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  • ECM - UK

Welcome to Montaña Alta, Guerrero

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

Through this blog we will tell you some stories about the work we do in the origins and other settings, which come together so that you can obtain Mexican coffees, exceptional and fairly marketed.

This month I will tell you about the to Montaña Alta in the state of Guerrero where Ensambles, for the past 6 years, has been sourcing natural coffees from small scale producers of the Me'phaa indigenous grupo. This is part 1 of a series of writes ups during which I hope to convey a bit of the reality of this region.



Where is it?


Guerrero, a Mexican state neighboring the coffee-famous Oaxaca state is unheard of, despite growing coffee too and sharing the same mountain range, altitudes, varietals and climate as Oaxaca.


 

What kind of agriculture is it?


Guerrero coffee is forest coffee. The ecosystem is untouched in most parts of la Montaña alta. It is a traditional polyculture system, boasting an incredible biodiversity, different levels of shade, rich organic soils and clean rivers. A rare ecological treasure nowadays. In each walk across a plot during my visit I was able to eat or pick coffee cherries, oranges, grapefruit, tree tomatoes, passion fruits, honey, corn, beans, squash, aromatic herbs, bananas, and more.



coffee varietals


Coffee varieties are mostly typica and bourbon in the 1400+ masl range. Between 800 and 1400 masl you find a mix of traditional typicas and new hybrids of the catimor family.

All the coffee is natural, which is rare in Mexico where 90+ % of the coffee is washed.



Social context


Despite this great potential, Guerrero has been kept in the dark since the 90s for being a drug production area plagued by violence and extreme poverty. This illicit activity (marijuana, poppy production and heroin manufacturing) is encouraged by the lack of roads and communication which makes the mountains of Guerrero difficult to access and uncommunicated with the world.


I was nervous about this idea of going there knowing this reality. If you google Guerrero you read about homicides, about girls being sold by their family for money, about rape, amongst many other horror stories. So why did I go and why do we work there? Thanks to two Guerrerenses whose story follows below.



 

the Project leaders



In 2017, Ensambles began a coffee supply project in the Montaña Alta, west of Guerrero. Miguel G, a native of the state and agronomist, served as a bridge to connect with the producers of the region, with whom he had previously built some ties. Ensambles was the commercial arm, bringing Guerrero coffee closer to a conscious market that rewards traceability, impact and quality in the cup.


After we discovered the potential of Guerrero's natives, the Ensambles quality control team, together with Miguel, began opening warehouses and managing the transfer of local mobile laboratories. A laboratory had never been installed in the Mountain. To date, we remain the only ones operating laboratories in this region.


Currently, Miguel is the coordinator of the Instituto Bios Terra (www.institutobiosterra.com), a research center for regenerative agriculture, technological development and knowledge management that promotes its transfer and implementation to the Mexican coffee field; to cooperatives and groups of producers.





In order to reach out to more people, Ensambles hired a Guerrero-born woman called Rebecca O., our field coordinator in la Montaña. Rebecca is 29-years old; she is the daughter of one of the earliest woman producer to join the project.


Rebe, as her colleagues call her, has a degree in History. She proves resilient against the negative comments from her community about her life choices. Thanks to her employment with Ensambles she now has a fixed salary which allows her to rent a room of her own in a nearby community where she now finds some peace and intimacy. Rebecca is very joyful and hardworking, she speaks her people’s language me’phaa, and Spanish. I found her to be an inspiration for all women, actively feminist in a context where women have on average 8 children, are kept in the kitchen, and are often abused.


Rebeca joined the Instituto Bios team, in which she played a vital role in closing gaps between industry and the field.


Our impact


The market opportunities for coffee has significantly improved in the area thanks to the dedication of those two people who are on the ground all year round. Local prices had been historically below 1 usd/lb, and we can now offer between 2 and 4 usd/lb. In the past 6 years, the project went from buying 1 bag to now 80, from no cupping lab to now 3 mobile labs, from 1 municipality to now 5.


Like everything in coffee many more people are involved in the success of this project: the pickers and producers who relentlessly strive at meeting the market's requirements despite low resources, the quality control and logistics team of Ensambles and members of the IBT, who direct the laboratory, train the coffee growers and market the coffee safely. To the roasters who support the project by buying the coffee and relaying the story.



That’s it for today! There is a lot more to tell about Guerrero and its people. A second update will follow to talk about how we deal with safety, transport and communication issues. We will also give you a glimpse of the local culture and cosmovision.


If you are interested in this project and would like to know more and/or book some coffee from the upcoming 2023/24 please let me know.

Naturals only.

Saludos!


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