantiles from her parents
We’ll soon be adding another Mexico offering: Mexico Veracruz Los Cantiles Honey! This is a lovely honey-processed coffee from Veracruz using Colombia and Costa rica 95 varieties. We’re super excited about this coffee, not only because you don’t often see honey-processed coffees from Mexico, but also because Bean & Bean will be this farm’s first international client!
This coffee will first be available through the Fellow Drops subscription. After that, all remaining coffee will be available for sale on our website—including more Mexican coffees to come!
Sip and read more: