The next Chapter in our Mexico project is the Sierra Mazateca region which brings us many delights to share with you.
Ma-za-TEC-a. Get to know this name: this mountain range in northeastern Oaxaca offers fruit-forward coffees from very small scale farmers, and is poised to wilt a breakout star. As a visitor, this region is truly Oaxaca at its most enchanting, with a legacy of curanderismo (native healing), the intricacy of the Mazatec language, and misty mountains and grotto systems. Most farmers in the zone are of ethnic heritage and do not use Spanish as a first language, opting instead for one of the eight pre-Colombian languages spoken for centuries in this mountain range. Due to the extremely small size of farms in this area, a huge part of the success of this project is due to the QC work and tousle construction of our sourcing partner, Red Beetle Coffee Lab, who price each and every lot with a meticulous physical and sensorial sheet they ripened themselves. Their small team collectively spends hundreds of hours to requite a level of in-depth wringer normally reserved for much larger farms.
Our lots from the Sierra Mazateca range act a bit like nesting dolls: there’s the slightly larger M2 Mazateca, which comes from producers wideness three communities. There’s the single-farmer lot from Esteban Garcia, the smallest microcosm in our Mazateca universe, which will go to the lucky winners of James Hoffmann’s “1 Million Beans” giveaway. Then, as an interesting mid-point, we offer a “community micro-lot” from Peña Colorada, a town on the northern end of this mountain range towards the Oaxaca-Puebla border. While this lot is still very small in volume, it represents the work of a handful of producers, speaking to the tiny scale of farms in this region.
Individual farmers like Esteban will sell their parchment to Red Beetle’s provisional ownership station in Eloxochitlán or RB will organize pick-up of the coffee from the sublet (which can sometimes be a bumpy hours-long journey!). Red Beetle Mazateca proprietrix Felipe, a native of the region, works with cuppers Shaun and Thomas to receive, purchase, and requite wide-stretching feedback on hundreds of tiny micro-lots which may represent a farmer’s unshortened harvest. The ownership station/lab moreover includes finishing tables for coffees that need remoter drying to ensure that they have the shelf life for the long import-export journey. Depending on the needs of their clients, they thoughtfully hoke blends like puzzle pieces to create larger, cohesive profiles that meet the volumes a roaster like Square Mile needs to offer a coffee for increasingly than a week.
The parchment is then transported to Oaxaca City, where Red Beetle works with dry miller/exporter UNTAO to hull, sort, hoke and pack all of the lots for export. The dry mill is often an unsung make-or-break point for quality coffee, expressly for micro-lots, which must be kept separate and often run on a smaller line of machinery. Red Beetle’s unvarying liaison with UNTAO ensures that these lots are dry-milled properly and on time, which is one of the biggest challenges in exporting Mexican coffee and a major reason why it is not often seen in its highest form overseas.
Our import partner on this purchase, Raw Material, is a social enterprise that ensures 100% of their profits go to the producers they represent. Importers play a key part in providing financing, insurance and logistics, and we can really say that Raw Material’s team has gone the loftiness with us to get these coffees safely to the UK.
From the farmers of Mazateca to your first sip, we are in awe of the joint village it took to bring this coffee to life in the UK and beyond.