Coffee farmers in Veracruz, Mexico show potential to improve quality
June 9 - 2022
Coffee Geography Magazine
Veracruz is where coffee got its start in mainland America. Coffee plants arrived at the port of Veracruz in the 18th century, with the first plantings near Córdoba. From there, coffee made its way to other parts of Mexico and South America. By the end of the 19th century, Veracruz was producing three-fourths of Mexico’s coffee.
The Mexican Revolution, land redistribution in the 1930s and other economic activities such as oil has since pushed this percentage down. Today, Veracruz accounts for only 24% of Mexico’s coffee production.
Despite being the second largest producer of coffee in Mexico after Chiapas, Veracruz’s coffee reputation is highly linked to low-quality beans used for instant coffee, in particular the ubiquitous Nescafé brand.
Nestlé had built a coffee production factory in the municipality of Veracruz, Mexico in 2019. The production facility processes 20,000t of green coffee beans a year. Around $96m of green beans a year are sourced from coffee producers in Veracruz, which are used to produce coffee brands such as Nespresso, Nescafé Gold, Taster’s Choice, Dolce Gusto, Cappuccino, Coffee-mate and Reserva Mexicana.
Veracruz has 10 regions north to south that can grow the bean, and it is still a vital cash crop in 842 communities in 82 municipalities. By far, most are very small producers with small plots who feverishly try to get as much coffee out of them as possible to survive.
A lot of that production is of the low-quality robusta bean for mainstream commercial coffees. Robusta is relatively easy to grow and has ready customers, even if they pay very little.
However, Veracruz has areas suited for the growing of quality and even superb coffees. Varying between 700 and 1,400 meters in altitude, the region, marked off by the cities of Xalapa, Córdoba and Orizaba, is prime coffee country. This area not only has the climate that arabica beans need but also volcanic soils that impart an intense aroma and full body along with spice notes.
Serious work is needed at the learning and growing end, and there is no guarantee that the final crop will be ranked as “specialty” or gourmet quality after harvesting. Experience tempers this, but weather issues are always a risk. However some small farms such as Cañada Fría, El Suspiro, Kassandra, Arriaga have already showed their successes by winning national and international awards for their quality coffee beans.
To make the most out of small farms is agricultural and ecotourism. México with its proximity to the U.S and Canada, these coffee farms attracts tourists where increasing numbers are already visiting Córdoba, Coatepec, Orizaba and Xalapa.
There is a Coffee Route (Ruta de Café), but it is not like others, such as the Ruta de Chocolate in Tabasco. There, you can drive along a marked road and find signs advertising farms with restaurants, stores selling chocolate and even short demonstrations of how chocolate is grown and processed. There is nothing like this in northern Veracruz.