Reflections on a Coffee Origin Trip - Chiapas, Mexico
At Water Street, we understand that our roaster is part of a larger global coffee community and the education we receive at origin is invaluable to being a responsible, contributing member of that community from knowing the issues that threaten the crops to seeing first hand the care and quality control that goes into each bag of coffee. So please, join us as we share how we tasted, hiked, and learned our way through some incredible coffee co-ops in Chiapas, Mexico. We took some time to talk with our Roastmaster, Seth Chapman, after he returned.
As told by Roastmaster, Seth Chapman
What was the most interesting thing you learned on the trip?
This is a tough question as I learned so much from my first origin trip. I suppose the most interesting thing I learned was the enormous role that co-ops played in the industry. I knew that co-ops were important in that they act as a hub for local producers to sell their coffee to but I learned that they are much more than just that. Aside from providing producers with resources such as fertilizer, coffee plants, and advice, the co-ops we visited were very structured, proactive, and held very important values at their core, such as being honest with producers, remaining environmentally responsible, and ensuring trust with their clients. It was also impressive to learn that their success not only affects producers but also the surrounding communities as the co-ops also invest in clinics, eco-tourism, schools, and other economically and socially important areas.
Who was the most impactful person you met on the trip?
I would have to give credit to Calixto Guillen, head of quality control and physical analysis at Triunfo Verde. Calixto was very detail oriented and meticulous when it came to the coffee he received at his co-op, and his attention to detail didn’t end there. He follows his coffee all the way to the dry mill. His values also struck me as very real and important; a strong focus on cupping, as well as strong relations with his buyers, meaning he and his team are putting a lot of effort into meeting the needs of their buyers and providing quality specialty coffee. Calixto is very thorough and cups a sample of every single bag of coffee that enters his warehouse. This sort of dedication I feel is rare yet strikingly important in the industry.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
Visiting Ojo de Agua, the farm located at 1500m above sea level (4921ft), was my favorite part of the trip for many reasons. The first notable sensation after reaching the farm was the heavenly smell of whole coffee cherries drying on the patios of the farm. The smell of dark chocolate with deep red fruit notes was absolutely amazing. The plantation where the coffee plants were located was up a mountainside another 50m, and this is where I bit into my first ripe coffee cherry. After locating a ripe cherry (although we arrived just after harvest, there was still a spattering of coffee cherries to be found) I popped it into my mouth. It was of the Maragogype varietal. I could tell because of the unusually large size of the beans. The taste was reminiscent of a mixture of cranberries and grapes, with ample sweetness. This alone was something I’ve desired to do for years, and finally I had my opportunity! Although the experience is rather short, it’s like nothing you’ve tasted before. Aside from tasting my first coffee cherry, the whole farm experience was really enriching in regards to my perspective of life on a coffee farm.
Do you think it’s important for coffee professionals to go to origin? If so, why?
Absolutely. I think it lends a lot to credibility and shows a level of seriousness in your profession. Origin trips will never be forgotten; the lessons and experiences are invaluable to not only you as the individual but for the company as a whole. There is only so much reading and listening you can do before going to origin to connect the dots yourself. Going to origin brings everything full circle and helps put into perspective what actually happens on the other side of the supply chain of coffee.
What do you want Water Street customers to know about your trip to Mexico?
I would love to communicate to our customers how much the co-ops and producers truly care about their product and our needs. The amount of pride and joy they take in producing a quality specialty coffee definitely shows in all of their faces and permeates its way into the final cup of coffee you drink. Their passion and willingness to constantly experiment and improve their methods is both refreshing and innovating, and it’s truly exciting to see what the future holds in terms of growing quality and new, exciting coffees coming from Chiapas.