Coffee… perfect for lifting your spirits and energy in the morning as well as enjoying a pleasant chat, coffee has become an everyday essential delight. Its characteristic bitter taste and penetrating aroma have earned it a good place in all homes and routines around the world.
We know that here, at our Zócalo Blog, we’ve dedicated our time to show you the Richness of Mexican history and traditions, the incredible flavors found across, and the impressive techniques used in artisanal products. But did you know that Mexico also cultivates coffee beans of the highest quality?
Mexico’s immense biodiversity and ecosystems allow for thousands of crops to be grown and harvested with the highest quality and taste, and this includes coffee. Join us today as we highlight the coffee production that takes place in Mexico, describing what each different region has to offer and allowing coffee enthusiasts and beginners alike the opportunity to explore their favorite blend.
History of Mexican Coffee
Historians believe that coffee seeds were first taken from the coffee forests of Southwestern Ethiopia to Yemen, where it was cultivated as a crop. Thus, the same as other coffee-producing countries in Latin America, the coffee tree is not an endemic plant grown in Mexico. Instead, coffee was introduced to Mexico by European colonizers.
Although coffee is not native to Mexico, it has been cultivated and produced since the end of the 18th century. There are, nonetheless, different versions about when coffee arrived in Mexico. Some historians believe that it was introduced by French merchants, who imported it from the Caribbean island of Martinique, still a French colony today. Other historians, indicate that it was Don Juan Antonio Gómez de Guevara, a Spanish Count, who brought a coffee plant from Cuba and planted it in his Hacienda de Guadalupe, located in the town of Amatlán de los Reyes, fifteen minutes south of Córdoba, Veracruz.
Even though coffee plantations have been in Mexico for centuries, It wasn’t until many decades later that commercial coffee production became a viable opportunity for Mexico. After the Mexican revolution in the 1900s, the newly-formed government made sweeping agricultural and labor reforms that incentivized farmers for coffee cultivation.
By the 1970s, the Mexican government decided to form a new governing body called the “Instituto Mexicano del Cafe (INMECAFE)” or The Mexican Coffee Institute, which supported producers in cultivation and coffee pricing. However, almost 20 years later, the dissolution of INMECAFE and the International Coffee Agreement in 1989, caused the Mexican coffee industry’s production, prices, and export to take a sharp decline resulting in most growers trying hard to stay afloat.
More recently, cooperatives have sprung up to support producers, and Mexican coffee production is steadily rising again. Today, most of the premium coffee beans are grown at small farms and micro-lots and have helped the country be the 8th largest coffee producer globally.
Types of Mexican Coffee, and Its Regions
Today, Mexico produces coffee grains of the highest quality, since its topography, altitude, climate, and soil allow it to cultivate and produce wide varieties that are classified among the best in the world. The two generic varieties that are produced in Mexico are the "Arabica" and “Robusta” grains. Of the first type, around 120 varieties are grown in Mexico.
Coffee in Mexico is one of the main agricultural export products, accounting for about half of agricultural exports and about 5 percent of total Mexican exports. It also exerts a great socioeconomic influence. It is produced mainly in the Southern-Central states of the country, where the Sierra Madre del Sur and the Sierra Madre Oriental meet.
When we talk about coffee production in Mexico, Veracruz, Oaxaca, or Chiapas automatically come to mind. However, today we will explore the different states that also have coffee production in Mexico, which perhaps you did not know about. The most prominent coffee-producing states are:
Chiapas Coffee ranks first in coffee production in Mexico. They manage to produce more than 1.8 million bags of coffee per year. The production here is found in large farms. The coffee-growing areas of the state of Chiapas are characterized by their environmental, technical, economic, and socio-cultural contrasts, which influence grain production. Coffee from Chiapas is distinguished by its freshness and balanced flavor, despite its high acidity, intense aroma, and citrus notes; the result of the geographical conditions and humid climate of this region.
Veracruz is the state that saw a coffee tree planted for the first time in Mexico in the 18th century and the second coffee-producing state in Mexico. Veracruz is characterized by its climates with high humidity and cloudy winters and volcanic soils, which provides the sensory characteristics of its grains. These coffees have high acidity, intense aroma, notes of spices, and well-defined bodies.
In Oaxaca, coffee is grown in 7 of the 8 regions of the state. Its climate and soils allow for highly specialized coffee grains. We can find coffee that grows from 900 meters above sea level to coffee harvested at more than 2,000 meters above sea level. The characteristic of Oaxacan coffee is one of the most popular thanks to its sweet and toasted flavor, with low acidity and medium body. In addition, the beans from this state usually combine aromas and notes of chocolate, roasted walnuts, pumpkin, and tangerine.
