Farm: Productores Mixes-Zapotecos Sociedad de Producción Rural de Responsabilidad Ilimitada (Promizap)
Varietal: Arabica Criollo & Garnica
Processing: Fully washed & dried on patios or roofs
Altitude: 1,200 to 1,700 metres above sea level
Owner: 200 small holder farmers from 3 towns
Town / City: San Juan Yalahui, San Pedro Ayacastepec & San Miguel Quetzaltepec
Region: Sierra Azul, Oaxaca
Monte Azul Oaxaca Organic - Mexico
This coffee was produced by approximately 200 small producers farming within Oaxaca Mexico’s Sierra Norte Region. These farmers and their families are represented by the Producer Organisation ‘Promizap’, who were founded in 2002 in the town of San Juan Otzolotepec – a Mixe community of around 800 people. This particular community group lot hails from around 200 producers, farming on a hectare of land on average, all of whom live in the towns of San Juan Yalahui, San Pedro Ayacastepec & San Miguel Quetzaltepec. The towns, themselves, are tiny and are not necessarily near one another, being separated by steep slopes and deep valleys. What they bear in common, however, is a commitment to the wider community through Promizap and the ability to grow really great coffee!
Oaxaca’s Sierra Norte (Northern Mountains) is remote and rugged and known equally for its timber as its coffee. The Mixe and Zapotec indigenous peoples here have long been cut off from economic and social opportunities due in part to the Alpine-like terrain. Promizap’s founder, Facundo Tinoco, wanted to change this. He founded Promizap in 2002 with the aim of improving and promoting his neighbours’ organic coffee production and, more importantly, improving their access to key resources such as education and economic opportunities.
Promizap is a wholly inclusive organisation. They recognise the value of each one of their members as individuals and community members and offer them the same treatment regardless of their social class, race, origin, political affiliation, religion, production capacity or seniority in the organisation. This is a rare thing in Oaxaca, where divisions can be extreme. It is part of the secret to the staying power and the success of the organisation.
Promizap started small but today they represent more than 3,000 members from 25 towns. Of these members, more than 1,200 are women – also a success and a rarity in Oaxaca, where traditional values often underplay women’s contributions – particularly in coffee productions.
All producer members grow and process their own coffee, delivering it to Promizap in parchment form. However, Promizap helps members with trainings in best practices, access to inputs, harnessing government assistance programs, and, increasingly, in sensory/roasting skills. They began roasting their own coffee for the internal market under the name Cafewakwiim in 2014. Additionally, since 2012, they have run a large nursery from which they supply members with new, strong seedlings for renovation work (mostly Oro Azteco, which is rust resistant but with high cup quality).
Traditionally, ‘Arabica Criollo’ (a local variant of Typica) is widely grown in the region, along with Garnica, a cross of Mundo Novo and Caturra bred in Mexico which was introduced by the Mexican Institute of Coffee (INMECAFE) in 1960. These varieties are increasingly difficult to grow, however, due to the omni-presence of coffee leaf rust, which appeared in 2012/13 and is now part of the ‘new normal’. Many producers are now introducing Oro Azteca (a Catimor / Caturra hybrid and the first resistant coffee variety developed and registered in Mexico) and Sarchimors so as to better combat climate change. Promizap helps them with this by supplying strong seedlings for planting after renovation.
Small holder member follow very similar production cycles, as the geographic area in which Promizap operates is quite narrow. In July through October, as a result of the rains, weeds begin to grow. Since all plots are managed organically, producers do weeding by hand, using a machete. For this laborious work, some farmers hire temporary labourers, but the majority rely on family.
Finally, from July through October members apply organic fertilisers provided by the cooperative. In addition to compost, these fertilisers are applied every 25 days during the non-harvest months.
The harvest season runs from December through April, depending on the attitude of the farm. During this time, coffee is selectively harvested by hand, and producers have been taught to only pick the most perfectly red cherries. Many producers use outside labour during this period, as well, so it is important that the cooperative stresses the importance of good harvest techniques so that these are maintained.
Each producer has her/his own wet mill, for which she/he alone is responsible. The small mills usually lie 30 minutes to 3 hours from the actual coffee plantation, since many parcelas (coffee plots) are very remote and take a long time to reach, since there often isn't even a rood to facilitate access. Despite these distances, coffee is always pulped on the same day that it is picked and is then fermented in cement tanks for about 12 to 14 hours. The day after, the coffee is fully washed to remove all traces of mucilage. All water used in the pulping and processing is filtered so as to prevent water contamination, and all the remaining pulp is used as compost. Drying patios are usually small but are well-maintained. Some producers use their rooftops as drying patios, as well.