Farm: Finca Nueva Linda
Varietal: Mundo Novo, Catuaí, Caturra & Catimor
Processing: Fully washed & dried on patios or mechanical drier
Altitude: 1,250 to 1,550 metres above sea level
Owner: Juan José Moguel Orantes
Town / City: La Concordia
Finca Nueva Linda: Mountain Water Decaf - Mexico
Finca Nueva Linda began its life as a coffee farm in 1973. Founded by current owner Octavio Moguel Farrera, the farm occupies 638 hectares of extraordinary coffee growing land in a deep forest right next to Chiapas, Mexico’s El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve. This zone – the Cuxtepeques Valley – is renowned for its coffee, and Finca Nueva Linda successfully lives up to this reputation, having won several internal Mexican quality contests and even placing 4th at the 2012 Mexico Cup of Excellence competition.
Don Octavio has spent almost all his life working in coffee and is, according to many who know him, “the last of his kind.” He started as a driver working in a nearby coffee farm, and it is here that his love for coffee arose. His first goal was to purchase a little land of his own where he could start growing coffee. With hard work and diligent savings, he succeeded in purchasing a good piece of land of reasonable size – Nueva Linda. The farm’s name was given to it by the previous owner, who had purchased the land in 1909, but who had only visited the land once – just long enough to name it. As Don Octavio worked the land, establishing plots of coffee trees, he slowly began to acquire more and more of the land surrounding his initial purchase, eventually reaching the farm’s current size.
Today, Finca Nueva Linda occupies 638 hectares, 142 of which are given over to coffee production. Don Octavio produces only coffee here, despite only cultivating 22% of the land. He takes being part of El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve as a significant responsibility and has placed 496 hectares under "voluntary conservation of estates". It is important to note that this conservation effort is entirely voluntary, as there is no document or law that requires this from farm owners in the area.
The farm is currently managed by Juan José Moguel Orantes, who oversees all aspects of processing and cultivation these days. With Juan José’s help, Don Octavio has actively experimented with lot separation, processing and drying as a means of discovering the full potential of his coffee. Together, they have even built a brand new greenhouse for shade drying – one of the first of its kind in the area.
Don Octavio’s success has not been without its challenges. In 1998, when the farm was much smaller (around 140 hectares), Hurricane Mitch completely destroyed 38 hectares of the farm and leveled the processing facilities. Then, again, in 2005, the farm sustained severe damage from Hurricane Stan. They have refused to cave in the face of such obstacles, however. After rebuilding again and planting new trees, in 2009 they won third place in the Mexican Premio Cosecha coffee quality contest for Arabica, and the farm even succeeded in harvesting a record 4,000 quintals in 2010.
Thanks to good management, excellent farm practices and care of the trees and soil, the Nueva Linda team aims to produce even more coffee in coming years – increasing productivity without reducing quality. They have been very careful and proactive against coffee leaf rust, which has decimated so many farms in the region. Nonetheless, constant diligence is required to keep the farm producing. Annually, it takes around 100 workers to complete all the required work. All workers receive agricultural and productive training, and the farm is working, also, to improve housing and the canteen.
Maintaining soil fertility is a huge part of agricultural work. Soil analysis is conducted throughout all the farm’s coffee plots, and Juan José has begun working with technicians from Guatemala’s Anacafe, who recommend and advise which fertilisers and how much is needed based on the data.
In addition to regular pruning and maintenance, renovation composes a great deal of the farm’s efforts. Average tree age is currently around 24 years old, with some as old as 35 years. Juan José plans to renovate 7 hectares of coffee a year, taking out the old and unproductive plants and replacing them with new varieties which have shown better performance (for instance, Pacas, Geisha, Venecia, Anacafe 14, Marsellesa and Hybrids H18/H19). The farm will also continue to keep going with "selective" pruning, which has also given good results. Above all, they are keeping cup quality at the forefront of their priorities, and all the farm’s new varieties have been carefully chosen with this in mind.
During the harvest, the farm’s labour force grows to 300 people, many of whom come from Guatemala and the surrounding area. All coffee on the farm is selectively hand harvested and delivered to the farm’s own mill, which is located in the centre of the farm. The coffee is hand sorted to remove any underripe or damaged cherries and is then introduced to the farms Penagos pulping machines to be washed, floated and pulped. After being delivered to the farm’s concrete fermentation tanks, the coffee is fermented for 14 to18 hours depending on weather. After fermenting, it is washed with clean spring water hailing from the farm itself.
After being fully washed, the coffee is delivered to the farm’s extensive concrete patios where it is regularly turned and slowly dried under the sun. As mentioned before, the farm also has a new “greenhouse"-style solar driers. A small percentage of the farm’s production is dried in Guardiolas, if the weather does not permit drying outside.
The farm also does honey processing, and in all cases lots are separated by processing and quality. It is likely that they will also start experimenting with single varietal lots in the future.
Climate change has presented a major challenge for the Nueva Linda team. The dry season is longer, and this delays and disrupts flowering. The average temperature has also increased compared to past years, and when it rains, it pours – far too much, in fact, causing cherry and flower fall and damaging trees. All these "extreme" conditions have affected the farm’s production and the behaviour of the coffee trees, which has impacted quality at times. The farm plans to counter this by continuing to innovate and improve farming practices: better fertilisation, planting of improved varieties, and cyclic pruning by rows. The farm is also working with an agricultural technician to improve specifically the "milling process" at the farm, which should ensure a continuous supply of high quality coffee well into the future.
By improving quality Don Octavio and Juan José hope to achieve better prices so that they can continue to re-invest in the farm and to advance in the improvement of the conditions for the workers. This way, according to them, a ‘virtuous circle’ will be created.