Coffee and Coffee Cultivation in Mexico – An overview

Mexico ranks eleventh in the world for coffee production. Find out all the details here.

The History of Mexican Coffee

Coffee was brought to Mexico in the late 18th century by the Spaniards, who brought with them seeds from plantations in Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

This is how coffee cultivation began, albeit locally, by local farmers.

It was not until a century later, towards the end of the 19th century, that the Mexican coffee industry began to produce in earnest and competitively, and it began exporting coffee on a regular basis.

At that time, coffee plantations were mainly established in the border areas between Mexico and Guatemala, which led to some land disputes between the farmers.

This led to some European landowners taking over much of the land as they saw an opportunity to take over the disputed parcels.

So, the Europeans decided to invest in long-term cultivation strategies.

From the 20th century to today

In the 20th century the large plantations were owned by European and some Mexican landowners.

But many smallholders also devoted themselves to growing coffee because they recognized the great economic potential of this crop.

In the country’s major coffee-growing areas, for example, people often chose to grow coffee to meet the demand of traders and roasters abroad.

On the other hand, historians have highlighted an interesting fact about coffee production in Mexico, namely that small-scale producers tended to fare much better than large-scale plantations.

This may be because the smallholders had more realistic expectations about the prices of their crops and their commercial opportunities.

In contrast, large producers appeared to be investing in too many resources to produce large crops that often failed to sell as planned, leading to large losses in the industry.

Today, the Mexican coffee market has grown significantly over the years.

As a result, Mexico is among the largest producers of organic beans in the world.

In 2000, the North American country accounted for 60% of the world’s organic coffee.

Characteristics of Mexican coffee

said that Mexican coffee is generally mild in taste, light in body and low in acidity.

In addition, the production consists of almost 100% Arabica coffee.

However, what often characterizes Mexican coffee is its special nutty taste.

Experts describe Mexican coffee as slightly acidic, with a delicate body and a slightly dry but very pleasant texture, similar to that of a good white wine.

In addition, Mexican coffee has a wide variety of flavors and nuances, making it ideal for making different coffee blends.

The 4 coffee producing states in Mexico

Due to Mexico’s topographical and climatic features, certain regions of the country are ideal for growing coffee.

Virtually all of Mexican coffee is produced in 4 southern states.

State of Chiapas

The state of Chiapas is located in the extreme south of the country, directly on the border with Guatemala, and is Mexico’s largest coffee-growing region, accounting for around 40% of total production.

This is because the state’s warm, tropical climate provides ideal conditions for growing coffee.

The typical volcanic soil of Chiapas is very fertile and rich in nutrients, which helps the coffee plants to thrive.

It is therefore not surprising that the coffee from Chiapas is of very good quality. In fact, a large proportion of Mexican specialty coffees come from this state.

The best coffee in the region is grown between 1,200 and 1,800 meters above sea level.

Most of the production is in the hands of small farmers, who start harvesting in October and finish it in March.

In recent years, however, coffee farmers have struggled with an epidemic of coffee rust, a fungal disease that has decimated production in the region.

The taste of the coffee

In general, Chiapas coffee is quite full-bodied and is characterized by notes of:

  • Bitter chocolate
  • Nut
  • Lemon

The state of Veracruz

Located on the Gulf of Mexico, the state of Veracruz is the area that produces 29% of Mexico’s coffee production.

In fact, coffee first came to Mexico via this state in the 18th century.

On the other hand, Veracruz is the coffee-growing region with the highest technological development in the country, so the cultivation and harvesting techniques allow the production of coffee varieties that are more resistant to diseases.

Coffee growing areas in Veracruz

First, there is the lowlands (near the sea) where most of the region’s coffee is grown.

However, according to experts, the harvests from these areas are not of the best quality.

In contrast, the mountain regions, with altitudes between 1,200 and 1,800 m above sea level, are the cradle of Veracruz’s export coffee.

The taste of the coffee

Veracruz coffee is quite sweet, although the acidity is higher compared to Chiapas coffee.

Because of this, the drink often has a bittersweet aftertaste.

In addition, the coffee from Veracruz is known for its notes of:

  • Roasted hazelnuts
  • Chocolate
  • Red fruits
  • Caramel
  • Panela (sugar cane juice)

State of Oaxaca

The state of Oaxaca borders Veracruz to the east, Chiapas to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and finally the state of Puebla to the north.

Although this state has privileged climatic and topographical conditions due to its location, it is the least industrially and technologically developed of the Mexican coffee-growing regions.

Nevertheless, the coffee from Oaxaca has such a special taste that it is always in great demand. After all, the state generates around 11% of national production.

Coffee cultivation in Oaxaca takes place between 900 and 1,650 m above sea level.

Oaxaca’s resistance to change

A common trait among coffee farmers in Oaxaca is their lack of interest in modernizing the coffee growing system.

The vast majority of farmers prefer to grow their coffee using traditional techniques, so it’s not uncommon to see coffee being grown on farms that are nearly 100 years old.

