by Emma Chevalier
Sit your tired ass beneath the shade of a wall, wear your best (or most beat up) pair of boots, pull down the brim of your hat, lean back in your chair, and put on a Vicente Fernández record. After a few rounds of “Volver Volver” or “El Rey,” let it sink in. Grab a Modelo and take a shot of tequila. Sip a mezcal. Hear the horns fade off into the distance. Then come back to this. Mexico.
Oaxaca is dreamy. It is a place out of time, on the ley lines of something potent. Life here is more saturated. The veil is thin. The coffees from Oaxaca are incredibly sweet, and the region has deeply rooted and highly influential foodways and traditions. 2018 is Revelator’s first year incorporating Mexico as a staple origin on our menu, and I decided to focus our purchasing efforts in Oaxaca, working with Adam McClellen of Red Fox.
The state of Oaxaca lies in the southeastern region of Mexico. The Pacific Ocean hugs the coastline in the south --its rugged landscape characterized by a complex junction of mountain ranges. The Sierra Mixteca range spans the western region of the state. It is one of the oldest geological regions in Mexico. These are the mountains of the Mixtec People. The Mixtec are one of 16 distinct Peoples within Oaxaca alone. These communities have been established in these mountains for a very, very long time.
The Sierra Mixteca cooperative producer association is based in Santa Maria Yucuhiti, a small mountain town in the central expanse of the greater Mixteca region. It is one of the highest growing regions in the state. The co-op’s membership is comprised of about 150 active farmer members from the region, including the communities of San Pedro Yosotatu and Guadalupe Miramar. The association prioritizes lot separation and high quality production to secure higher price premiums. Coffee here is cultivated between about 1450 and 1900 masl. The coffee trees grow under thick shade canopy, and harvest peaks around February. Each farmer manages one or two small plots. They value and practice sustainable, organic agriculture. Even in the face of challenges from rust (a threatening, potentially devastating coffee fungus), the cooperative membership has prioritized cultivating and re-planting their older bourbon and typica (older arabica) varieties instead of newly developed varieties. This is something to celebrate and the proof is in the cup. The investment in the renewal of older bourbon and typica strains is becoming a rare practice in much of Mexico and Latin America.
We currently have three single origin offerings from the Sierra Mixteca region available on our lineup: Yosotatu Reserva, Miramar, and Zaragoza. Yosotatu Reserva represents just 7 farmers of the San Pedro Yosotatu community. This community lot includes some of the finest coffees produced by individuals from the community this year. Miramar represents 15 farmers, and includes some great coffees from Guadalupe Miramar. Zaragoza represents early efforts in farm-specific lot separation from a community on the other side of the valley from Guadalupe Miramar and San Pedro Yosotatu. The Zaragoza community has family ties to the Sierra Mixteca cooperative, but the farmers are not grower members of the association.
The Mixteca farmers pick and process their own cherry. Immediately after harvest, freshly picked cherries are depulped and undergo overnight dry fermentation for about a day. The wet parchment is then rinsed with fresh spring water and dried in full sun on patios or on raised, covered beds.
Note: During my visit, this past spring, the roads to the farming communities in the Sierra Mixteca were closed due to protests. We stayed in town to taste through a number of fresh crop coffees from farmers throughout the region. The photos pictured here are scenes from a day in the life of the old city.