I’m used to being awakened by cranky roosters and dogs barking at the crack of dawn when visiting the small coffee communities across rural Latin America. There was nothing unusual about those sounds on this particular crisp morning, but the peculiar noise that rustled me awake this time was different. Once I came to I could make out a muffled, echoing human voice projecting on a loud, crackling P.A. system – the morning news and announcements for the town. The news was mostly communicated in the local indigenous Mixteca dialect, but there was enough Spanish mixed in on one featured point that I could make out some of that message. The voice was announcing a reminder to the village: “Our coffee buyer is in town today, and he wants to meet with all of the local coffee farmers at 11 AM in the town square community center.” I distinctly remember thinking nervously, oh man, this could get interesting. This sure was shaping up to be an exciting day in the remote mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico.
After driving six hours or so over hot, dusty roads from Oaxaca city, we had arrived in the darkening evening just after sunset. It’s always fun to arrive to a place you’ve never seen in the evening. The excitement builds as the light of day reveals a new landscape. I rolled out of bed while the rest of the quiet, clean, organized town was still slowly waking up to their morning routines, and walked out to see an incredible sunrise and stunning view from the town which is high enough to look out over the rugged, morning mist-shrouded Sierra Madre Mountains, all the way to the Pacific Ocean in the distance.
I started the day with a hearty breakfast of fresh steak, eggs, tortillas, and salsa with tomatoes from Cecilio’s garden. Then spent the morning visiting several inspiring farms with thriving, pure, heirloom Bourbon and Typica plants. I walked to the farmer meeting which started right after the local youth brass band rehearsal finished. I wanted to bring a clear message to the assembled farmers: let’s start something special here together with Stumptown and La Sierra Mixteca, a newly formed small group of 100 or so focused hard-working small holder farmers eager to access a new market that rewards quality with top price premiums.
Still buzzing from the community discussion, we walked out of town to spend the afternoon under the hot sun checking out plant nurseries, worm composting stations, and more farms. We finally sat in the shade outside the breezy storage warehouse and polished off a few crates of Corona while sharing stories with several farmers. Sometimes it just all clicks, right place, right time.
I couldn’t be happier or more excited to present the fruits (well seeds, actually) of this pilot project in its first year. This soft, mild, pleasantly citric coffee with lingering chocolate sweetness, is best served at dawn.
Get more information on Mexico La Sierra Mixteca here.