Cafeólogo & Casa Cafeólogo
These are the names for Jesús’s roasted coffee brand and hotel, respectively. When we visited in 2017 we were some of the first visitors to the newly built hotel. The space is now in full operation, and it’s additionally home to a full roasting facility, cupping lab, drying patios (the roof), and barista training lab. They are sample and production roasting every day now - both coffees from existing farmers they work with (approximately 25) and a slew of prospective farmers to gauge potential for working with down the road. They are roasting coffee for Carajillo café, Cafeólogo café, and for a handful of other coffee shops around Mexico. They are also selling green coffee to a few roasters in different parts of Mexico, including Mexico city, Guadalajara, Veracruz, and even in Tijuana.
This is the brand name for the operations based in all things green coffee - grower relationships, buying, processing, sample roasting, evaluating, pushing for quality at all times. Based on processing experiments from the past few years, Jesús has decided that the honey process didn't work that well in Mexico. Thus, for the 2018 harvest he is focusing on mostly washed and some natural coffees. Naturals are still a little tricky and take a lot of care, especially because of the extended drying times since it's not super hot there. Additionally, the rainy season was longer than usual this year and extended into the picking and processing stages. Total drying times for the natural processed coffees have been around 20-30 days total. The extended drying times, we think, are actually quite beneficial to the flavor development and cell structure integrity (read: green stays fresher longer). However, this also means more labor costs involved. After learning from experiments over the past few years and taking the Q processing course this year, the plan for the naturals at Cafeología is becoming more dialed in than ever. They have started to understand which stages of processing are affecting which characteristics in the coffee. Jesús is now going into the drying process with more base knowledge and a plan to reach a certain goal (compared to the past where it was truly experimental and more just set them out to dry to see if naturals were even possible). Volumes are still very low and very labor intensive, which means prices might be unrealistic for us to bring any naturals to the United States this year. However, there are plans being made to teach certain farmers the technique of natural drying this upcoming year. Once more raised beds are built, processing can be done at the farms in larger volumes - with the goal of lowering overall labor costs, increasing green output, and making these coffees more affordable for us to import in the future. They are real stunners, so we have our fingers crossed that we’ll have access to some of these coffees soon! Lastly, in another part of the city, they have moved into a larger and more climate controlled green coffee warehouse.
There has been a lot of change for the growers over this past year as well. As Cafeología becomes more known throughout Mexico, they are sampling more and more coffees from potential growers throughout all of Chiapas. In San Pedro, Aldama, specifically, the strength of the relationships Jesús has with the 4 producers we used in 2017 have variously increased or decreased.
Pedro Vázquez, who we had a washed coffee from and who was part of the natural lot shared with Lucas Santíz, has stepped up production this year while continuing his push for quality and a strong collaborative relationship with Jesús. Not to mention, two of his daughters work for Jesús at Carajillo and Cafeología. We picked up cherry from him while there (to be processed at Casa), and he gave us samples from three of his different parcels that came specifically from trees he found to be bug and disease resistant. He wanted Jesús to roast and cup them to see if the cup quality matched the robustness of the plants. He was very adamant about the need to keep growing organically and without agrochemicals. The experimental varietal nursery is going strong and nothing has died yet. There are 17 varietals total, and it will be another 2 years probably before any possible fruiting. He is also pushing to finish building his family’s house that he has been working on since last year when we visited. Jesús has worked out a deal with Don Pedro this year so that he can get money more immediately. So, Jesús is buying all cherries and doing the processing himself at Casa. He is even paying parchment price for the coffee. So Don Pedro gets money faster (to finish that house) without having to deal with the added work of depulping and drying. The plan is to process all of this coffee naturally. We are thinking it is possible that he might be able to produce 6 or 7 full bags of a natural this year. This is a big increase from the 1 bag of natural that Don Pedro was able to produce last year. The initial sample we tried during our visit was tasting very promising. The plan of attempting to produce less murky/muddy flavors and boost cleaner/brighter flavors seems to be working.
