Prolog visits Nindo Ndajé, Oaxaca, Mexico
Prolog visits Nindo Ndajé, Oaxaca, Mexico
By Jonas Gehl
CEO Prolog Coffee
Last week in January we went to visit the "Nindo Ndajé" community of farmers in the beautiful region of Oaxaca in Mexico. Everything seems to stand out more vividly in this spot on the earth. The clouds are more thick, the sun is more bright, the mountains are definitely bigger and the volume of the many radios filling the valley seems to be turned up just one more notch. It’s hard not to wonder if time sometimes stands still here, in Eloxochitlan de Flores Magón. Without getting too much into Mexican history, Ricardo Flores Magón was a writer and an activist, known to be one of the contributors to spark the Mexican revolution in 1910.
Our trip was led by Anna, who together with her partner, David, has founded Merchantia. Merchantia primary works consists of consultating on how to improve and protect agricultural ecosystems. Both Anna and David are biologists with a vast understanding of ecosystems by all measures. It’s truly fascinating walking around with Anna and David in the forests as they see things that I think most people doesn’t. Ecosystems are complex, and I believe it takes time to reach the level of understanding that makes it possible to grasp just a tiny degree of how much nature is communicating with itself; joining the trip with Anna and David surely helps! Our bar manager, Igor, and Roastery Manager, Blazej, also joined Sebastian and me on this year’s trip. It was a true honor to show Igor and Blazej Mexico, which for sure has a special place in Prolog’s heart - and DNA.
This is the fourth time we have visited Eloxochitlan. On every occasion we have been housed by the lovely couple, Eliasar and Virginia. Eliasar works as a leader and organizer of the Nindo Ndajé community, and Eliasar and Virginia is second to none the best hosts out there. Merely Virginias tortillas in their own are enough of a proof!
The first three times we have visited Nindo Ndajé it has been in the custody of Buna (where David used to work) in Mexico City. Since David has now started Merchantia this visit was taken care of by Anna and David. However, we will surely continue the collaboration with Buna. Both companies are truly special and admirable, and a big inspiration to Prolog. We will get back to Buna’s coffees in a later blog post!
Due to covid, it has been two years since our last visit to Eloxochitlan, and the work which has been done since last visit clearly stood out! Many producers have now installed raised beds for coffee drying, and almost all the coffee trees we encountered on the trip had been protected with small terrasses made by sticks and leaves (which prevents the soil from eroding, taking all the nutrition with it in the fall). It’s striking how much the farmers care for their coffee plants. As Eliasar puts is: “Sometimes I don’t want to leave the coffee plants, I want to sleep with them.”
Another change since our previous visit is that the group of farmers has been narrowed down to consisting of the farmers who have a desire to invest even more in the quality of the coffee plants. This group has been named “Nindo Ndajé” - after the big mountain on which mountainside Eloxochitlan is situated. Nindo is the name of the mountain, and Ndajé means “water flowing”. In general, there is a strong connection between the mountain and the coffee plants. Eliasar shared his philosophy that the coffee plants are not merely standing on the mountainside; the coffee plants "are the owners of the mountain” - which again underscores the respect given to the coffee plants in this community.
The community consists of around 40 men and women, many of whom only speak Mazateco, their original, and very beautiful, language. The language is very tonal, to such a degree that it is possible to communicate it only by whistling the language.
This time we also got to participate in the latest add-on of plant preservation in Nindo Ndajé: biodynamic preparations. Anna had made two preparations from home, one to help the communication between the leaves and the sun, and one to catalyze the communication between the roots and the soil. We integrated a small amount of each preparation into buckets of water by creating chaos and whirlwinds with our arms for roughly 20 minutes. During this exersize it seemed as if everyone got into a very quiet trance, only occupied by the sound of stirred-up water and Anna’s flute-playing. After the preparation had been integrated in the water, we were distributing the preparations on either the soil or the leaves of the coffee plants with homemade whisks made of sticks and leaves. Although the coffee plants are already now thriving it feels like as if these preparations were giving the plants a warm jacuzzi bath.
For nutrition the farmers have prepared their own composts composed by leaves, sticks, coffee mucilage and dirt which gets covered by a plastic cover for around 4-6 months.
In addition to the compost the farmers also prepare a “bilotes-tes”, which is a ferment of different minerals and organic matter, and which has a beautiful aroma of natural wine. Together with the compost, these preparations are full of microorganisms which all sparks life into the soil. It’s easy to comprehend why the coffee plants at Nindo Ndajé are looking as strong as they do.
The coffee plants at Nindo Ndajé are mainly of the varieties Typica, Bourbon, Mundo Novo and Oro Azteca. They grow under shade trees in a very diverse agriculture. Every time we go, I get surprised when we reach “the coffee farm”, as it is hard to encounter when you reach the treshold from forest to coffee farm. To be honest, they are the same. However, even when the placement of the coffee trees may look arbitrary a big deal of consideration has gone into the architecture of the parcellas; Eliasar has consciously planted the Oro Azteca in the outer circle of the parcellas, as this variety is more robust against diseases as roja/leaf rust, and hence protects the trees in the inner parts of the parcella.
We have now visited Nindo Ndajé four times. The more times we go, the more I feel we have only scratched the surface of what this environment, nature and community consists of. However, one thing is for sure, while we are roasting, brewing and serving coffee in Denmark, Nindo Ndajé is alive, full of energy and vibrating on the other side of the earth. That’s something to keep us all warm, even in these still cold winter months.
Thank you to Virginia and Eliasar, Anna and David for an amazing journey once again. We can’t wait to come back – and we can’t wait for this year’s harvest from Nindo Ndajé to arrive!