In 2012, Cup of Excellence (COE) came to Mexico for the first time, bringing with it the opportunity for major players in the Mexican coffee sector to meet and interact. This gathering provided an opportunity for the staff from Sustainable Harvest’s® origin office in Oaxaca to meet CAFECOL’s Jorge Martinez, as well as Shinji Sekine of Wataru, Japan. After being impressed by coffees entered into COE by farmers from the Zongoloica region of Veracruz, CAFECOL contacted Sierra Alta Coffee Council of Zongolica. A trip was quickly was quickly arranged for the buyers and representatives from Sustainable Harvest to travel to the region.
The Zongolica region produces close to six million pounds of coffee annually in an area of 9,836 hectares, making it a huge untapped market for both Sustainable Harvest® and our roaster customers. During the visit, Sustainable Harvest® had the opportunity to meet two Zongolican farmers, Adán Altamirano Dominguez the owner of the Estribo coffee plantation and and Amelio Fuentes Cepahua, the owner of El Cerro.
The Estribo coffee plantation is between 1325 and 1430 meters above sea level with many different flora including avocado, liquid amber and pine trees that create an ideal shade environment for growing coffee. Creole, Bourbon, and Red and Yellow Caturra are the varietals grown on the plantation. Currently yield is relatively low due to an older, under-producing portion of the land, which Adán plans to renovate soon. A unique aspect of the farm is a natural reservoir called Texala, which encompasses three hectares of land. The water in the reservoir is pristine - Adán has kept it preserved since he inherited the land from his father - and it provides the necessary water for his house and the wet mill used for processing all of Estribo coffee.
Next door to Estribo is Amelio’s El Cerro plantation. Once a part of Estribo (Amelio purchased the land from Adán), the characteristics of the soil and altitude are very similar between the two plantations. Amelio produces mostly Bourbon coffee, with a small percentage of Caturra. Managed meticulously, the coffee trees are uniform in age and characteristics. A key difference from Estribo is that the land is densely shaded, making disease a concern – especially what is known colloquially as “ojo de gallo”, or black sores of the coffee tree. As such, Amelio and his staff work hard to manage the shade level throughout the growing season.
Though neither Amelio or Adán are part of a coffee cooperative, they benefit greatly from the Sierra Alta Coffee Council of Zongolica, an organization that works with farmers to increase quality and productivity of the region’s plantations. The council helps to educate and train independent farmers, and provide them with the tools they need to produce the highest quality coffee. Coffee will position them as top competitors in future Cup of Excellence events.