As we mentioned before, the coffee grains that have become most popular in the country and that also have great national and international recognition are from Oaxaca, Chiapas and Veracruz. However, it is worth mentioning the other important states in Mexico that produce coffee in case you are visiting or would like to inquire into different Mexican coffees:
The soil in Puebla has very particular characteristics which have allowed cultivating and harvesting some of the varieties that are considered the best in the world, giving an Arabica variety coffee with a mild flavor. Also, Cuetzalan coffee is famous for its balanced flavor in terms of flavor, aroma, acidity, and body, being produced at an average height of 1200 meters above sea level.
Guerrero is another of the states with the best coffee production in Mexico, since the beans grown in this region are considered to be of high quality thanks to its soil and climate. With flavors and aromas ranging from mild to medium.
Despite only having been growing coffee for a few years, Hidalgo has earned an important place in the Mexican coffee scene. Originally from four different areas of the Sierra Hidalgo, the cultivated varieties are Typica, Bourbon, Mundo Novo and Geisha.
San Luis Potosí
In San Luis Potosí there are coffee growing areas such as Xilitla, Aquismón and Huehuetlán, with some of the best varieties of coffee in Mexico. These plots with more than 100 years of tradition have a mild flavor and aroma in most of their varieties.
Nayarit coffee is one of the best, with more than 150 years of tradition, a legacy of a group of French families that introduced the first plantations in the Malinal region. Thus, the peaks of Huicicila in Compostela are one of the most important areas in terms of coffee production in Mexico, with medium and sophisticated flavors and aromas.
In Colima, the coffee has fruity notes, moderate acidity, and great body. These characteristics are because this grain is cultivated between 1,300 and 1,600 meters above sea level, in addition to being an organic coffee, cultivated in the shade and with a totally ecological processing.
Coffee plantations in Jalisco are located mainly in Cuautitlán de García Barragán, Cabo Corrientes, and Talpa de Allende. This last municipality congregates most of coffee plantations. Jalisco coffee comes from special grains due to the conditions that occur in the Mexican Pacific: it is a little drier and there is the presence of volcanic soils, which grants the coffee with special notes and acidity harder to find in other regions of Mexico.
The coffee production here is carried out in the municipalities of Tacotalpa, Teapa, and Huimanguillo, each under different agroclimatic and socioeconomic conditions. The technology is low level, it is characterized by the conditions of micro-farming with a traditional polyculture system. Though dedicated mostly to self-consumption, the production techniques have slowly made this a coffee growing in popularity.
State of Mexico
Due to its excellent quality, consumer demand has increased making it more and more present within the market. Growth expectations are high for this state in terms of coffee production in Mexico.
Landa de Matamoros, Querétaro, is a coffee growing area, specifically a small community called Agua Zarca. This community is quite far from the capital, that is why the producers choose to distribute their grains within the vicinity of the community.
In Morelos there is a small municipality called Zacualpan de Amilpas, were ninety percent of its inhabitants preserve the tradition transmitted from generations before them. Their artisanal production consists of keeping their coffee plantations in their huge corrals, then leaving it for two weeks to dry in the sun’s rays, and finally begin the grinding process using a mill; a tradition that is approximately 120 years old. Zacualpan has the best organic coffee in the state of Morelos, due to its climate, it has a height of 1,600 meters above sea level, therefore it is considered to be a high-altitude coffee.
In the Uruapan region, high quality coffee is produced as it has the climate and soil conditions necessary to plant and harvest excellent coffee. Despite having had its peak of production a century ago, it is still an economic activity that is exploited by some families that continue the tradition of producing coffee in Michoacán.
With Mexico’s reputation in culinary delights, the way the coffee is brewed certainly fits the description for unique flavors. In those same flavors one will find the most typical beverage of all: Café de Olla, known by many as Mexican Coffee. This coffee is typically consumed in rural areas, often in a cold climate. Traditionally, the Mexican ground coffee is brewed in an earthen clay pot called an Olla, and is mixed with cinnamon and brown sugar, also known as piloncillo, and sometimes more spices, giving the Cafe de Olla a crisp brightness perfectly balanced with coffee’s sweet and spicy flavor.
Depending on the tonality in flavor that you prefer, one or the other will be the one for you, but without a doubt, we highly recommend enjoying a unique cup of Mexican coffee today. If you would like to check them out, don't forget to visit our Food Market section to browse our Café Punta del Cielo coffee varieties!
So, what are your thoughts? Would you like us to share a coffee recipe soon? Did you know about the different regions of Mexican coffee? What else would you like us to talk about, we would love to hear from you!
I love Mexico and it’s culture. Thanks so much for all of your articles on the culture, recipes and places to visit. My list is getting longer.