Monday, January 25, 2010

Flower of Suchitlán

COMALA, Mexico – Under the enigmatic gaze of twin volcanoes, one active and one dormant, the town of Comala is known for its beautiful cathedral and adjacent town square.

A circular covered bandstand anchors the square, which includes tall coconut palms and other tropical plants, water fountains, brick and stone walkways, and wrought iron benches, all of which match perfectly the colonial surroundings.

We had just finished an average lunch at the restaurant across the street and it was time to wander before heading back down the mountains to Manzanillo. The streets of Comala are tight and crooked, each door or window opening to a small home or a tiny clothing manufacturer.

On arrival to Colima, the larger adjacent town in this valley and the name used for the larger region, steam was seeping from the ominous-sounding Volcán de Fuego de Colima, one of the most active volcanoes in Mexico or North America. "Colima’s Volcano”, as it’s known colloquially – and its dormant twin, Nevado de Colima – are responsible for creating the perfect soil for a lot of tropical plants, including coffee beans.

While I’m wandering the back streets of Comala (are you staying with me?), I overhear one of our bus drivers asking if anyone’s interested in buying local coffee directly from the roaster. I follow a discrete block behind the bus driver and the three tourists who took him up on his offer as we head four or five blocks away from the main square.

He enters a small convenience store in the middle of the block and, by the time I arrive, has taken his small group behind a curtain into a courtyard, where ancient roasters are quiet but still capable of doing their work when called upon. We watch a short description of how the beans are roasted in small batches, and learn that we can choose between mild, medium and dark roast.

I’m last in line and I purchase two pounds of medium roast whole beans for $100 pesos (that’s $US4.80 per pound). The brand name is Flower of Suchitlán, named after the small town 15 miles away from which the beans come.

At home, the coffee is smooth and delicious, with an aroma that smells oddly of flowers. No, that couldn’t be. Could it?

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