A few years ago, we decided that we needed to make sourcing Mexican coffee a priority at Little City so we began obsessively cupping Mexican coffees, learning the regional profiles, traveling to Mexico, and building relationships with growers and other supply chain partners. Eric participated in the International jury for the 2019 Cup of Excellence in Veracruz, and Joel traveled to one of Mexico’s largest organic co-ops in Puebla, with whom we worked to help organize their first coffee quality competition in 2020, an event that was unfortunately canceled due to COVID-19.
During these initial discovery trips, we met Ernesto Perez of APG Coffee. Ernesto’s family owns and operates APG coffee mill and Finca Fatima in Coatepec, Veracruz, where they have been in the coffee business for four generations. Ernesto studied here in Texas at TCU before returning home to manage operations at the farm and the mill and was able to quickly make an impact on the business. Only one year after his return and a new focus on specialty coffee, Finca Fatima was awarded as a top-10 finalist in Mexico’s 2019 Cup of Excellence. We have featured award-winning microlots from Finca Fatima for the last two years and Ernesto has also helped us source some amazing coffees from other top growers in Veracruz. Additionally, he handles export and import logistics for all of our Mexican coffee offerings, making sure they arrive in Texas safely and quickly. You can read more about our invaluable partner in his own words below:
LC: Tell us about your family’s history in coffee.
EP: My family’s history in coffee goes back to the late 19th century. My great grandfather Antonio Perez Galvan was the head of exports for Arbuckle’s operations in Veracruz.
My grandfather built machinery for coffee processing and built the wet mill we use today. My father was also involved in exporting fine coffees in the 90’s where he exported up to 400 containers per year. APG was the brand for our finest coffees, the initials of Antonio Perez Galvan. Finca Fatima was purchased by my grandfather in the 70’s.
La Perla, APG’s newest farm development was also purchased in the 70’s by my grandfather and will be the highest elevation farm in Veracruz.
LC: Tell us about your time in Texas and why you decided you wanted to go back to Veracruz and work in the coffee business.
EP: I lived in Texas for seven years. I went to college in Texas Christian University, where I studied Finance & Energy. I worked in energy and real estate after college but I always wanted to build something for my own. My first instinct was Coffee so I started digging deeper in the specialty coffee world. I found a great opportunity because of the existing mill and knowledge my family had in Coffee so I moved back and worked on restructuring the business now focusing on quality, sustainability, and long term relationships.
LC: What is your current role at the farm and mill? What does your typical day entail?
EP: I’m the head of coffee so I see everything related to farms, operations, quality control, sales, logistics and finance. During harvest season I focus more in the wet mill to make sure coffee is being processed correctly, QC and product innovation. Outside of harvest I do a lot of structuring, planning, making sure logistics are flowing, and business relations. I don’t have a typical day because coffee is seasonal and there are always different things going on throughout the year.
LC: Why is Veracruz unique as a coffee growing region and what are the characteristics of a great Veracruzana coffee?
EP: I believe Veracruz coffee is extremely diverse since it has many micro-regions and micro-climates. Being one of the most northern coffee producing regions in the world makes our temperature unique for quality coffees. Moving 100 meters higher in altitude has a tremendous effect in temperature which slows down cherry maturation creating a denser, more sugary coffee bean. Veracruz coffee is balanced, sweet, fruity and many times with unique complexity.
LC: Tell us about Finca Fatima. What varieties do you grow and what processes do you employ?
EP: Finca Fatima is a 20 hectare farm which produces around 100 – 200 bags of green coffee per year. We have three special lots: Typica, Geisha and Garnica. These coffees are used mainly for micro lots and special processing techniques. We also have a good amount of Marsellesa, which is a high yield hybrid with great quality used mainly for high end blends or single origin espresso. Our main processes are washed, extended fermentation washed, anaerobic washed, anaerobic honey, slow dried natural, carbonic natural, yeast + carbonic natural.
LC: Can you tell us a little about the coffees that Little City is offering this year?
EP: We sold three very special lots to Little City this year:
San Alfonso Washed – This farm is the perfect example of a great Coatepec coffee. It’s shade grown, rich soils coffee combined with careful sorting, fermentation and drying makes the balanced, fruit forward sweet coffee you want to drink every day.
Finca Fatima Garnica Washed – This is a late harvest coffee which in my opinion are the best coffees. After the cold season this coffee gets enough sun exposure to create an extremely sweet sugar content. This coffee was processed using the same technique but stood out in the cupping table as one of the best washed lots of the season.
Trincheras Natural – For the first time we experimented in partnership with Las Trincheras for our first Geisha natural. We used a hybrid process, 2 day anaerobic, 30 day slow dried natural process. This coffee has a unique character, sweetness, and complexity from the genetics and terroir.
LC: Tell us about APG. What services do you offer and how many growers do you work with?
EP: We currently have six partner farms and this year we added two new partners. We work with growers that share our vision towards quality, sustainability and long term relationships.
For buyers we offer forward contracting, logistics support, exporting, partial deliveries and spot sales. For growers we offer farm management, access to genetics, quality control and forward contracting.
LC: What is on the horizon for Finca Fatima and APG for the next harvest and the future?
EP: As APG we want to keep growing organically, strengthening our partnerships abroad. We want to conserve our land, forests, rivers, and natural reserves while still producing the highest quality coffee we can. We will keep investigating new varietals, processes but most importantly will launch community projects to have a strong impact on coffee farms.