- with notes of
- Milk Chocolate
This is the third consecutive year that we have had the opportunity to share a coffee from Ricardo Romero, a coffee producer from San Francisco Ozolotepec, in Oaxaca’s Sierra Sur region. While Mexico generally, and Oaxaca specifically, is a historic and fascinating coffee producing region, Passenger’s green buying team has only recently begun to explore opportunities and partnerships in this beautiful country.
The majority of coffee farmers in Mexico’s Oaxaca region are smallholders, often with less than 2 hectares (about 5 acres) of land under cultivation. Many of these small farms are located in mountainous regions at significant distances from Oaxaca City and other more densely populated areas where dry mills and large exporters tend to be located. Given the logistical difficulty of transporting coffee from farming regions to export centers, and an economic climate that severely limits credit and financing for small producers, it should come as no surprise that many farmers choose to sell their coffee to predatory traders, known as coyotes, that travel throughout producing regions offering low prices, in cash, for coffee that is ultimately sold to other traders at a profit.
Red Beetle Coffee Lab is a small specialty sourcing operation with a particular focus in Oaxaca. The company is named for the red Volkswagen Beetle that founder Thomas Pingen outfitted as a mobile cupping lab a few years back. By regularly traveling to remote producing communities in Oaxaca, offering on-site quality analysis and competitive prices based on clearly defined quality criteria, Thomas and his partner Shaun Mace have gradually established Red Beetle as a well respected source of highly traceable coffees that are notable for their physical integrity. Given the very small volumes that most coffee farms in these regions produce, it takes an unimaginable amount of work to individually screen and analyze vast numbers of tiny lots to share feedback and confirm pricing with producers. In contrast to large-scale coffee estates in other parts of Mexico that comfortably produce bulk lots numbering in the hundreds of bags, a 40 bag community lot from Oaxaca could easily require the individual contributions of hundreds of farmers. Given the extra work required to source coffee in this way, we are incredibly grateful to the Red Beetle team for the tireless effort that they devote to maintaining impressive standards of quality consistency.
This year’s lot from Ricardo Romero’s farm, a field blend of bourbon and typica, was processed in a way that is quite typical for the region: the coffee cherries were briefly rested following picking before being pulped and dry fermented for 48-72 hours. When fermentation was complete, the parchment was dried in the sun on handwoven Petate mats.