Lucas Santíz, who was the other half of the natural lot with Pedro Vázquez, has stepped up production from last year as well, but almost all of it is washed this time. While visiting him, Jesús checked the moisture level of his coffees and advised a smidge more time drying. This is another upgrade in Jesús’s overall process this year - more data tracking relating to moisture content, drying times, picking days, etc. Don Lucas seemed open to the idea of producing more natural coffees in the future too, which was indicative of the trust Jesús has built with some of his producers - they are willing to take financial risks based on the promise that the plan will work out and fetch a higher price.
Hilario Santíz, maybe our personal favorite lot from 2017, also shared the same story of growth. In total he produced around 35 (69kg) bags in 2017, and it's looking like he will have nearly 45 this year. Slow and steady growth seems common among most farmers - which we think is very beneficial for quality. Too fast of growth, as we've seen with Salvador Hernandez, can lead to unreliable quality due to not being able to pick and process the coffees fast enough. Don Hilario is the son in law of Víctor López, but it seems as though he (Hilario) is beginning to stray from the old methods taught by Don Víctor. He has started working closer with Jesús this year to push quality. Most notably, he is one of the only farmers that does all of his own processing from depulping, to dry milling, to delivering ready-for-export green coffee - and he is doing an absolute great job of it (many farmers are delivering cherry or parchment and relying on Jesús to help with processing).
Víctor Lopez, on the contrary, does not have as strong of a relationship with Jesús as in previous years. Though the relationship with Don Víctor is one of the longest, he has also been most resistant to Jesus’s advice and guidance. Earlier this year he actually said he wasn’t interested in working with Jesús at all. Don Víctor was quite simply tired of doing the added work and would rather sell more coffee cheaply to local coffee buyers (aka ‘coyotes’). By the time we left, however, he approached Jesús and expressed that he realized he would make more money by putting in the extra work and was interested in partnering togehter again. Though Jesús will most likely end up purchasing coffee from him to help out as a friend, we have decided to shy away from the handful of growers like Don Víctor and focus our energy towards building relationships with the growers that are 100% on board with our and Cafeología’s ideology.
We also visited Pedro Gómez again in Tenejapa. Because his farms are at a slightly higher elevation than Aldama, his coffee was still in early harvest. We will be tasting his coffee for the first time this month when we receive samples to finalize our buying decisions. He has good growing practices, is a very hard worker, and is ambitious when it comes to installing new trees - he has a pretty extensive nursery directly behind his house. Don Pedro Gómez is always very noticeably on top of pruning his plants, strategically planting shade trees, etc. His coffee is mostly made up of some pretty impressively sized old bourbon trees. Notably, it seems like Don Pedro and his family have good relationship with Jesús and are all in it for the long haul. There were some minor disagreements about keeping proper documentation via a new quality standard that was implemented this year - each farmer has a booklet of forms and must fill out a page for each lot they sell to Jesús detailing which farm the coffee came from, what varietal it is, what day it was picked, how it was stored, how it was processed, etc. Similar to views expressed by Don Víctor, Pedro Gómez felt as though this was a lot of extra work. The issue was solved as Jesús explained that it helps to hone in on what is exactly producing higher quality coffees - whether it be particular picking times or parcels of land or storage conditions - and with higher scoring coffees comes higher prices for the coffees. We are fully on board with this idea, for it’s a win-win situation across the board. It helps us access higher quality coffees with greater traceability while also getting more money into the hands of Jesús and the growers to continue making improvements.
In addition to working with the existing and new farmers in the areas he has been with for a while (Aldama, Pantelho, and Tenejapa), Jesús has started exploring relationships with farmers from other regions of Chiapas as well - La Concordia, Montecristo, Amatenango, Chilón, and San Juan Cancuc. There are some definite possibilities with these new areas, and we are excited to taste these coffees as Jesús expands the reach of his quality focused program.
Overall, we feel that we have a much more mature relationship with Jesús this year. As we both grow, it is evident that our ideals are very much aligned, and we are working hard together towards common goals. His operation, just like 1000 Faces, is continually expanding and running more efficiently than ever. The horizon looks very promising as we consider the possibilities of what this relationship means for both of our futures. We’re extremely excited for this year’s coffees and for our continued relationship with Jesús Salazar and the entire team at Cafeología .