Various high quality coffees are produced in Mexico, and and they are typically wet processed (washed). Some of the best Mexican coffees come from Oaxaca, Coatepec, and Chiapas, and small organic farms produce much of the country's finest coffees.
While high elevations aren't typical, the large and growing industry ensures an ample supply of high quality beans that are sorted from the more commodity beans.
Agriculture only makes up about 5% of the overall Mexican GDP, but employees roughly 18% of its workforce. While those numbers aren't impressive, Mexico is actually the 10th largest coffee producer in the world.
These fine Mexican coffees, which often approach or exceed the definition of a gourmet coffee, are known for having light body and acidity, often with a nutty flavor, perhaps with chocolaty overtones. The finest Mexican coffees have a delicate body with an acidy snap and very pleasant dryness like a fine white wine.
These characteristics will vary by region and the varietals grown within the region, but when looking at the market as a whole these flavors tend to show up time after time in cupping reviews.
Remember that fresh grinding whole coffee beans (preferably fresh roasted) will help you better taste the flavors that were locked away in the bean - buying pre-ground coffee is a sure way to get a generic, tasteless cup of coffee.
Mexican coffee is classified by altitude, and much of the country's coffee is used for blending and/or dark-roasted coffees. Coffee has been planted in Mexico since the late 1700s, and most of the country's coffee now comes from the country's southern region where the continent becomes narrower and bends to the east.
Mexican Chiapas Coffee
Chiapas coffee is grown in the southern state of Chiapas and distinguished for its light, delicate flavor and rich, brisk acidity with a light to medium body. The hot, tropical climate has great growing conditions and produces a fairly consistent content.
Particularly notable is the Chiapas coffee grown in the state's southeast corner in the mountainous region near the Guatemalan border, and often labeled with the market name Tapachula, the name of the nearby town. Volcanos nearby have provided fertile soil that improves nutrient delivery to the coffees, helping develop their flavors. A fine Chiapas coffee is said to rival the complexity and power of the finer Guatemalan coffees.
On the gulf side of Mexico's central mountain range is Veracruz State where most of the coffee is grown in the lowlands and is unremarkable.
The nearby mountainous region, however, produces the respected Altura Coatepec named after the town of Coatepec and distinguished for its nutty flavor, light body, and a brightness with chocolaty overtones.
Other respected coffees of Veracruz are Altura Huatusco, Altura Orizaba, and the most highly-respected, Altura Coatepec.
- Atzalan (1,600 meters above sea level)
- Cordoba (800 meters above sea level)
- Coatepec (1200 meters above sea level)
- Cosautlan (1200 meters above sea level)
- Huatusco (1300 meters above sea level)
- Misantla (330 meters above sea level)
- Teocelo (1200 meters above sea level)
- Tlapacoyan (450 meters above sea level)
Mexican Oaxaca Coffee
Particularly distinguished is the coffee from the southern slopes of the central mountains in the southern state of Oaxaca called Oaxaca Pluma coffee and known for its light body and light acidity.
Puebla is one of the larger states in Mexico, lying just to the east of Mexico City.
Coffee plant varietals grown in Mexico are mostly Bourbon (Coffea arabica var. bourbon), Caturra (Coffea arabica var. caturra), Maragogype (Coffea arabica var. maragogype), and Mundo Novo (Coffea arabica var. mundo novo).
Mexico is a member of NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement), which has resulted in Mexican coffee brands being fairly well established in the United States and Canada.
When it comes to freshness and quality though, your best bet is to buy from a local roaster who buys the green coffee beans and roasts it themselves. Once roasted, coffee quickly begins to lose its flavor - much is lost within weeks of roasting whole bean coffee (if stored properly). If the coffee is ground, this timeframe drops to days.
Most coffees on grocery store shelves spend weeks going through the supply chain and distribution, which leaves you with a relatively tasteless coffee. No matter how "premium" or "high quality" a retail-store package claims their coffee is, it will pale in comparison to a mid-range coffee that has been freshly roasted.
Ahh... Cupella Coffee
This Oregon-based brand has a little wordplay fun (Acapella) and prominently features Altura Prima beans.
Simpatico Coffee (based in Michigan) features a Mexican coffee that is touted for it's low-acid quality, a plus for those with acid reflux. While most low-altitude Mexican coffees will have lower acid than their high-altitude siblings, the fact that this coffee is roasted dark means that it's less acidic than it would be at a medium roast.
Growing conditions for cacao (cocoa) are similar to those needed to grow coffee, and Mexico is also a prominent producer of fine quality cacao.