I had the opportunity to try Chiapas coffee the other day. I’ve had Mexican coffee before. It was from Oaxaca. I recall that it was crazy good. The person that brewed it for me was from Oaxaca and he made it very strong. He told me it was how they made it back home. He also told me that coffee from Chiapas was also excellent and that I should try it. My experience with Mexican coffee has so far been very pleasant so I was particularly excited about trying coffee from Chiapas. However, I found it difficult to acquire. This is odd to me because Mexico imports a lot of its coffee into the United States. I got lucky the other day and was able to find some coffee from Mexico. I was very fortunate that the Mexican coffee was from Chiapas.
Mexico has an interesting and rich history. It is full of fascinating events. These include the Mayan period, the Spanish Conquest, Colonialism, independence, political intrigue, and revolutions. I encourage anyone to read about Mexican history. It truly is riveting.
Note: “The Conquest of New Spain,” by Bernal Diaz, is a first-hand account of a conquistador that participated in the conquest of the Aztec Empire. I strongly recommend this book for anyone that is interested in Mexican history.
Their coffee history is also interesting. A major event in their coffee history was a land reform policy that took place after the revolution in 1920. This policy redistributed lands once held by the elite landowning class to the laborer class. This started the smallholder production of coffee.
In 1973, the Mexican Coffee Institute (Instituto Mexicano del Café – INMECAFE) was formed. Their mandate was to provide technical assistance and credit to producers. They also conducted the collective purchasing of coffee, operated mills, lobbied on behalf of the coffee farmers, and served as the channel with buyers. The INMECAFE helped increase and stabilize the Mexican coffee economy. Unfortunately the INMECAFE lost government support and it eventually dissolved. This had a negative impact on Mexico’s coffee industry. However, states like Oaxaca and Chiapas decided to form their own collectives as a way to keep INMECAFE alive. You see a lot of Fair Trade and other certifications in Mexican coffee because of this. This is INMECAFE’s legacy.
Chiapas is a state located at the very southeast corner of the country boarding Guatemala. Just like the rest of the country, Chiapas also has a rich history. Olmec and Mayan peoples had once inhabited the area. They had established remarkable cities like Palenque. The area eventually came under the dominance of the Spanish Empire. Soon after, the indigenous population was regulated to second-class citizens. Unfortunately, this social status remained and has had a major socio-economic impact on the area. The isolation of Chiapas from the central authority, and the poor treatment of the indigenous population, has made Chiapas a hot topic in Mexican society and politics. Chiapas has also seen a fair share of rebellions and other insurrections.
Chiapas has a great climate for growing coffee. It has been a major coffee growing region of Mexico since the 1950s. INMECAFE made an effort to increase Chiapas coffee production (along with Oaxaca and Veracruz) by investing in land integration and technology. This helped the coffee industry in the area to boom during the 1970s and 1980s. Chiapas severely felt the affects of the collapse of INMECAFE. Its coffee production plummeted. However, there has been a resurgence in coffee production via the efforts of coffee collectives and local government support. There is a healthy investment in the production of Chiapas coffee. It is also marketed well. Chiapas coffee is now one of the de facto representatives of good quality Mexican coffee.
I recently bought medium roast whole bean Chiapas coffee. The beans had a sweet smell to them reminiscent of caramels. I grinded the beans and brewed the grounds in my Chemex. The coffee was surprisingly delicate. I expected the flavor to be prominent, strong, and chocolaty. Most coffees I’ve tried from Central and South America had some form of chocolate taste to them. I assumed Chiapas coffee would be the same way. I was incorrect but not disappointed. The coffee had a medium body and a sharp acidity level. There was a definite sweetness to it like natural honey or a molasses based toffee. There was also a strong nutty aftertaste. It reminded me cashews. This was an exquisite coffee.
I like coffee from Mexico. The Chiapas coffee that I had was especially good. After doing research on this region, I’ve discovered how serious coffee is in Chiapas and in Mexico. The history of Chiapas coffee is intertwined with the history of Mexico, the plight of the indigenous people, Mexican politics, and the history of coffee. It is something that should be appreciated. I certainly appreciate this coffee. I believe this added to my drinking experience. It is a coffee that I will certainly have again.
Hoffman, James. The World Atlas of Coffee. Firefly Books. 2014.