This Cup of Excellence winning lot was produced by smallholder farmer members of Coordinadora de Productores de la Zona Centro del Estado de Veracruz (COORPROVER), based in Huatusco, Veracruz, Mexico. The organisation is one of many within Mexico that seek to transform the livelihoods of coffee farming communities through a variety of means. They are, however, one of a select few who are including quality improvement and access to quality-seeking speciality markets as a key part of their endeavour.
COORPROVER was born during the ‘Coffee Crisis’ years of 1998-2002 when the ‘C’ price (and prices being offered to producers around the world) fell to historic lows. It was under these circumstances of uncertainty and vulnerability that a group of small producers, in 2006, decided to form together under a single organisation, whose work would be representing the interests of its members and helping small farmers to gain access to social programs that would enable them to weather the economic climate. Above all, the group aimed to help producers to improve not just coffee yields but also their coffee quality. Equally, producers were encouraged to diversify into complementary income generating activities.
By late 2006, COOPRPROVER had grown to 1,321 coffee producers representing five municipalities in the region of Huatusco. By 2012, just six years after formally registering, they gained formal status as ‘exporter’ with both Fair Trade and Organic certification. Today, they run various projects in production, collection, processing, and commercialization, along with social programs and technical assistance. They are widely known as one of the most innovative cooperatives in Mexico when it comes to vertically integrated coffee production, as well. In 2015 members voted to invest in a new, separate space for roasting coffee. Previously grinding and roasting were taking up too much space in the dry mill facility. Any coffee that is not exported is roasted on-site and sold for local consumption, enabling the organisation to retain as much value for their producer members as possible.
In 2013, COORPROVER redistributed profits by issuing farmers a second payment, beyond the initial purchase price. This second payment often comes at a time when farmers are cash-strapped and need additional funds to meet their needs. It has proven to be a crucial means of helping farmers plan their post harvest activities.
Farmers belonging to the group farm coffee land high in the mountains of Veracruz, where the cool climate and soil composition are perfect for the production of speciality coffee. Farmer members are taught best practices, including fertilisation methods and plague controls using only organic inputs. Renovation activities are key, as well, to maintaining the health of small farms, and farmers are taught the best methods for caring for plants without sacrificing too much of their annual production.
Farmers selectively hand harvest their coffee using primarily family labour. Plot sizes are small and usually outside help is usually not needed. Coffee is then taken to the family’s own small wet-mill at the end of the same day as harvesting, where it is pulped using either a gasoline fuelled or a hand operated pulper. The coffee is then fermented for between 14 and 24 hours in either cement tanks or some other receptacle (in fact, some of the smallest producers may even use large plastic buckets!) before being fully washed in clean water and then delivered to dry on cement patios.
Inclusion of women in coffee growing activities and in democratic participation has been one of the primary foci of the group in recent years. In fact, this microlot, which won 3rd place in Mexico’s 2017 Cup of Excellence competition, was primarily composed of lots from female-led farms.
For COORPROVER, coffee isn’t just about the product itself. Their coffees, in their words, are harvested “in great areas by unparalleled people.” As an organisation, their goal is the well-being and quality of life of these people and their entire coffee family, because they firmly believe that coffee, beyond a simple agricultural product, is a lifestyle, a culture and a hope for progress for those engaged in it.