Origin Focus // Mexico

Origin Focus // Mexico

By Mark Chislett

Origin Focus // Mexico

Nadie defiende lo que no ama y nadie ama lo que no conoce …Nobody defends what they don't love and nobody loves what they don't know. 

With these words Miguel Guevara captures the moment - calming a sometimes tense meeting and hinting at a better future of understanding and collaboration. We’ve just spent the afternoon with coffee farmers near Iliatenco, in the state of Guererra, Mexico.

Our hosts have been incredibly welcoming; we share a meal of pozole together, introductions are made and the large group of producers share their experiences. It’s an open and honest discussion, sometimes challenging, as the producers voice the frustrations and difficulties of small-scale coffee farming in this part of rural Mexico.


We’ve wanted to return to Mexico for some time; last year we found the right people to partner with, Ensambles: A collective operating across Guerrero, Chiapas, Verecruz and Oaxaca. Earlier this year I was able to visit and get to see their work  first hand. They have implemented a range of projects to assist farmers with quality and access to better markets, making real improvements to people’s lives here. I’m travelling with Aissatou Diallo and Guerrero-born Miguel Guevara, one of the founders of Ensambles.


Over the course of our travels I learn about coffee production and the broader social, economic, and environmental contexts it operates in. Coffee is often grown in very remote areas, accessed on winding mountain roads and dusty forest tracks. In this vast country, we drive around 1500 KM over the course of several days, visiting producers in two areas, the Sierra Mazateca and the Montana Alta in Guerrero. 

Guerrero doesn’t have the best reputation. Often known for its narco activity; financially a very poor state and there are serious security problems. Not an easy place to source coffee - but the impact we can have on the communities here makes it all worth while. 

This is off-grid coffee hunting: The areas of Guerrero we’re travelling in have no mobile phone coverage and very limited internet access. In some areas you can find ‘WiFi coupons’, providing access to the the Internet via satellite. Or, as is the case in the town of Iliatenco, there are a few phone lines providing contact to the outside world. The connected residences provide a service whereby incoming calls into the town are announced over tannoy speakers to alert the recipients.

Law enforcement in Guerrero is undertaken by the ‘Community Police’, made up of volunteers, these groups protect their local area from violence and armed outsiders. This practice is just one aspect of the customs, traditions and laws you need to understand when operating in this region.


There is some amazing coffee here - forest grown in a low intensity polycultural system. The ecosystem is largely untouched and there is incredible biodiversity - different levels of shade, rich organic soils and clean rivers. Walking through the forests, alongside the coffee cherries there is a wealth of produce - oranges, grapefruits, tomatoes, passion fruit, corn, beans, squash, aromatic herbs, bananas, and many more that are unfamiliar to me.

As well as the Montaña Alta in Guerrero, we also visit coffee producers in Huautla de Jiménez, Oaxaca. A calm and beautiful region in the Mazateca Mountains. As well as a central quality lab and storage facility in Huautla town, Ensambles do outreach to the communities here. Collecting coffees, giving workshops on growing and processing techniques and allowing farmers to connect with roasters like us who can see the value of working in these parts of the world.

The coffees from this region contribute to our La Mazateca coffee, you can find out more about this here.

Over the coming months we will be featuring other lots from these communities.