Coffee was introduced to Mexico during the 18th century from Cuba and since then the country has become the fifth largest producer in the world with an output of around 4 million bags per year. It is also the largest producer of Organic coffee, exporting 60% of the world’s total volume in 2000.
Due to border disputes with Guatemala and the subsequent land registration that occurred in the 19th century, large areas of arable land were bought in Mexico by wealthy Europeans, and the first coffee plantations were formed. This displaced thousands of indigenous people from their homes, of whom many began working as labourers on the newly established coffee farms. Following the Mexican revolution in 1920, land was redistributed to its original settlers, who set up small holdings, marking the real beginning of smallholder coffee production in Mexico. Around 75% of production still takes place on small farms of less than two hectares, meaning that much of the country’s coffee comes from cooperatives. This makes it relatively easy to trace most coffees to producer group, co-op and sometimes farm level.
At 1.2kg per capita coffee, Mexico has the lowest annual coffee consumption in the whole of Latin America. Most of the country’s yearly 4 million bag commercial and specialty grade coffee production is exported to North America, whilst under-grades, known as “Desmanches”, are often used by the local coffee industry for internal consumption. Because of the ease and long-standing export of coffee to the U.S., it is still relatively rare for top quality Mexican coffees to find their way into the European or Asian market. However, there are some wonderful and diverse growing regions: Oaxaca, Chiapas and Veracruz all have distinct cup profiles and a small number of producers pioneering quality production in those areas. Chiapas, in the very south-west of the country, shares a border with the coffee producing region of Huehuetenango in Guatemala, and although the terroir is very different, the coffee can be of similar high quality.