This post is also available in: Español
By: Carlos Dragonné
While having breakfast with a friend a few days ago, a dynamic reappeared that is repeated so often that we barely notice it take place anymore. Almost automatically, we each ordered an espresso— one with milk for me and a double espresso coffee for him. It was on this day that we both realized that everyone that we know does the exact same thing when arriving to a restaurant in the morning, or even beginning their day at home. Coffee has become an important part of our daily work and a protagonist in stories, meetings, discussions, ventures, romance, and ruptures. The aroma, created by Arabs in the 15th century, and taken by the Europeans to the Americas in the 17th century, has accompanied us on innumerable joyous occasions like that first date with that someone who has become our refuge on cold and lonely days.
The truth is that the topic came up very early on in our discussion. My friend, a true expert and aficionado of coffee, shared information that I had never heard before about this spectacular berry, that Mexico has some of the best examples of in the world. It is ironic if we consider the low consumption per capita that we have in the country, compared to other nations that have an entire production system of this bean. How can we explain that Germany and Finland have a consumption per capita of 7 and 12 kilos, respectively, of coffee per year, while Mexico barely reaches 1.3 kilograms?
As my second cup of espresso arrived and we ordered breakfast, we discussed the different varieties of coffee and the places where you can find the best and most important coffee producing countries— Brazil in first place, followed by Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Mexico. This caught my attention almost immediately, because it means that the production of coffee to be exported must have a central place in the economy. And when asking the expert, he confirmed that our country produces just under 5 million bags of coffee after each harvest and that 62% of the production is exported– representing an income of 400 million dollars in each harvest. Our coffee is enjoyed, mainly, in Belgium, Germany, Japan and Switzerland. This is achieved thanks to more than 3 million coffee producers that range from beekeepers to small and large producers of coffee beans that are distributed in 56 regions and 12 states of Mexico. In addition, although Mexico is in ninth place worldwide in terms of performance, we are the number one country in terms of production of certified organic coffee.
So why is consumption in Mexico so strangely low? The Mexican Association of the Coffee Production Chain created projects and regulations to boost the national industry by certifying high quality Q Grade and Q Coffee for export that will be distributed among the best coffee buyers. In addition, the support of coffee producers will also give them greater distribution and commercialization within Mexico, as calculations have established a growth of 2% of global demand in 2010.
I ended the morning aware that I had to refill my supply of coffee beans at home. While reflecting on my errands for the day, I asked my friend for advice on varieties and flavors that we can find in Mexico City. I have always bought coffee from Chiapas or Veracruz, based simply on the commonly known fact that they produce the best coffee in Mexico. I learned in our discussion that Mexico produces the Arabica and Robusta coffee varieties. Arabica has the greatest value in the national and international markets and 96% of the production in Mexico is of the Arabica variety. In addition, this variety has options such as bourbon or the world novo, which contain less caffeine than the robust variety but a deep aroma and an exquisite flavor. The robust variety is used mainly for mixing with other coffees and to make soluble coffees (that I try to keep away from). There are other varieties that are produced in the world, such as the Maragogipe, harvested in Guatemala, that has a sweet flavor and a very intense aroma. There is also the Tarrazul variety of Costa Rica that became famous in Mexico because of the small coffee shops in Mexico City that began distributing and selling it several years ago.
We paid the bill and I said goodbye to my friend. Afterwards, while walking through the streets of the city center, I smelled the aroma of coffee and felt immediately attracted to one of my favorite places to buy a good batch. When I arrived I realized that my knowledge about this berry had increased considerably. I thought beyond the classic Brazilian coffee or a good house mix of an Arabica variety from Colombia, and realized that Mexican coffee has a an important place in the world of coffee from its the mills to the local coffee makers. So I asked for a special blend of Mexican coffee and went home to put it away in my refrigerator.
Beyond what the numbers say about Mexican coffee, beyond what statistics tell us as an inescapable truth, coffee has been our companion since we were children. This aroma brings us back to memories of those mornings with our parents, when the steaming concoction separated the side of the table for children and that of adults. And it takes us back to spaces of security and comfort that we unconsciously long for. That’s why, when we grow up, we keep searching in that recognizable bean. Today, on this side of the table, childhood has been left behind and we understand that the morning does indeed begin after the first sip.