Look for – Buttery, with a caramel sweetness, hint of papaya
Farm – Finca Muxbal
Altitude – 1430 – 1680 masl
Region/Area – Tapachula, Chiapas, Southern Mexico
Variety – Caturra, Catuai, Mundo Novo, Pacamara
Process – Washed
Owners – Maeggi Rodriguez
Certification: Sparkling Water Decaf
Roast level: – Medium/dark
In the local Mame dialect, Muxbal means ‘place surrounded by clouds’, and was the name chosen for a most unique coffee farm. It stands proudly on the slopes of the active Tacana volcano on Guatemala’s northern border. The farm is managed by mother and son team Maeggi Rodriguez and Jorge Gallardo. It was purchased in 1959 by Maeggi’s father, Don Enrique, a man who was very much a pioneer of his time. He introduced three key principles that remain as important today as they were then: social responsibility, environmental sustainability and the production of very high quality coffee.
The farm is Rainforest Alliance certified. It has been achieving an astonishing 100% in recent audits and was the first in Mexico to achieve such perfection. It is easy to understand why. The housing for permanent and temporary staff is clean and comfortable. The canteen is of a high quality, spotlessly clean where three nutritious meals are served for all each day. There is also a well-equipped school, which is open throughout the harvest for the children of the coffee pickers. Great emphasis is placed on all of the social needs of the people who work the land at Muxbal.
Much of the farm has been given over to a breathtakingly beautiful nature reserve – a gorge where icy mountain waters flow through a jungle that teems with life. To allow access to the farm, which stands on a plateau above the gorge, a feat of engineering has been achieved in the form of a road that has been carved into the cliff-face. The 4×4 climb up this winding track is absolutely not for the fainthearted but the brave are rewarded with a visit to one of Mexico’s best coffee farms.
How do they do it?
This process was first discovered by a scientist called Kurt Zosel at the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research in 1967 as he was looking at new ways of separating mixtures of substances. In 1988, a German decaffeination company called CR3 developed this process for decaffeination whereby natural carbon dioxide (which comes from prehistoric underground lakes) is combined with water to create ‘sub-critical’ conditions which creates a highly solvent substance for caffeine in coffee. It is a gentle, natural and organically certified process and the good caffeine selectivity of the carbon dioxide guarantees a high retention level of other coffee components which contribute to taste and aroma.
- The green beans enter a ‘pre-treatment’ vessel where they are cleaned and moistened with water before being brought into contact with pressurised liquid carbon dioxide. When the green coffee beans absorb the water, they expand and the pores are opened resulting in the caffeine molecules becoming mobile.
- After the water has been added, the beans are then brought into contact with the pressurised liquid carbon dioxide which combines with the water to essentially form sparkling water. The carbon dioxide circulates through the beans and acts like a magnet, drawing out the mobile caffeine molecules.
- The sparkling water then enters an evaporator which precipitates the caffeine rich carbon dioxide out of the water. The now caffeine free water is pumped back into the vessel for a new cycle.
- This cycle is repeated until the required residual caffeine level is reached. Once this has happened, the circulation of carbon dioxide is stopped and the green beans are discharged into a drier.
- The decaffeinated coffee is then gently dried until it reaches its original moisture content, after which it is ready for roasting.
There are several benefits to using this process for decaffeination:
The agent used for extracting the caffeine is entirely natural and the process can be classified as ‘organic’ due to the complete lack of chemicals used throughout. There is also no health risk by consuming coffee that has been decaffeinated in this way. The way the process works means the other compounds in the green bean are left untouched, meaning decaffeination has no effect on the flavour and aroma of the finished product. The carbon dioxide is very selective and doesn’t extract the carbohydrates and proteins in the green bean which contribute to flavour and smell. The cell structure of the green bean and the finished roasted bean is unchanged which is of great advantage when working with speciality coffees. The by-products are 100% natural and recyclable.