One of our roasters, Bud Patterson, recently went to Mexico, here's what happened:
At the beginning of this year, I was presented with the opportunity to travel on my first ever trip to origin. Being a roaster and working with Kaldi’s, I knew an opportunity to travel would present itself eventually but I had no idea what to expect. I arrived in Chiapas after a long day of traveling from St. Louis to Houston to Mexico City to Chiapas. I spent my first night in a very interesting hotel that was built into a greenhouse-type structure and that had a whole eco system inside, from trees and live birds to fountains and lagoons for swimming. Unfortunately I didn’t get an opportunity to truly enjoy the place because I had been traveling for 15 plus hours and had to be up early to catch the van for our tour of coffee in Mexico.
The next day we all packed into two vans and really began our journey. Our first stop was a Dry Mill owned and operated by a group of three separate co-ops.The mill was like a central hub for the three co-ops to get together, learn from each other, and provide helpful information to the farmers. This mill also provides organic fertilizers for the farmers that were members of each co-op. Later in the week, we came back to the mill and roasted the first samples of the season. We cupped with the cuppers and operation managers of each of the three co-ops. Some of us gave lessons on how to sample roast and we all went over the standards and practices of SCAA cupping.
View from Finca Santa Rosa.
While in Chiapas we visited several farms, not all of which were members of the same co-op but all were unique and beautiful in their own ways. The first farm we visited was near the top of a mountain and covered in shade. The owners were fantastic. They had just brought in some cherry and they had a decent amount of parchment drying on their own patio. They washed and de-pulped the coffee for us when we arrived and each of us took turns raking the coffee (see the videos below). After that we went on a tour of their farm and learned that they and many other farmers in the area have been having issues with a fungus called Rust or “Roya”. This is a huge issue for most of Mexico. Finally, before departing the farm and heading back to town we saw some of their sustainable projects. They had a garden for all their vegetables, chickens, and pigs, and fruit trees throughout their whole farm.
The next day we were back to work and on our way to Coatepec. We visited several farms and nurseries. Unfortunately we did not visit any of the farms were we get our coffee from. We did go to the processing mills it goes through though. Coatepec is gorgeous at night. It resembles a small European villa, with bright colors and beautiful stone homes with ivy growing up the sides. The streets are a combination cobblestone and pavements. The cafes all had their own unique touches, from vintage grinders to old espresso machines from the 80s. Music plays in the streets and venders with cups of corn and taco stands litter the village square. While in Coatepec we visited one Plantation in particular that stood out to me, with one of the most breathtaking views I have witnessed. We spent all day with a gentleman who does his best to take care of everyone in his own area. He brought us into his home and shared with us his stories of struggle and plenty, of building this plantation, and special orange liquor he makes himself from a fruit that grows from trees he plants to provide shade for his coffee plants.
Finally, the night before we departed, we got a special night tour of a decaffeination plant. This was one of the most interesting and secretive tours I have ever been on. No pictures were allowed and most questions were left unanswered. But I can now say I have a better understanding of how coffee is decaffeinated. I also learned that they reuse the caffeine that they extract from the coffee for other products such as soda, Aspirins and energy drinks.
That was the end of my journey to Mexico. It was amazing and I came back with so much more knowledge and life experiences. It will truly be a part of my best memories.