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November 13, 2023
This is a very special coffee and one that is close to my heart personally. I met Producer Maricela Esperón at the end of March this year and have been speaking with her regulary ever since.
Here is a quick video explaining a little more about the this coffee and Maricela's story.
We asked Maricela to, in her own words, let us know her story and the story of this coffee.
"In Llano de Agua, Santa María la Asunción, a small town in the Mazatec mountains of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, better known for mushrooms than coffee, lives Maricela Esperòn.
Maricela, a young Mazatec and coffee producer, had a tough road to where she is today. In the Mazatec mountains, as in many areas of Mexico, patriarchal practices still exist; the typical roles of women in these communities are preparing food and caring for children, cleaning the home and perhaps picking cherries from the coffee at the time of harvest, but not direct production.
Maricela's father, Don Miguel Esperòn, should have inherited her grandfather's farm since, in the Mazatec culture, the youngest son is the heir. But since he only had daughters and no heirs of his own, the grandfather breaks tradition and gives the inheritance to his eldest son, who already had two sons at that time.
From then on, Don Miguel Esperòn stopped working with his father and decided to migrate to Mexico City to work to support his family and to be able to save in the hopes of being able to buy some land of his own.
At the same time, Maricela’s mother, Doña Macaria, stayed home caring for the girls, weaving napkins to wrap tortillas and then selling them. She made blouses and shirts out of blanket cloth (handicrafts) and, little by little, they both saved up enough to buy their very own piece of coffee land in 1991.
Unfortunately though, her father was unsatisfied with the plants on the land there. He made his seedbed and, a year later, began to renew them.
Over time and with a lot of hard work they managed to acquire more land and while the father focused on the countryside and their plants their mother began to sell food to the teachers and students of the children's school to support the family.
Early on the local merchants paid very little for their parchment coffee. It did not meet the cost of production. For this reason, at the end of her study (2006), Maricela had to work in Mexico City, but she always returned home during the harvest season. Harvest to help her parents and siblings.
In 2014, the farm was heavily effected by leaf rust. Maricela consulted technicians who could help combat the plague, and thus drastic measures were taken, eliminating some shade, fumigating with Bordeaux mix in a sprayer;
In 2017, she received a phone call from her mother, letting her know that her father was very sick and had coffee to sell; she talked with her brothers and decided to quit her job to take charge of the operations. She returned to her hometown for some samples and headed back to Puebla. Still, it was not favourable, so she moved to the centre of Oaxaca, where she met with a supply coordinator (Israel) who worked for the importer/Exporter Ensambles.
After an analysis of the coffee, she understood the potential and began to invest, installing a raised bed structure with shade on the roof of her house. This is an unusual site in the region since most producers dry their parchment on the patios. The drying process of Maricela is much more complex than that of her neighbours. Most producers produce washed coffee, whose parchment dries quickly in direct sun in 3 days.
Maricela and her family hand-select the ripest cherries from their trees. They take them to their house which is an hour and half away, where they have to wash them in a tub with spring water and thus separate the less dense fruits and remove those that float. Then, they let the good cherries ferment for 48 to 60 hours, depending on the room temperature, before taking it to the raised bed.
For her, the natural process arose when a few kilos of cherries were forgotten in a corner because in those times, they only processed pure-washed ones; these cherries had already been fermented for three days and, although they tried to remove their pulp, it was no longer possible due to the acidity of its mucilage, the pulper only bit the grains, so she decided to take them to the raised bed, which took approximately 45 days to dry. Finally, a sample was sent to the laboratory and a score of 87 points was obtained. Since then, she decided to process naturals to this day.
The land where she lives is very steep, and the only flat area big enough for her beds is the roof of her family's house, but because of the morning dew and cold nights, she has to bag up all the cherries she is drying. And take them downstairs to the house every night and put them back in the morning until said fruits are dry.
Maricela grows her coffee under the principle of agroforestry with her cuajinicuiles, oaks, cedars, mandarins and other intercrops that provide shade to the delicate coffee trees. They also contribute to the health of the soil. In addition to this, she believes in organic agriculture, using compost ( mixture of goat manure, coffee and egg shells, wood ashes (firewood), sawdust, and black earth, and soaking them with fermented fruit water, including the water that comes out when washing the nixtamal), making an effort to protect its natural environment.
In 2020, her brother returned from the city, and now they work together.
She is passionate about coffee cultivation, which is why she installed a nursery of 8 thousand plants of Bourbon, Caturra, Typica, Mundo Novo, a little Gesha and Pacamara varieties, of which 4,000 of these plants will be transplanted to a new land that she acquired two years ago.The others will be transplanted where there is space on the farm, and the leftovers will be sold to neighbours.
It is worth mentioning that her father's health has been improving lately, and now he comes with her and her brother to the field. She says that the plants probably felt her father's absence since he used to talk a lot with them, and although she does, she does not feel the same. Now that they are reunited, the coffee and her father are becoming healthier."
Maricela feels deep gratitude to Ensambles and her clients for being interested in and valuing her and her family's work since progress is being made; of course, by saving, the objectives are achieved;
In 2019, she purchased a mortar to thresh her cherries,
In 2022, she purchased a 2.5k roaster and a grinder.
Of the coffee she keeps, she sells it in green or ground coffee to people who do not grow it. Likewise, she provides threshing, roasting and grinding services in her area."
We're really excited to share this coffee with you and very grateful to Maricela for taking the time to write her story in her own words. This is the start of a long relationship with her and we can't wait to taste the new varietals she is currently working on in her nursery.