Successful coffee farmers possess a clear vision, unrelenting determination, and an appetite for risk. Enrique López Aguilar needed all three attributes when he purchased Finca Chelín a decade years ago.
Originally founded in 1896, the farm sits at an elevation of 1,700 meters in the rugged Sierra Sur mountain range in the state of Oaxaca. When Enrique first stepped foot on the property, no one had lived or worked the farm in almost a decade, vines covered the 30 year-old Pluma and Mundo Novo coffee plants, the roads were in disrepair, and the washing station was crumbling.
Enrique’s vision for Finca Chelín was simple: produce the best Mexican coffee in an environmentally friendly manner. The microlots coming out of Finca Chelín for the past few years prove that Enrique has achieved his vision. His success can be traced back to three crucial decisions he made nine years ago.
First, Enrique decided to “do no harm” to the environment when he rebuilt the farm. Even though it would have been easier to use fertilizers and herbicides to bring the coffee trees back to life, Enrique employed more expensive and more time-consuming organic practices. He did not cut down any of the hardwood and fruit trees that shade the coffee, leaving a natural sanctuary for birds and other animals. As a result, Finca Chelín is a carbon-neutral undertaking that has preserved the forests that sequester carbon, recharge aquifers and provide a habitat teeming with wildlife.
Second, Enrique supplemented the heirloom varieties that already existed on the farm with several other high quality varietals, including Geisha. The Geisha variety is known to be more tolerant than other traditional cultivars of coffee leaf rust, a disease currently decimating producers in Oaxaca, and for producing stunning cup quality when grown under the right conditions.
Third, Enrique attacked coffee processing with extraordinary zeal. Each time we visit the farm, Enrique is running dozens of new processing experiments on fermentation, washing, and drying.
We are fortunate to work with farmers like Enrique. What he has done with Finca Chelín in nine short years is stunning and inspiring. Given his vision, determination, and appetite for risk, we expect to be offering you his superlative coffees for many years to come.