As a result, coffee in this state is grown as it was grown in the 1930s or 1940s.

The taste of the coffee

Oaxacan coffee is characterized by its complex aromas, rich in floral notes.

Compared to coffees from other states, sweet tones and caramel nuances are common, but also fruity notes, especially citrus, and creamier textures.

The coffees from this state often have an aftertaste reminiscent of chocolate and almonds.

State of Puebla

Located east of Mexico City, the state of Puebla is one of the largest in the country.

Like Oaxaca, the state of Puebla accounts for 11% of Mexico’s coffee production.

The taste of the coffee

Puebla coffee is characterized by its creamy texture and smooth taste accompanied by notes of nuts and caramel.

Note: The remaining 10% of Mexico’s coffee production comes from other Mexican states.

How is Mexican coffee grown?

The method of growing coffee in Mexico is called “wet processing” to remove the bean from the harvested coffee fruit.

In “wet processing” the coffee fruits are washed and ground until the bean is separated.

This way the bean can be more easily extracted to be roasted and consumed later.

The “wet processing” ensures a purer, more delicate taste and fruity notes in the end product.

In addition, this method is mainly used in regions where the coffee has a higher acidity.

Other cultivation methods

However, more traditional farming methods are also used in Mexico, such as B. “Dry processing”, which uses the heat of the arid areas of the country to dry the product after harvest.

Unlike the large industrial plantations where the coffee is grown in the sun, the Mexican coffee is grown by small-scale producers in the shade.

This method is defended by the indigenous people of the region as it is more natural, ecological and gives them better coffee.

When the coffee is grown in the shade, the coffee trees themselves also provide shelter for smaller plants, which maintains the ecological balance of the cultivated areas as more wildlife can live there.

Therefore, fewer pesticides, fertilizers and/or commercial agricultural infrastructure are needed.

Also, because there is no technological advancement in some coffee-growing regions, the soils have remained largely untouched, allowing the coffee to take on more complex flavors.

Mexico’s coffee industry

During most of the 20th century, the coffee trade in Mexico played a key role in the country’s economic development.

The cultivation and export of coffee gave the small farmers access to foreign exchange, which they could use to free themselves from extreme poverty.

Also, the relatively low cost of production and the high quality of the product made Mexican beans attractive to foreign roasters.

For this reason, INMECAFE was founded, an institute funded by the Mexican state, whose mission was to provide technical and logistical support to coffee farmers while regulating the market to keep prices high and stable.

For many years, this institution achieved its goal by creating international agreements between the main coffee producers.

These measures ensured that the market was profitable for both producers and buyers.

Problems with Mexico’s coffee industry

But in 1989 INMECAFE collapsed, which meant the end of international price cooperation.

This phenomenon allowed the entry of cheap and often low-quality grain into the market, especially to meet domestic demand.

The collapse of international agreements had a devastating impact on Mexican coffee farmers, as low coffee prices made it difficult to turn a profit.

Some growers even worked at a loss.

Causes of the collapse of the sector

The oversupply of Arabica coffee also posed a major problem for the Mexican coffee industry.

Although Arabica beans are considered to be of better quality than Robusta beans, they are also more expensive to produce.

In addition, Arabica beans are more susceptible to diseases such as rust.

The latter is a pest that has established itself in Mexican coffee cultivation since the 1980s and has led to a significant drop in production.

As a result, the instability of production is the great constant in Mexican coffee cultivation.

As a result, many coffee farmers have preferred to grow other crops such as sugar cane, or they have simply lowered their production costs, affecting coffee quality.

The 2000s and the boom of the industry

After a particularly difficult period for the coffee industry, an initiative was launched in the early 2000s that gave Mexican coffee a boost.

This initiative was based on the establishment of production cooperatives with the country’s coffee farmers.

This has allowed farmers of all sizes (small, medium and large) to tap into various emerging markets, injecting much-needed capital into the sector.

In addition, coffee cooperatives have been certified for fair and direct trade, allowing growers in the most remote and vulnerable areas to sell their coffee.

For their part, farmers have been able to use the rise in coffee prices around the world to persuade the government to invest in the sector.

At the same time, domestic consumption of the drink also began to increase slowly but steadily.

In addition, the interest and demand of Mexicans for specialty coffee (especially in the big cities) has led to the creation of specialty shops specializing in roasting and retail marketing.

Trends in Mexican coffee production

Despite the serious impact of coffee rust, government policies have helped bring the pest under control, at least in certain areas of the country.

On the other hand, farmers have been growing Robusta coffee for more than a decade and this variant currently accounts for 3-4% of total coffee production.

In this way, farmers can begin to meet the growing demand for this variety while diversifying their cultivation.

Coffee farmers are also increasingly turning to growing pest-resistant coffee varieties.


Authentic Mexican coffee is different from other types of coffee.

Coffee from Mexico is a jewel for all lovers of good coffee specialties.

With its smooth taste, many fruity notes and creamy texture, it appeals to many palates.