My husband David and I have been wanting to visit a local coffee plantation for years, and we just never seemed to find the right time. So when one of our guests asked if we could arrange it, we jumped at the chance. David called Esteban at Piña Colada Restaurant in Guayabitos, and we were set.
Esteban picked us up at 9am and we headed north along Hwy. 200 towards Tepic. About 40-45 minutes later, we stopped at a road-side coffee stand in the town of Mesillas and met up with Moises our tour guide for the morning (Moises is part of the Alvarado family, the owners of the coffee plantation we were about to visit).
We piled in the back of his pickup truck and drove about 10-15 minutes up a windy and very bumpy dirt road until we arrived at the coffee plantation. (In all the years I’ve been coming to Mexico, I have never ridden in the back of a pickup before. I now have a ton of respect for those who choose to who ride that way, because it is certainly not the most comfortable way to travel!)
When we arrived at the plantation (no signs or gates to speak of), Moises showed us how the beans are shelled using a rugged mechanical spinning sheller thingy (yep, that’s my description of it) that spits the raw beans into a large tub, while discarding the berries into a pile on the dirt below. He explained that the raw coffee beans are soaked in water and “fermented” for 24 hours. The beans that float to the top are kept separate, and are sold to companies that make instant coffee like Nescafe.
After fermentation, the raw green beans are laid out to dry on large pieces of plastic for 7-8 days in the sun. They are raked occasionally to turn the beans for even drying. They are then roasted, packaged, and shipped.
We then walked up the hill to see the actual coffee plants. What I didn’t realize was that not all coffee berries are red; some are bright yellow as shown in the photos. Young coffee plants are planted during the rainy season when the soil is very wet. The plants grow best on the side of a mountain shaded by trees, and are all picked by hand during a few months in the winter. During the the rest of the year, the small staff trims the plants, and cleans and mulches the plantation grounds using the discarded dried berries which give off a wonderful aroma (similar to cocoa-bean mulch).
After the tour, we headed back to the coffee shop in Mesillas to sample their coffee. Moise’s brother Mario runs this cute little shop. A few of us ordered espressos, while the others ordered cappuccinos. They also sell pre-packaged kilo bags of beans there for only $60 pesos.
(Note: This seems like the perfect time to mention that I am not really a coffee drinker unless you include the 1-3 Decaf Vente Soy 1-Pump Hazelnut Lattes that I order from Starbucks each week while I’m back in Minnesota during the summer months. In other words, I don’t really have the coffee lingo down pat.)
The Alvarado brand, called Cafe Nayarit, is a blend of 4-5 different varieties and is 100% organic; they use no chemicals or fertilizer. They sell kilo bags of coffee at their mercado in La Peñita, and also export it under the “Exportador de Cafe California” brand name.
The entire trip was 3.5 hours. The plantation tour itself lasted about 1.5 hours, although it could have been longer or shorter depending on the number of questions asked. Since this was the first plantation tour given by Moises and Esteban, I’m guessing they will fine tune both the schedule and the question & answer session. The cost is $70 pesos each for Moises, and $200 pesos each for Esteban.
by Allyson Williams
This story was submitted by one of our regular contributors. To learn more about the author/photographer, click on the “Contributors” tab near the top of the page. If you want to join in and share information, stories and photos of Jaltemba Bay, Mexico, please email them to Allyson@JaltembaBayLife.com
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