Coffee is gathered from 6 municipalities in 35 communities with varying altitudes ranging from 800 to 1,700 meters above sea level. Varietals grown by the producers vary due to the different climates and elevations of each farm.
These producers have a rich coffee history, many of which inherited their coffee farms from previous generations. Most come from indigenous communities, still speaking native languages. Additionally, roughly 1/3 of these producers are female. In 2012, many of the Ek Balam producers were faced with the spread of Coffee Leaf Rust, which devastated the region. This led to the dissolution of many supporting coffee organizations in Chiapas, forcing producers to sell to local coyotes for low, unsustainable prices.
Coffee first arrived in Mexico in the late 1700s, introduced by Spanish settlers. These days the country produces a significant amount of coffee, though its place as a producer of coffee on a global scale has been significantly diminished due to the entry of untraditional Arabica producers on the scene and, in particular, due to crop losses due to coffee leaf rust. Although the country is one of the foremost exporters of certified coffee (both organic and fair trade), the specialty market for quality is yet to make significant inroads here. This is not because Mexico lacks potential for producing quality lots: the country boasts a huge number of growing regions with agreeable altitudes and climates, as well as hundreds of thousands of experienced, well-established small-scale farmers. With more than 600 thousand hectares in 12 states under primarily Arabica coffee production, Mexico has great untapped potential for the production of specialty lots.