Good body. Coffee flower-honey sweetness. Flavors of stone fruits - peach, apricot.
Chiapas is the world's leading exporter of organic coffee. The state produces 274,600 sacks of beans a year, 180,000 of which end up on export markets.
Organic coffee is generally grown in mountainous areas, at medium-high (601 to 900 meters above sea level) and high elevations (over 901 meters above sea level). In Chiapas, which has 45,763 hectares of coffee plantations, the mixed farming system traditionally used by indigenous communities predominates. Basically, this means the coffee plants are grown alongside other crops that provide them with shade and that help prevent soil depletion.
Around 25,000 farmers, grouped into 23 organizations, are engaged in the production of organic coffee in Chiapas. According to the 2007–2012 Institutional Program of the Commission for the Development and Promotion of Chiapas Coffee compiled by the state government, the transition from regular coffee –where chemicals are used to increase yield per hectare– to organic began in 1986.
The terrain of Chiapas is mountainous and jagged, but provides the perfect climate to grow coffee. Most people living in this area are extremely poor and rely on coffee as a main source of income. The Federación Indigena Ecologica de Chiapas (FIECH) was created in 1993 by Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Mame, Chuj and Zoque farmers who united three small cooperatives spread throughout the region. Over the years the Federation has continued to grow and is now made up of 15 cooperatives who represent 21 different municipalities in Chiapas. FIECH has over 2,800 members consisting primarily of indigenous famers and their families. After the Federation gained Fair Trade certification in 1996, families have benefited from steadier and higher incomes through Fair Trade sales. Farmers say Fair Trade has helped create a positive cycle where families are able to invest in better farming practices, trainings and workshops, which in turn increases production and efficiency.
With Fair Trade certification, FIECH now has more access to higher-priced international coffee markets. The organization no longer relies on middlemen to commercialize their coffee. As a result of participating in international markets directly, FIECH members have become more educated and aware of how to market and sell their coffee to international clients.
FIECH is constantly looking for new ways to support its members. With Fair Trade premiums, the federation has invested in a warehouse and equipment to improve their quality control. The organization has also invested in a nursery to grow new plants: members will have better access to a supply of younger, more productive coffee trees. In addition, FIECH has built dormitories at local schools in the region, so that children and young people living in more remote areas of this underserved region have lodging to use while they are studying and attending school. These centers help farming families deter youth migration to larger cities, by keeping educational opportunities within these rural communities.
About the photo
Jim got this snap on a Sunday in San Cristobal de las Casas, a colonial Mexican town in the heart of Chiapas.