Colectadores at Finca Santa Rosa

Finca Santa Rosa in Teocelo, Veracruz, Mexico, where collectors move from grove to grove to gather fresh coffee cherries from varieties of trees such as Mundo Novo, Bourbon, and Caturra. A spate of the fungus called Roya has damaged thousands of trees and threatened the livelihoods of many who work in the coffee industry. Many farmers in Mexico are experimenting with planting different varietals of coffee to find those most resistant to the leaf rust disease.

Candid Portrait of an Artisanal Coffee Roaster at a Finca in Veracruz, Mexico

Brendan Larkin learns about coffee varietals on a finca deep in the mountains of Veracruz.

Brendan Larkin learns about coffee varietals on a finca deep in the mountains of Veracruz.

When traveling with a group, it's often difficult to find photos that illuminate what Henri Cartier-Bresson sought to capture with his portraits - the notion of "inner silence." 

He said, "Above all I look for an inner silence. I seek to translate the personality and not the expression." In this moment, I was happy to see Brendan Larkin, an artisanal coffee roaster working in Memphis, Tennessee, concentrating on the experience of being on a finca, or coffee farm, to learn about the single origin coffees of Veracruz. I like how the backlit branches frame his face, the dense thicket of coffee and banana trees close in the frame, and how the image evokes something of Brendan's personality, his earnest effort to understand the complexities of the coffee economy, and the reverence with which he and his fellow roasters had for the coffee trees and the people who work at each step of the process to bring coffee to cups around the world. 

Travels through Coffee Country

Along the mountain road to Teocelo, Veracruz, Mexico, a retired coffee worker sells Coca-Colas from a roadside shelter. Photo by Andrew Sullivan

Along the mountain road to Teocelo, Veracruz, Mexico, a retired coffee worker sells Coca-Colas from a roadside shelter. Photo by Andrew Sullivan

Just back from a week traveling through the mountains of Veracruz, exploring coffee fincas with a group of artisanal coffee roasters and the exporter they work with. I was again astounded by the richness and beauty of this country's landscape, and the tenacity, warmth, and humor of the Mexican people. Each coffee farm we visited, the owners and workers welcomed us as honored guests and led us on explorations through their crops, one of which grew wild through the slopes of a cloud forest outside Zongolica. Observing the process required to produce a single cup of coffee gave me a deep respect for the people involved in each step. From the person cultivating individual trees to the teams of collectors gathering dozens of kilograms of coffee cherries each day, to the men delivering the bags of cherries to the mills, the mill workers cleaning, sorting, fermenting, and packaging the beans, to the transporter and exporter, the roasters wherever they may be, down to your local barista. It's awe-inspiring to consider the complex process required to create a delicious cup of coffee. 

We're considering running a workshop through coffee country, and after our week in Veracruz, we'll post more images from the trip and share thoughts about planning a workshop.