Producer: Various Smallholders
Origin: Sierra Mazateca
Varietal: Typica, Mundo Novo, Bourbon
Altitude: 1200-2000 metres above sea level
Process: Mountain Water Decaf
Flavours: Mandarin, Baked Apple & Caramel
Cup Score: TBC
Importer: Raw Material
Where is it from?
The Mazateca is located in the state of Oaxaca, one of the most diverse states in México, both biologically and culturally. The Mazateca gets its name from the presence of the indigenous group, the Mazatec,
which is a Nahualt name that translates to “the deer people”. However, in their language, Mazatec, the group is called Ha Shuta Enima, which means “those who work the hills”.
The land is found between the regions of La Cañada and the Papaloapán Valley, at the northern tip of the state of Oaxaca. As part of the Sierra Madre Sur and the Sierra Oriental, the land is surrounded by
high mountains, cliffs, and hills of mainly mesophile forest, bathed by constant rains, and the intermittent presence of mist.
The Mazateca is an important indigenous region where 92% of the population speaks an indigenous language, mostly Mazatec, with a few Nahuatl and Mixtec speakers also. The locals show a connection to
their ancestry through their celebrations and traditions, such as celebrations for each town patron, day of the dead, local seed sowing traditions, and many others.
The region is also one of the most lacking in health and education coverage in the country with an alarming poverty and illiteracy level. It is made up of small and isolated communities where the main
economic activity is small-scale agriculture since few people own more than a couple of hectares of land.
There is an important tradition of coffee growing in this region. The steep landscape makes for hard work but is also the reason for the outstanding cup quality, which for a long time was lost in huge blends.
By separating and cupping the small lots individually it is possible to separate the outstanding, the good, the not-so-bad and the plain right ugly.
The average price in the region was MX$35 (US$1.70) / kg of parchment coffee for many years. Even with the high market prices of 2021, the local price only reached MX$45.
The average price this year was MX$80, many producers received a lot more due to that being just the average. Most of the producers continue the coffee production of their parents and grandparents and often the whole family works together at harvest time. Sadly, this is being threatened due to a mixture of low coffee prices, coffee leaf rust, ageing plants and a lack of resources and assistance from private or public
sectors. This has led to a drop in yields, as low as 100kg per hectare, as a reference, the average in Colombia is 2,400 kg per hectare, and in Brazil up to 5,200 kg.
For the past twenty years, this has contributed to an alarming increase in the migration of young people to major cities in Mexico and the United States. The rise in the abandonment of land and coffee crops by the young has also left the very heavy-handed and labour-intensive coffee work to the elderly producers, many of whom we work with are above the age of 70 and even older than 80 years old.
The weather, the land, and the producers together generate extraordinary coffees in this region. The varieties mainly cultivated are Typica, Mundo Novo and Caturra. Most of these plants tend to be over 40
years old which is a major contributing factor to the low yields. The average amount of coffee processed by each producer per harvest can be as low as 100kg, They often keep a considerable part for themselves.
This means we all too often buy lots of 20kg from each producer (the smallest lot we have received was 4kg).
The large amount of work for gathering and cupping samples and the micro-lots turns out to be worth the effort due to the complexity of the coffees that this region produces. This is undeniably one of the most impressive coffee-producing regions our origin partners Raw Material, work in, in Mexico. In the Mazateca most producers may harvest around 100 kilos, but the greater majority is kept for consumption. For this reason, some blends come from numerous producers. Every lot (no matter the size) is always fully analysed to not compromise on quality.
Most coffee producers in the Mazateca have between 0.5 to 5 hectares of land with the average producer owning less than one hectare. This means that, as in much of Oaxaca, production is very small and yields are lower here than in other areas of the state.
The Sierra Mazateca mountain range is located to the north of Oaxaca city and forms much of the state’s border with Veracruz. The region is very remote, hard to access and marked by its steep and dramatic topography.
Today the region is rarely visited, and even in the coffee world, it is often neglected due to the challenging conditions, remote locations and small production. Even by Oaxaca’s low standards production yields are tiny here in part due to the cool temperatures. Coffee is generally grown at 1500 metres and above in the Mazateca and at this latitude, these altitudes experience very low temperatures making frost damage a real issue for producers.
This climate and these altitudes also contribute positively to the cup profile and in general, coffees from the Mazateca are among the most complex and highest quality in all of Mexico. Many producers here do not speak Spanish, and Mazateco is the first language for the vast majority of people in the region. This can make organisation and coordination a little tough, but the quality and potential make the Mazateca one of the main focuses of our work in Mexico.
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