When I first moved to Mexico, I knew I’d fall in love with the food and the people. One thing that surprised me, though, was how much I became enamored with Mexican coffee.
Mexico is more than just white sand beaches and resorts - it’s filled with lush forests, rainforests, highlands, and brooding volcanoes: the perfect topography for grade-A coffee production.
So, what do Mexican coffees taste like, and how did it come to be?
From the rich soil of this beautiful country's coffee regions to the meticulous artistry of its producers, let's uncover the secrets that make it so popular!
What Does Mexican Coffee Taste Like? (Flavor Profile Revealed!)
Mexico's flavor blend and the beans' generally light body make them ideal for blending, but there are also quite a few single-origin Mexican coffee beans out there.
This makes sense when you consider the geographic location.
Respected Mexican coffees tend to acquire a sweeter, more earthy, and complex flavor, much like what you'd expect from Guatemalan organic coffee.
Is Mexican coffee good? After just one whiff of Mexican coffee beans, you'll wonder how that thought even crossed your mind.
While there are many different kinds, specialty-grade Mexican coffee tends to be dry with a delicate body and an acidy snap to round it out.
Why It Tastes So Good (Here’s The Secret!)
Mexico's geographic location falls right into the "Bean Belt," which is located right within the Tropic of Capricorn and Tropic of Cancer, where the vast majority of arabica beans are grown worldwide.
Some of the best-quality, well-respected green coffee beans are found in the lush forests of Chiapas and Oaxaca, amongst other regions.
Mexico was also the first place to produce organic coffee and takes quality very seriously.
The excellent quality is achieved through many steps, including hand-sorting the beans to eliminate any defects, as specialty coffee doesn't allow for them.
The Arabica bean thrives at elevations between 3,000 and 6,000 feet because of the cooler temperatures and lower oxygen levels.
These conditions make plants grow slower, causing the bean to be more dense and rich in flavor.
All About The History Of Coffee In Mexico!
Like a huge percentage of Latin America, Mexico didn’t receive coffee plants until the late 1700s when the Spanish came over through the port of Veracruz (and former capital of Mexico), bringing the coffee plant from Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
It was in the 1860s that coffee really became quite popular. Mexico had a border dispute with Guatemala at its southern point, which was when Mexican government started legally registering land.
This meant that a ton of unregistered land was purchased, and many wealthy Europeans - including many Italians, Dutch, French, and Germans - swooped in and bought some.
These people were already very familiar with coffee and its popularity in their home countries, which led to them starting their own coffee farms in what are today some of Mexico’s most successful coffee-growing regions: Oaxaca and Chiapas.
Continued Coffee Success
The Mexican Revolution (1910-1917) was a huge win for the fight against the unfair distribution of land and economic inequality.
Over the next 20 to 30 years, the government would create incentives for new farms and give equal rights to both the European settlers and Mexican nationals.
This helped kickstart a massive boost in the amount of coffee produced (up to 900% in some states), with many local farming communities (often indigenous peoples) buying back land from Europeans.
This only benefited Mexico's coffee scene, as the farms were now owned by the people who knew how to produce coffee more effectively, thanks to their knowledge of the land through and through.
Major Coffee-Producing Regions In Mexico
The best coffee in Mexico is grown in some of the most beautiful areas of the country (which is really saying a lot, as every inch of Mexico is amazing with immense biodiversity).
Almost all coffee plantations within its borders are found in southern Mexico, though its coffee is classified by altitude.
As one of the largest producers of coffee in the world, the country certainly knows what it's doing.
Chiapas coffee is some of my favorite, known for its light, delicate, clean, acidic characteristics with chocolatey, nutty flavor notes.
Chiapas coffee isn't bitter at all but rather a bit sweet with a floral and fruity aroma.
Coffee cultivation is fantastic here, thanks to its warm, tropical climate with high humidity, rich volcanic soil, and impressive altitudes.
I’ve never tried anything but high-quality coffee from Chiapas, and this is largely due to the fact that the beans are harvested by pure manual labor.
Needless to say, Chiapas ranks first in Mexican coffee production.
Coffee first arrived in Amatlán de los Reyes, Veracruz, before anywhere else in Mexico.
With its rich volcanic soils, cloudy winters, and elevations reaching up to 1600 meters above sea level, it produces coffee with high acidity, intense aroma, medium body, and notes of spices.
Veracruz state also regulates and protects coffea arabica beans known under the name "Cafe Veracruz" (literally meaning Veracruz coffee).
On a little side note, this natural spiciness makes for excellent café de olla - a traditional Mexican coffee made with brown sugar and cinnamon!
Oaxaca is known for its incredible food, art, and textiles, but they also do organic coffee wonderfully.
Oaxacan coffee is grown under the shade of the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains between 1,200 and 2,000 meters above sea level.
Humidity ranges a bit more here, and coffee is grown in 7 out of the 8 regions of the state.
Oaxaca produces coffee known for a sweet and toasted flavor, with mild acidity and medium body.
For me, I often note flavors of chocolate, pumpkin, citrus, and other unique flavors.
When talking about Mexican coffee, Puebla is not quite as recognized as the other three states yet.
Just a few hours east of Mexico City, most of the coffee beans produced here are Arabica, with very smooth characteristics and some of the same flavors you’ll find from other states.
They include bourbon, catimor, criollo, typica, mundo novo, and other varietals of coffee bean.
The earthy, mild flavor and a balanced light-to-medium body make a good coffee for those who don't like bold and bitter flavors.
This is due to the elevation of 800 to 1500 meters above sea level, where the great Mexican coffee plants really thrive.
Common Questions About Mexican Coffee
What is coffee called in Mexico?
Coffee is called "café" in Mexico.
How is Mexican coffee different from US coffee?
Mexican coffee can be very similar to US coffee. For example, those grown in the Kona coffee belt are also from volcanic soil that offers great quality with a similarly earthy and chocolate profile. However, Kona blends tend to be a bit richer in flavor.
Is Mexico known for coffee?
Mexico is known for producing some of the most respected coffees in the world. Its popularity in growing coffee is only increasing, too!
You'll find some of the highest quality coffees in the world in Mexico, with most of them coming from small farms that place impeccable attention to their delicious beans.
From harvesting to roasting, their amazing work ethic, knowledge, and passion come together to make them one of the biggest coffee exporters out there.
With so many different versions, you’re sure to find something you like!