Meters Above Sea Level
Smooth milk chocolate, honey, and toasted graham cracker.
Backstory of the Bean
We know, we know, decaf coffee isn't even considered as an option for many coffee lovers, however we wanted to include a decaf coffee in this set to showcase that high quality decaf coffees taste just as good as a regular brew, and can have unique and interesting flavor profiles that make them just as fun to drink as a regular coffee.
Coffees of any process (Washed, Natural, Honey, etc) can also be
processed for decaffeination. The decaffeination itself takes place after the coffee has been harvested, processed, and had its parchment layer removed; most of the time, coffees need to be sent to specific facilities to be decaffeinated, rather than having the caffeine removed at the mill level.
At present, there is no such thing as a genetically decaffeinated coffee, which means that decaf coffee needs to be created by physically removing the caffeine from green coffee seeds. Most of today’s decaf processing methods are sophisticated and thorough and can remove 99 percent of the caffeine naturally present in coffee.
The decaf process used on these beans was a methylene chloride process. Methylene chloride is a solvent that is used to bond with and strip caffeine molecules from the green coffee seed. The MC process first uses hot water to extract caffeine and other solubles from the coffee seeds, and then the seeds are removed from the water. Methylene chloride is then added to the water solution, and it bonds with the caffeine; because MC is not miscible with water, it is easily removed from the solution along with the bonded caffeine, and the coffee seeds are re-submerged in order to absorb their soluble compounds. The United States Food and Drug Administration has stated that MC is safe for use in decaffeination processes, and is harmless to humans in consumption of 10 parts per million (ppm) or less. Coffee decaffeinated using this method has been shown to contain a fraction of that safe amount.
As throughout most of Mesoamerica, Mexico was first planted in coffee during early colonial times, most likely in the late 18th century. Due to the greater attention paid to the region's rich mineral desposits and mining opportunities, however, coffee didn't really develop as an industry until later, especially coming into its own in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the redistribution of farms after independence and the emergence of smallholder farmers, specifically those of indigenous origin. In the late 20th century, the Mexican government established a national coffee institution called INMECAFE, which, like the FNC in Colombia and ICAFE in Costa Rica, was developed in order to offer technical assistance, botanical information and material, and financial credits to producers.
Unfortunately, INMECAFE was something of a short-lived experiment, and dissolved in 1989, leaving growers with a vacuum in their access to support and resources—especially those in very remote rural areas. This disruption to the infrastructure as well as the coffee crisis that followed the end of the International Coffee Agreement plunged Mexico's coffee farmers into despairing financial times, which of course in turn affected quality dramatically. Throughout the 1990s and since the beginning of the 21st century, an increased presence, influence, and focus of Fair Trade and Fairtrade certifications and the emphasis of the democratically run small-farmer cooperative organization has worked to transform the image of Mexican coffee to one that reflects sustainability, affordability, and relatively easy logistics, considering its proximity to the United States.
In recent years, Mexico has struggled mightily with coffee-leaf rust and other pathogens that have reduced both yield and cup quality. This, combined with enormous turnover of land ownership and loss of labor to emigration and relocation has created a somewhat tentative future for the producing country, though we have seen great cups and great promise from quality-inclined growers and associations there. The top cups are fantastic, and they're worth the work and long-term investment to try to overcome the obstacles facing the average farmer, who owns between 1–5 hectares. (Though some of the mid-size estates will run closer to 25 hectares.)