Back in March I travelled to Oaxaca to participate in a regional quality competition. The first of it's kind in this sub region of Southern Mexico, our importing partner Red Fox Coffee Merchants created a "best of" or "brigada" competition to recognize the quality coffee coming out of the Sierra Mixteca mountains. In conjunction with the Sierra Mixteca co-op, I participated on a tasting panel with 5 other top roasters from around the country to taste and rank the top 40 samples of the harvest. One of the amazing things about this event was that the producers were present during the tasting, and were able to witness our tasting protocol and interact with the buyers of their coffee, which is not the norm in the industry for tasting competitions. Along with the Red Fox team, we tasted and ranked these 40 coffees and awarded top pricing and recognition to the small holder farmers.
This itself was a joy to be a part of. We toured small farms in the morning first thing. The event took place in the small, clean, re-building town center of Guadalupe, Miramar. It has stunning views looking out over the Sierra Madre mountain range extending all the way to the Pacific ocean. It's a special place with a ton of untapped potential for quality, way way off the beaten path for coffee buyers. After the farm tours, we met at the local event center and basketball court. The local farmers had set up a harvest fest to show off other locally grown products, as well as the coffee. Beautiful vegetables, corn, tortillas, beans, and handcrafted good were proudly on display for us to see and taste. Organic agriculture is the standard here.
When it was time to taste coffee, we gathered in the center of the court and arranged the coffees and our equipment. The support from the crowd was stunning. 300-400 people filled the center and looked on. Never before had I had people watch me taste and evaluate coffee quality! There was even a band that played during interludes and an MC who narrated the event.
In the cup, were the real highlights of the trip. The quality stunned us all. It should be said that Mexico has not and does not have a reputation for outstanding quality. We all went in with tame expectations, yet having tasted a couple of the samples a couple days prior, we knew there were going to be some standouts. When it was all said and done however, there was not a mediocre coffee on the tables. There were about 10 of exceptional quality. Ripe stone fruits, blazing citrus, candied chocolate, and a refreshing juiciness were all there in spades. The top lots were going for 4 times the fair trade price. We picked up 2 coffees from the brigada and several more from the producing area. These coffees both scored in the top 5 out of 40. I was extremely excited to land my favorite coffee, grown by Arturo Ramirez. It was all black cherry and navel orange. It was a tiny lot, and even smaller because we cordially split it with Ritual Coffee Roasters out of San Fransisco.
Due to the small size of the lot, we are offering it in 6oz bags. This will allow more of the coffee to get out there in to more hands. We partnered with local photography Jay Rush for the artwork. He spend a bunch of time in Mexico and our coffee shop! He seemed like the perfect fit to provide the stunning photo used on the bag. The photo was taken in Baja Sur, Mexico.
A link to purchase the coffee can be found here. Due to the limited quantity, I expect it to only be here for a few weeks. Act fast or miss out!
As a side note, I met and chatted with Arturo after the event. He was excited to meet and connect with me so he could talk about his farm and processes. Next March, I will for sure visit and check it out in person. A humble and young guy, he is passionate about investing more into his operation and improving quality even further. We hope to support and drink his coffee for years to come. Finally, Arturo is a huge Chicago Bulls fan. Basketball is king here and we bonded over the love of the sport. I was able to track down the official red color of the Bulls, and the label on the informational side of the coffee bag is adorned in proper Bull's red.
Thanks for reading our first blog post! We will be sharing these on the regular to convey more details about our company, our coffee, and stories along the way!