There isn't a whole lot of coffee grown in North America... In the last few years, a few avocado farmers on the California Coast have been planting coffee under their avocado trees, but that's about it.
Technically, the coffee of Mexico is North American, but the flavor profile and growing conditions in most of the coffee producing states are much more like Central America (think Guatemala). It's grown primarily in Chiapas and Oaxaca, near the border of Guatemala, and at a altitude of about 1800 meters above sea level (masl).
Then there's the coffee of Veracruz...
A few months ago, I started chatting with Andy Newbom from IP coffees, located in San Diego, California. IP Coffee is promoting the coffee of Veracruz, Mexico as a truly North American coffee. Grown at around 1200 masl, a lower altitude than the best Central Americans, and quite a bit North of the equator, the coffee has a very different flavor profile from other Mexican coffee. It has a heavy body, great sweetness and it's rich with chocolate. It also has a milder acidity than other Mexican and Central American Coffees. Oh, and it's awesome as espresso.
As a coffee roaster, it's hard to make buying decisions based on an industry standard 200-300 gram sample of coffee. So Andy at IP Coffee hosted a friendly "world cup style" Espresso Challenge, pitting underdog Veracruz, Mexico vs. perennial powerhouse Brazil . To back up their claim that their Mexico was better than Brazil in espresso, they sent out full production batches of their coffee. Yes, that's right, they sent full production batches, free of charge.
Sidecar Coffee Roasters took the espresso challenge. The coffee was, indeed, very sweet and chocolaty. Brazil adds a lot of body and a little chocolate, but can also be a little nutty. After extensive testing over several days (I love my job!), I went online, filled out the scorecard and Mexico beat Brazil.
The next thing I knew, I was buying a plane ticket to Mexico City. Andy and the folks from IP had invited me to Mexico to visit coffee fincas and tour their coffee processing facilities in Veracruz.
We'll pick up on the trip in the next blog entry. Thanks for reading!
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