Decaf Mexico Sierra Sur


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Region: Sierra Sur, Oaxaca
Altitude:  1650-1800 masl
Processing: washed, mountain water decaf
Tasting notes: overall sweet and full bodied with notes of marzipan and toasted almond, brown sugar, malt and vanilla custard

The Coffee

Steampunk has been roasting sugarcane decaf grown in Colombia for a few years now, but we’ve decided to switch things up and try one grown in a different origin and processed in a different way. We tried a few different ones and were delighted to find this water mountain decaf grown in southern Mexico. It’s overall sweet and full bodied with tasting notes of marzipan and toasted almond, brown sugar, malt and vanilla custard. It had us thinking about Christmas cake in July. Perfect for that 4pm slump when it’s a bad idea to caffeinate your brain!

This coffee is produced by a group of smallholders from San Augustin Loxicha in Oaxaca, southern Mexico. It was decaffeinated at a Mountain Water decaf facility in Veracruz, north east of the region where it was grown. For the processing, the station uses mineral water from Mexico’s highest peak, the Pico de Orizaba, or Citlaltépetl, which sits at 5,636 m.a.s.l. The process is chemical-free, immersing the green beans in a high pressure filtration system which gradually removes the caffeine. Once complete, the beans are re-dried and packed for export. The mountain water decaffeination process is similar to the CO2 or sparkling water process, and uses CO2 as the solvent to remove the caffeine from the green coffee extract.

All decaffeination methods use a solvent, it’s just the nature and source of this solvent that differs.

From the Importer - Raw Material

In Mexico, our work is based in Oaxaca and Chiapas. From afar, Mexico is a growing economic force, ranked 64th globally in GDP per capita. However, the coffee-producing states in southern Mexico face a very different economic reality. Oaxaca and Chiapas are the two poorest states in Mexico with poverty rates of 60-80% and extreme poverty rates of 20-40%

Production yields have become dangerously low in these regions. Over the last ten years coffee leaf rust disease and the lack of financial or agricultural means to tackle it has reduced production by up to 90% in some regions. The average yield in Oaxaca is now just 100kg of parchment per hectare. For context, in Colombia, the average yield is 2,400kg per hectare. 

The vast majority of Mexico’s 500,000 coffee producers are smallholder farmers and have one hectare or less of land under coffee. This makes the average annual production for many producers just 100kg, making coffee farming more and more unsustainable. This is fuelling widespread migration to urban centres in Mexico and the United States. In short, coffee production is disappearing.

We work with several producer groups in Oaxaca. These partnerships help improve the overall profitability and viability of coffee production for producers in Oaxaca. Our long term focus is on improving yields and building stable demand at a stable price by connecting roasters with producers. We aim to achieve this in ways that are low-cost, easily replicated, and that ensure the first-order upsides are captured directly by those most marginalised.

To achieve these goals we've focused first on building trust and setting a baseline for coffee pricing and pre-financing. Currently, the most common outlet for producers in Oaxaca is to sell their parchment to local intermediaries at a market-set price. We aim to consistently pay upwards of this standard market price as a first payment.

Following this is a second, quality-based price that increases total profit earned per kg by between 7 and 10 times. This has been self-identified as the most impactful role we can play in the short term. Paying in this way provides rapid, predictable returns on investment made by producers and can increase household income from coffee by up to 10 x the average income derived from selling at the local market price. 

Located close to the Pacific coast, the Sierra Sur is home to the famous Pluma Hidalgo variety. Although we work with cooperatives in the region, many producers are unaffiliated with larger groups. 

During the 2022 season, we were contacted by two producers located in San Agustin Loxicha; Miguel Arellanes, and Luisa Lopez Silva. They reached out to our export partners Red Beetle, having learnt of our buying practices through the producers Los Hermanos Luna, who we also purchase from.

We are excited to see our buying practices being shared amongst producers, because the internal market remains volatile, with little to no additional payment for quality. By incentivising high quality production alongside two stable payments (first on export, second on import), your buying can improve the lives of more and more coffee producers, receiving the maximum profit possible for their work. 

More about Decaf Coffee

Read more about caffeine and decaffeination in our blog post 'Decaf is not a dirty word'

A note about packaging

Our coffee comes packaged in beautiful and hard wearing tins. It is important to keep those beans away from air and light (see our blog post about coffee storage) and we think tins are the very best way of keeping those guys fresh. 

Tins can of course be easily recycled (with other metals) but the very best and most environmentally conscious thing to do with them is to refill them. Find out how to refill or dispose of your Steampunk packaging HERE.

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