notes of chocolate fudge, caramel, and fig spread.
region: oaxaca, sierra sur
community: huerta del rio
producers: jose and marcelina mendoza vasquez
varietals: typica la pluma and bourbon (90%), caturra and mundo novo (10%)
elevation: 1800 - 1950 masl
decaf process: mwp
importer: crop to cup/showroom
from crop to cup:
Oaxacan coffee is grown on small plots spread over a large, diverse range. Well, three ranges actually. Oaxaca is where the Sierra Madre del Sur and Sierra Mixteca ranges come together to form the Sierra Madre Occidental as it heads north. The town of Putla sits in a valley right at this intersection, right on the border between Oaxaca and the State of Guerrero. The coffee grown along the valley walls is kissed by the Pacific mists every morning, baked in hot sun during the day, and chilled at night – it’s perfect coffee climate. Huerta del Rio means ‘garden of the river’, a name that nods to the many mountain rivers that run down this steep slope in Sierra Mixteca Alta. Rain clouds rise up the mountain in the morning, fed by the Pacific Ocean less than 100km away. By midday they’ve fallen again, giving coffee farms in the area a short but strong stint of direct heat before fogging up again in the evening.
If you make your way to the mountain pueblo of Santa Cruz Tutiahua (tooti-ah-wha) you will find Jose Vasquez, and his wife Marcelina Mendoza Vasquez, at the center of nearly 130 farming families in the region. This group gets together once every 2-3 months to trade tips, labor, and equipment – they are committed to organic practices, promote composting, the sluice from which is sprayed on to younger trees. This type of cooperation is rarer than you might think, and testament to the personalities of Jose and Marcelina.
This is the Mixteca region of Oaxaca, a place where farms are small (no more than 3 hectares), yield low (300 lbs of parchment per hectare // 2.5 KG cherry per tree). They have a strong tradition of selective picking, but no direct access to customers. In part this is due to geography – to get to these farms you have to drive over what is known as the ‘devil’s backbone’, a very dangerous mountain pass. And part of it is cultural – most farmers in this region speak some form of Mixteca, and rely on families like Jose and Marcelina Vasquez as a connection to their Spanish-speaking countrymen.