History of Coffee in Mexico

History of Coffee in Mexico

In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, we here at Volcanica Coffee would like to take a moment to look back and recognize and celebrate Mexican Coffee history by sharing it with all of you.

Records indicate that coffee made its way from the archipelago of Antilles in the Caribbean to Mexico in the 18th century, sometime around 1740. Some of the first coffee farms in Mexico appeared in Veracuz, where they quickly spread all throughout central and southern Mexico, especially in Oaxaca and Chiapas, which to this day remain two of the dominant states within Mexico for coffee production.

Commercial cultivation of coffee picked up fairly quickly by the 1790s, and since then coffee has transformed the communities where it has grown. Perhaps one of the most impactful events for coffee in Mexico was the Mexican Revolution at the turn of the 20th-century, which led to many agrarian reformations that granted thousands of plots of land to indigenous laborers previously held by colonialists.

Mexican Coffee Ripe Beans

With new 20th-century politics, came new 20th-century views on labor laws, which freed hundreds of thousands of indentured servants that previously worked on coffee plantations, who then took their skill sets to enrich and transform their local communities. During this time, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) developed the newly minted National Coffee Institute of Mexico (INMECAFE), which helped coffee cultivation grow and develop in Mexico for the latter half of the 20th-century and make the country a strong contender within the growing international environment of coffee production.

INMECAFE set the standards for coffee exports to ensure that coffee prices remained high and stable for years to come. Unfortunately, in the late eighties, Brazil flooded the coffee market with cheap coffee, causing a rapid decline in prices not only in Mexico but throughout the world. By 1991, coffee prices in Mexico capsized and were worth less than a third of what they were at the height of Mexico’s coffee production in 1985.

The coffee price crash led to farmers foreclosing and selling their crops, many having to move out of their communities to larger urban areas, and coffee exports in general faltering heavily within Mexico. This led many farmers that were able to afford staying on their coffee farms to cut costs since margins were already thin by either cutting out weeding and fertilizing their crops. During the early nineties, these cost-reducing measures led coffee coming from Mexico to take a sharp dive in quality.

Mexican Cafe

But as the Mexican government’s program INMECAFE’s financial resources waned due to poor management and corruption, local social organizations and labor groups with common interests sprouted up in their place, such as CEPCO and ICIRI, along with cooperatives all throughout Mexico to help farmers develop their farms with some of the best coffee in the world. Since the mid-2000’s, coffee cultivation has substantially grown in Mexico, while also producing world-class coffee quality that demonstrates the unique character and individuality of Mexico’s culture.

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