Farm: Hacienda Santa Rosa Teocelo
Varietal: Typica, Mondo Novo, Caturra, Oro Azteca & Marsellesa
Processing: Fully washed & dried on patios
Altitude: 1,250+ metres above sea level
Owner: Olivia Hernández Virues and her husband Ranulfo Lara Pérez
Town / City: Santa Rosa Teocelo
Overall: peanut, caramel, milk chocolate, meyer lemon
Santa Rosa Teocelo - Mexico
While there is no exact information regarding the origins of ‘La Hacienda Santa Rosa’, according to the farm’s former lawyer and manager, Manuel Galindo, the farm was originally a much larger area of land named by original owners after the Santa Rosa de Lima, the patron saint of the surrounding community (which also bears her name). The farm’s current boundaries have their roots in the historic land reforms of 1940 instigated by then-president of Mexico, Lazaro Cardenas. General Cardenas initiated a land redistribution program that continues to form the backbone of the country’s current complicated land tenure system to this day, and of the Hacienda Santa Rosa’s 2,500 hectares (it was one of the largest farms in Veracruz at the time), Cardenas ordered 1,000 to be distributed amongst local peasants and indigenous people.
On the basis of some of the impacts of the program, the farm’s then-owners Sr. Manuel Sánchez Robledo and his wife Sra. María Enriqueta Bravo de Sánchez decided to distribute their land even further, sharing it amongst relatives and selling portions on to neighbours. In 1974, with a much smaller portion of land remaining, Sra. Enriqueta constituted the farm as a Limited Society under the new name “Santa Rosa Teocelo”. From that day onward, the land has been primarily dedicated to coffee production.
After 3 years of negotiation, in May of 1983, Mrs. Olivia Hernández Virues – the farm’s current owner – purchased 50 out of the 90 hectares remaining of the estate. At the time, much of Santa Rosa’s land was forested or considered as “acahuales” (terrain left under wild vegetation that has been previously used as grazing for cattle or agriculture), and the facilities were almost completely destroyed. There were even trees inside many of the buildings’ structures, giving shelter to a very diverse wild fauna.
From the moment that they purchased the farm, the family has worked tirelessly to enable these lands to produce a very special coffee that has been commercialized around the world. They have expanded the area under coffee production, despite the many legal, economic, administrative difficulties they have confronted. They have survived the worst crisis the Mexican coffee sector has experienced (from1991-2003), during which profits from coffee production failed to cover the cost of production. At Santa Rosa Teocelo, the family and staff remained strong, continuing to provide work for the local population and keeping the farm in the best condition possible. The biggest challenge, today, is to control the impact of coffee leaf rust, which has hit the region very hard.
The goal of the Santa Rosa Teocelo team is to survive the adverse conditions confronting the coffee sector today so that they can continue to be a place of refuge for the biological diversity of the region and continue contributing to the regional economy.
In order to achieve these aims, the farm has had to diversify and be forward thinking. The family has renovated the farm buildings completely, establishing them as housing for visitors and tourists interested in learning more about coffee. Next to the Finca, there is now an eco-hotel and a restaurant with a gorgeous lookout over one of the farm’s many views. The family has also begun roasting and have established their own coffee brand for the local market: Caflatin. Finally, the family maintains fruit trees as shade for the coffee – including Oranges, Lemon, and Pepper amongst others – and the products of these are sold to local markets. Income earned from all these activities go directly back into improving coffee production.
Of course, coffee production is the most important economic activity for the farm. Farm activities and processing are also stringently managed so as to make the most of the farm’s production. For the most part, the farm is managed organically, with only organic fertilisers from compost and worm compost being used. All leaf fall and organic waste produced by the shade trees is also composted down and used as fertiliser. The farm uses no herbicides or pesticides, relying instead on regular pruning and well-scheduled fertilisation to maintain the health and natural resistance of plants. Renovation is also crucial in helping maintain the farm’s productivity and health. The family regularly renovates with traditional varieties such as Typica and Bourbon, though they have also introduced the resistant Marsellesa and Oro Azteca varieties, as well.
Harvest activities are managed from a perspective of preserving quality from the very beginning. All pickers are trained to harvest only the ripest and reddest cherries from the trees at each pass. Furthermore, from 2016/17, the family is experimenting with lot separation and has begun separating out the Costa Rica 95 variety from other mixed Arabigos to be processed separately. We liked both versions so much that we have both! The family may separate lots further in the future.
The furthest reaches of the farm have reception stations to which the newly harvested coffee is delivered and then collected to be taken to the wet mill, which is located in the centre of the farm’s main facilities. The coffee is delivered here to be sorted and then pulped on the same day that it is picked. After pulping, the coffee is fermented in clean tanks for 12 to 36 hours, depending on the weather. After optimal fermentation is reached, the coffee is washed with clean water sourced from a spring located within the farm itself.
After being fully washed, the coffee is delivered to dry on concrete patios, where it is turned regularly for 3 ‘soles’ (suns) – meaning, more or less, full days of good sunlight. Drying times can vary depending on the weather.
The farm has recently begun experimenting with the more water-efficient honey process, though it is still early stages. They would like to increase the production of this coffee and plan to keep differently processed lots separate at all points. Lots are also kept separate until they are cupped and graded. At this point, lots with higher scoring cup qualities will be separated out into microlots to be sold on the speciality market, if possible.
In the future, the farm plans to increase salaries and build better housing for the workers and to provide fully the clothing required for working on the farm. They also have plans to provide medical care for workers. This, of course, is all contingent on the prices they achieve for their coffees, making participation in speciality markets all the more important.