My Rainforest Heritage in a Cup of Coffee by Angelica Fuentes
Chiapas came before all other things. It is the backdrop my memory built around.
My dad’s family lived in a village near the Pacific coast where my siblings, mom and dad spent all our summer holidays and Christmases, together.
I remember my uncle's house and the perpetual buzz from the kitchen, starting at five in the morning when my aunt and her aide were leaving for the market to buy fresh fruit, eggs, tomatoes and chilis for breakfast and lunch ... and of course, there was that special, recognizable aroma of fresh coffee, brewing in the open fire in a rustic, red clay pot.
My first memories growing up were memories of that village: swimming in the calm slow river or in the mighty sea, carelessly playing in the streets while it rained heavily and special treats of accompanying my aunt to the market very early, then going into the enchanted kitchen where unimaginably delicious food was being made out of simple, humble ingredients... and in the background, the sweet, nutty scent of coffee, intriguing and capturing me since early age.
I remember being at a funeral once in that same village, as a little girl, and the strongest memory of that day, the one that stayed carved deepest in my mind, was the smell of coffee, forgotten and burnt by the fire.
We went back and forth from Mexico City to Chiapas many times during those years, always carrying large packages of rich, freshly roasted coffee back home.
I grew up and the travels introduced me to new coffee types, new aromas and flavors which helped develop my taste buds and learn to appreciate the variations in fragrance and taste.
I saw how the world was falling in love with coffee from Brazil and Colombia, Uganda and Costa Rica, and kept wondering why Mexican coffee was being forgotten and not considered in the race for the best. At the same time, I couldn’t find the good coffee beans in the store and I missed the rich cup of Chiapas roast that was getting harder to find, while the Mexican market was being flooded with low quality coffee beans. The good stuff was held back for exports only.
With my dad by my side, I immersed myself in this fascinating world of coffee, learning about the cultivation methods, species and plant types, harvesting, processing, roasting. I also realized the magnitude of effort required to achieve the dark green, glossy plants with delicate, white flowers that produce the delicious, red berries, and what it takes to get the perfect coffee bean with a perfect roast for a delicious and unique cup.
Our own plantation was still very new and didn’t have the quantity or the quality of the coffee trees we determined we needed, because growing a good coffee plantation takes time. While we kept working on our plantation, we traveled many miles and visited many farms, meeting very valuable, motivated, skillful people who wanted to collaborate and with whom we still work today. We found the producers who are dedicated to nourishing their shade-grown plants, who don’t use pesticides to avoid affecting the chemistry of the soil or coffee trees, who sustainably harvest only the mature fruits and collect, ferment and dry them using the techniques that ensure the best quality, worthy of any world expert’s morning cup. The Specialty Coffee Association of America consistently awards extraordinary ratings for the harvests of our producers from the states of Chiapas and Nayarit, year after year.
The journey from my childhood memories of that beautiful land, so rich in flavors, colors and aromas to this day has been long, but rewarding. Now more than ever, I am firmly convinced of the extraordinary quality and potential of Mexican coffee, and I am committed to share that conviction with the world through my brand, KUNAL KI, one cup at a time.
KUNAL KI. The joy of each day.