Sierra Azul Organic
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Hand Roasted Mexican Coffee
Coffee Type: Espresso
Flavour Notes: Blackberry, stewed fruits, complex
Coffee Packaging: Biodegradable bag
Coffee Farm: Café Sierra Azul
Coffee Varietal: Typica, Bourbon, Mundo Novo
Processing: Fully washed & dried on patios
Farm Altitude: 1,000 to 1,900 metres above sea level
Farm Owner: 200 small holder farmers
Town / City: El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, Ejido Capitan Luis A. Vidal
Region: Siltepec, Chiapas
Average farm size: 3 hectares
Café Sierra Azul is a relatively small cooperative that is made of just over 200 small holder farmers living within Southern Mexico’s El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve. Named for the bluish hue of the tree covered mountains of the Reserve, the organisation’s members are unified not only in improving the livelihoods of communities in the region and beyond but also in their goal of producing the region’s best speciality coffee.
Sierra Azul is was formed only in 2010, but it has achieved great coffee and quickly grown. It started with just 37 producers and now has grown to 227 farmer members, has achieved a wide array of organic certifications (including EU and NOP) and Fair Trade certification.
The initial goal for the Sierra Azul was to help small coffee farmers reach speciality coffee and more direct markets for their coffee. enabling them to escape selling coffee to local buyers for very low prices. Today, producer members within the 14 communities currently working with the group have also benefited from a wide range of social programs.
Weeds begin to grow through July to October as a result of the rains. Since all farms are managed organically, producers do weeding by hand, using a machete. For this laborious work, the majority rely on family but some hire temporary labourers.
Finally, through these raining months the members apply organic fertilisers provided by the cooperative. In addition to compost, these fertilisers are applied every 25 days during the non-harvest months to ensure great soil for the trees.
The harvest season runs from December through April, depending on the attitude of the farm. Coffee is selectively harvested by hand, and producers only pick the most perfectly red cherries. Outside labour is often used during this period, so it is important that the cooperative stresses the importance of good harvest techniques so that these are maintained.
Each producer has their own wet mill, for which they alone are responsible. The small mills usually lie 30 minutes to 3 hours from the actual coffee plantation as many coffee plots are very remote and often don't even have road access. Despite these distances, coffee is always pulped on the same day that it is picked and is then fermented in cement tanks for about 24 hours. The day after, the coffee is fully washed to remove all traces of mucilage. All water used in the pulping and processing is filtered to prevent water contamination, and all the remaining pulp is used as compost on the farm.
Some of the social activities run by Sierra Azul include a Community School (E-Café or Escuela de Cafe) where courses on a variety of topics are given, mainly, to members and their children. The organisation also monitors local wildlife and birds to encourage awareness and care for biodiversity. The plan is to include monitoring of mammals in the near future.
The farm has been certified Organic by NOP, COR, EU & JAS Organic.