San Pedro Yosotatu is in the southwestern Mixteca region, where people primarily speak Mixteca and are one of the 16 different indigenous groups in Oaxaca. Each community's language corresponds to a few municipalities. For these coffee farmers from San Pedro Yosotatu, the Mixteca spoken here is the same as that in the two neighboring towns, Santa María Yucuiti and Santiago Nuyoo. Each of these
towns have their own dialect variations as well. For centuries, the indigenous Mixteca from Oaxaca have observed what happens in the sky to indicate time, seasonal changes, and meteorology that gets applied to agriculture and daily life. It’s viewed that the cycles of the sun and moon directly correspond with the life cycles of humans, animals, and plants. Yosotatu has been known as 'the place of the people of the clouds’ for the high elevation and the celestial respect and observation. Most of the inhabitants of Yosotatu are farmers. They cultivate corn, beans and squash like chilacayote for subsistence and coffee for a trade crop. This is a rich area that has seen many generations leave the
beautiful mountains for Mexico City and the US. Though the town has been emptied, the region has been struggling with violence, and the traditions seem to be fading away, there is a sign of hope in the stars.
Many of those that have stayed are investing in their now thriving specialty coffee industry. Recovering from the last 5 years of a devastating fight for survival against the plant disease known as Roya, or coffee leaf rust, this area is dedicated to an organic approach toward quality focused coffee production. They have replanted with the lower yielding, yet higher quality varietals like Typica and Bourbon to achieve better tasting coffee. They have implemented vermiculture to aid in the healthy composting of coffee cherry pulp, plant debris, and even manure. Each producer manages their own harvesting and processing at their farms, which are only a hectare or 2 in size. Manual depulpers are used into small fermentation tanks where the coffee rests in its pulp for 18-24 hours before being washed clean. The coffee is then dried on petate mats on parabolic covered patios.
This lot is from a newly formed group being led by female farmers. These women have grouped together with a shared vision; produce high quality through dedication and community support. This is how they can set themselves apart from the rest. This unity has produced outstanding quality. Spiced pear and winesap apples welcomes you with a refreshing snap that wanders through soft fields of chamomile and golden raspberries. Toasted pecan, butter cookies, and raisins hold everything in focus as the heart of the cup. Echoing in the aftertaste are baking spices and dark chocolate. Ladies, your coffee is beautiful.
For the second year in a row, we have the pleasure to enjoy a single producer lot from Santa Barbara. Although it may be one of the lowest income municipalities in Guatemala, it is beginning to be recognized as a standout micro region for specialty coffee. These producers grow less than one hectare of coffee which is often processed with a more rustic approach. Pick ripe cherries, depulp into a wet fermentation lasting for 36 - 48 hours, rinse and scrub to clean, before being laid out on small patios to sun dry. Due to the cold nights and steep slopes in the mountains, the fermentation and drying times are extended to create their unique fruit forward profile. This enables the coffees to get to a stable point before making its difficult journey from the rural mountain village to the more centralized dry mills. Coffee this good helps promote lot separation as a way to isolate quality that deserve premiums and showcase the beautiful individuality of the distinct micro-climates of this region.
Driving southwest of Santa Barbara towards San Miguel Ixtahuacan, you’ll find a mountaintop road that zig zags you through an isolated rural farming area. Perched atop its peak, you’ll find Julian Gomez Sanchez at his farm doing the same things that his handful of neighbors are doing. It’s a rugged area that produces some beautiful coffees. Julian has planted with Bourbon, Caturra, and Pache that grows in heavy clay soil amongst the steep slopes of the Sierra Madre at elevations of 2100 masl. Julian has produced around 1400lbs total this year on less than half an acre of coffee.
This coffee is loud, strong, and here to assure you that everything is ok! It’s uncharacteristic for a fully washed coffee to possess such intensity of fresh fruit. Rainer cherry, pluot, peach, and raspberry jam instantly greet you with such lively sweetness. Through this you will fly on interwoven wings of honeycomb and chocolate wafer towards a nougat sun setting into the depths of bourbon whisky skies. This fruit juice sparkles forever. It’s clean, plump, and loud. I hope you’re listening.
Odo Shakiso is one of the oldest woredas in the Oromia Region of Ethiopia. Here you find nearly perfect conditions for coffee to flourish. Averaging elevation of 1850 masl, the canopied forest floors have thriving arabica coffee with great spacing and an upright growth pattern that presents textbook specimens. The filtered sunlight enables the plants’ fruit to ripen in unison. This gives you full branches of plump clusters of fully ripe cherry. Truly, coffee is meant to be grown here. I refer to the varietal as "Native Selection”, because each area prides itself on the taste of their land. The coffee that has been growing there for hundreds of years is replanted year after year to maintain this taste. This mineral rich soil has been producing beautiful gems for a very long time. Just as the Ethiopian flag presents the Red, Green and Gold, Shakiso’s treasures are Red Coffee Cherries, Ethiopian Emeralds, and a trillion dollars of annually mined gold from this jeweled region.
Such beauty comes with it’s costs. In 2000 & 2008, wildfires ravaged over 80,000 hectares of forrest destroying plantlife and displacing wildlife. Currently, Shakiso is protesting the mining industry. Government officials came and told the people of Shakiso that investors would come and develop the land alongside with them. They didn’t mention they would take away the land entirely. Once the mining investors came, nothing seemed to go as told. An official of the Oromia Environmental Protection and Forestry Bureau is one that voices opposition and asks to consider the environmental and social concerns that arise with the implementations of the mining operations without the consultation of the public. It seems like a simple request, "We don’t want the community harmed chemically.” The coffee industry represents the cultivation of a different gem with a healthy interaction with the land on which one lives.
This Lot from Shakiso reminds me of the Ethiopia Opal, a soft white stone with radiant bright colors beaming from within. Grind the coffee and the aromatics of fruit blossoms and honeysuckle fill the air. Water only intensifies florals while meyer lemon candy, dried apricot, and peach marmalade begin to play. This coffee is soft and elegant. The texture and weight of an oolong tea, the roundness of milk chocolate and lemon shortbread, this coffee is completely infused with flowers and limeade and finishes with the refreshing delight of an afternoon glass of rosé. May this Ethiopian gem make you shine with satisfaction as it dazzles your imagination. You deserve it.