Top coffees in Mexico can be a world unto themselves. Which is no wonder given Mexico’s southern highlands unique terroir, its high latitude, and the bourbon and typica cultivars that growers have kept alive for generations. Each year, we receive coffees luxuriously caramel-like with cacao nib complexity, citrus and stone fruit flavors, light florals, fresh cream and nutmeg. Royal has been buying coffee in Mexico since the country’s heyday of output in the 1980s, Finca San Carlos in Oaxaca being one of our company’s longest contiguous relationships anywhere. Many of our tried-and-true cooperative offerings have been annual inventory for us since the 1990s when the coops themselves were formed. More recently, Royal has deepened a relationship with one of the most fearless and inspiring independent smallholder representatives we can think of: Rosalba Cifuentes of Mayan Harvest in Chiapas.

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History of Mexican Coffee

Mexico’s coffee often feels like a sleeping giant. Mexico has long been one of the world’s largest coffee producers, exporting 3-4 million bags a year, often 25% more than neighboring Guatemala. The country has around 500,000 coffee farmers, 95% of whom farm less than three hectares apiece, and 96% of their coffee is grown in the shade. Most of this shade-grown, highland coffee goes to buyers in the United States, yet very little of it is featured on roaster menus due to average quality and low differentiation. 

 

Mexico has enjoyed serious national coffee investment up to the 1990s, but since then the country’s coffee growers, 85% of whom are indigenous, have struggled in a support vacuum, relying on grassroots organizing to keep their coffee going. Due to low farmgate prices and lack of credit, Mexico’s producers were unable for many years to fertilize or rejuvenate their farms. The resulting quality loss in the cup kept most of Mexico’s coffee serving humble roles as certified blenders or decaf options for roasters worldwide.  

 

Cooperatives were formed in southern Mexico throughout the 1990s to replace the transportation, processing, security, and marketing structures that the national sector left in the lurch. Their presence shaped the lush southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas into what they are today: some of the world’s leading producers of Fair Trade and organic washed mild coffee. Much of this volume is clean and simple, delicately sweet, satisfying as dark roasts, and promotable as sustainably produced. These are the standard profiles from such groups as CEPCO in Oaxaca and CESMACH in Chiapas, two grower cooperatives whose coffee Royal has been buying for more than 25 years apiece. 

Mexican coffees tend to be lighter bodied and mild, with subtle flavors. Think of creamy chocolate, baking spices, and sweet citrus acidity. However, there is huge potential for them to be outstanding: the 2019 Cup of Excellence saw six coffees break through the 90-point threshold. Although 90% of the coffee produced in Mexico is washed, producers are improving processes and quality year after year, as more farmers enter the specialty market. 

There are four main growing regions in Mexico, spanning 12 states. The first two are the coastal regions on both the side of the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, then there’s the North-Central region, and the south-eastern region, primarily Chiapas. Of these, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz, and Puebla produce 94% of country’s total volume.  

 

  • Oaxaca 
  • Chiapas 
  • Veracruz 
  • Guerrero 

FAQ

Harvest happens October through December, and coffees tend to arrive in North America in Springtime.  

Mexico typically produces mostly washed coffees (90%) but some honey and naturals coming to market 

Bourbon, Caturra, Maragogype, Mundo Novo, Catimor, Catuai, Pluma Hidalgo, Garnica, Garien, Oro Azteca