Both fifth generation coffee farmers, Adriana and Cole are part of the new speciality coffee producer crowd taking over these wild, jungled mountains where a sought-after type of coffee is grown (pluma típica). This variety is susceptible to a local insect infestations, meaning that many of the local farmers prefer to grow easier, lower quality beans to ensure a financially successful harvest. But those willing to take the risk on pluma tipica are awarded with some excellent coffee.
Adriana and Cole have taken things a step further, stepping up their game with a site for glamping and a coffee tasting for guests. The road up the mountain from Huatulco and the coast is winding and a low cloud of fog hangs over everything as we approach in early evening. Our tents, sitting on wooden platforms and fully equipped with real beds, high-quality linens, and locally produced bath products, are cozy yet breathable. Outside each has a few wooden deck chairs for lounging and gazing at the full moon which will soon be out in all its glory. The bathrooms and showers are in an equally nice building a few feet away, but separate from the tents.
Adriana is an excellent cook and serves us a yellow mole for dinner with chayote, potatoes, and big chunks of beef. She tells us that it was her great grandmother's recipe. A little local mezcal and some Victoria beers and we settle in to hear the story of the finca.
The place has belonged to Cole's family since 1877. The land was passed from generation to generation, including the original wooden house reminiscent of a Swiss cottage or the den of some rubber tappers in a 18th-century jungle novel.
Photos dating from the finca's inception show stern-faced former inhabitants and a mischievous farm dog that refuses to be left out of the fun. Cole's father abandoned the land in the 1990s when a crash in global coffee prices and hurricane Paulina that slammed into the Oaxaca coast made the business unsustainable. Two years ago, Cole and Adriana came back and began to harvest and process coffee for the first time in over 20 years. Adriana's family also has a coffee plantation on the other side of the mountain and the bulk of beans they ferment and process come from there.
The night arrives with the sounds of tree frogs and rustling bamboo, satisfied and buzzing from the mezcal, we settle into our individual tents for the night. In the morning I find I am sharing my tent with the farm's cat Bobby who has snuck in during the night.
A Passion for Coffee in Mexico
We awake early for a coffee tasting provided by Cole. He starts by making us a cup of his delicious coffee and then proceeds to test our sense of smell with a variety of essential oils. The collection of tiny bottles represents all the good and bad smells detectable in a cup of coffee. It's obvious that Cole is deeply passionate about his coffee as he tells us about the extensive process they have undergone to determine just the right amount of toasting, fermentation, and processing for their beans.
We move to the tasting area where we are instructed on the difference between the fragrance, aroma, and taste of coffee and how its various forms and the time it is allowed to sit determine what tastes and smells predominate. I'm not really sure I detected the notes I was supposed to, but I did get to drink lots of great coffee. For breakfast we're treated to another incredible meal from Adriana, this time French toast and enchiladas de coloradito with salty local cheese sprinkled on top.
The finca has a short jungle hike where visitors can learn a little about the process of coffee cultivation or a bit more intense hike down to the 50-meter waterfall that once powered all of the town of Pluma with hydroelectric power.
On our way back to Huatulco we stopped off at the Manto Niebla coffee plantation, owned by Francisco Villareal. Villareal is another pioneer who has come to invest in the area's revitalizing coffee trade. Young and ambitious, Villareal has purchased 70 hectares of land and planted between 60-70 thousand coffee plants since he started in 2016. The finca's land reaches up to 1350 meters above sea level but so far they have only planted up to 1200 meters. The coffee plants are a mix of pluma tipica, geisha, and Marsellesa beans—all varieties that can fetch premium prices from connoisseurs.
They are planting rows of shiny green coffee plants among the native trees, which they have thinned to give the plants some light on the jungle floor. While cutting down trees is a necessary evil for coffee production, Villareal says they follow the guidelines of the Rainforest Alliance (like leaving all of what's cut for biomass on the forest floor) and try to grow their coffee as sustainably as possible.
The foot or so tall recent additions are mixed in with decades-old plants that survived the area's abandonment and continue to produce Christmas-red berries on their limbs. Villareal and his team have trimmed back these old trees and many have begun to produce double what they did when the new farmers first arrived.
Right now the finca is still in its most nascent stage. They've set up a coffee plant nursery for later transplantation at high altitudes, while tending to their young bushes and drying coffee in the sun at the tiny bodega and office at the entrance to the finca. Villareal eventually plans to have green spaces and areas for guests to purchase beans, and sample what he believes will be some of the best specialty coffee in the region, but for now its a verdant, wild mix of coffee and local flora.
If you go:
Aventura Mundo organizes these and other adventure tours for groups big and small on the coast of Oaxaca state and they can adjust an itinerary to your needs. High season in Huatulco, which means more tourists but also the best weather, is from November to March.
Story by associate editor Lydia Carey, all photos by author except for two of moonlight tou, courtesy of Aventura Mundo.