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Mexico: 3 firms fulfill decaf & soluble needs.

Mexico: 3 firms fulfill decaf & soluble needs

No one would think that in a town just 54 miles from Veracruz, Mexico, would reside a hub of various coffee processing plants. But in Cordoba, there are three companies, all part of the Sanroke Group, that can offer two different types of decaffeination - one chemical and one natural, and a newly constructed soluble coffee plant.

Grupo Sanroke was founded by Manuel Muguira, who directed the company until his death in 1971. The first coffee company unit was set up in Chiapas in 1949. Today, his son, Domingo Muguira directs the conglomerate as chairman of the board. The Sanroke Group deals with the agriculture and mass media industries. These include various companies which carry out the entire productive process from fincas to roasting, decaffeination, and soluble coffee processors. Sanroke also has interests in rice and sugar production.

Descafeinadores De Cordoba SA de CU

Decaffeinated coffee is big business worldwide, and consumption on a universal basis is increasing. Methylene chloride ([MeCl.sub.2]) is the decaffeination solvent used in the Descafeinadores De Cordoba SA de CU processing plant.

Methylene chloride has suffered from baseless allegations of toxic residues left after the roasting process. Methylene chloride residues from any decaffeination process amounts to 2 or 3ppm (parts per million). The FDA has promulgated regulations that require [MeCl.sub.2] levels to be below 10 ppm. Obviously, the coffee industry operates well below that acceptable safe level.

Industrywide, [MeCl.sub.2] is considered the best decaffeination process, as it takes very little flavor away from coffee and is the cheapest process. The solvent is still enjoying a good demand both in the U.S. and Europe.

Jorge San Martin has managed the decaf plant since it was built in 1987. He tells the TEA & COFFEE TRADE JOURNAL that the company can only decaffeinate Mexican coffee. The Government prohibits any coffee from non-Mexican origin to be imported. Presently, there is legislation pending to change this ban on non-origin coffee imports.

The Descorsa (acronym) plant produces 16 tons of decaffeinated coffee per day. The plant is open 7 days/week, 365 days/year. The company purchases coffee from all parts of Mexico. Lower grades are purchased by local roasters and the higher grades are solely purchased by International Decaffeinated Corp., a Houston, Texas-based coffee importer.

Descorsa exports all their decaf to the United States. Europe is not a feasible market, as the Continent has a higher tax for decaf coffees and no tax for green coffee. If the company were to export their decaf coffees and pay the European taxes, they would just about break even and it's not considered a worthwhile venture for the company.

Speaking with Alejandro Fautsch of International Decaffeinated Corp., he tells us the total U.S. decaf market amounts to over 3 million bags of which the [MeCl.sub.2] process accounts for about 1 million bags. While demand for [MeCl.sub.2] was wavering a few years ago; in 1990, [MeCl.sub.2] demand actually increased. Fautsch has seen some roasters, who may have initially started with the [MeCl.sub.2] process before any controversy arose, switch to a natural decaf process, and then, due to the roasters' customer response, revert back to [MeCl.sub.2] because the clients preferred the coffee taste better.

Descorsa's laboratory checks the ph, number of residues, and is able to acquire only a 2ppm residue from their decaf processing. Again, the FDA allows 10 ppm [MeCl.sub.2] per cup as a safe level. A quality certificate is available to clients, and customers receive it automatically with every lot they purchase.

The complex encompasses 7500 sq. meters (7 1/2 acres) which includes an office administration building and the actual processing plant. The plant was constructed in such a way that capacity can easily and inexpensively be doubled should the need arise. The state-of-the-art technology machinery was all acquired within Mexico.

Two engineers are needed to operate the plant. The actual decaf process takes 50 hours from green to decaf, though the engineer did stress that the amount of time varies from bean to bean as the amount of caffeine varies in coffee beans. For example, Robusta coffee yields more caffeine than Arabica.

In order for the coffee to be decaffeinated, Descorsa must first steam the beans so they swell, opening its pores for the proper separations. The beans are then transferred into one of the plant's four extraction vats. Pressure, high temperature, and the solvent are applied at the next stage until the beans are ventilated and passed through the condensator. The solvent is continually reused. Beans are steamed at 100 [degrees] F which causes the [MeCl.sub.2] to separate from the coffee. The longest part of the process is the drying of coffee. Water used within all processes is purified to world standards, well above Mexico's local water regulations. The amount of water used in the [MeCl.sub.2] process amounts to 1800 liters/day and the water is continually recycled.

Descorsa claims [MeCl.sub.2] is still a favorite within the coffee industry, and they will continue to meet the U.S. demand.

Cafe Descafeinado De Chiapas, C.V.

Only two blocks away from Descorsa is another decaffeination plant within the Sanroke Group. Cafe Descafeinado was actually the first-ever decaf plant in Mexico, build in 1980 and presently utilizes water and coffee oils. Production amounts to 25 tons per day, and the plant has double the capacity of the [MeCl.sub.2] decaf plant.

It is here where Domingo Muguira keeps his office, comfortably adorned with family and friends' photos. He speaks proudly of his father, who began in the coffee business in 1919 and how the company's partnership with Zardain made them the largest Mexican coffee exporter from 1957-1970. In 1970, the Sanroke Group was formed and enjoyed the position of #1 coffee exporter, exporting 800,000 bags of coffee each year. In 1979, the Mexican government decreed that there would no longer be any more private exporters, so the company purchased mills, sold some mills back to the government and diversified themselves into TV, radio, rice, and chalk industries.

Muguira stated that the Cafe Descafeinado plant started with the [MeCl.sub.2] process, but then switched to water and coffee oils. They chose a natural process, seeing how more U.S. clients wanted a natural process versus a chemical process. As [CO.sub.2] is the hardest and most expensive of all the decaffeination processes, Muguira says they chose water and coffee oils as it was less expensive. But the company has further researched the [CO.sub.2] method, as they find it a better process, and plans are underway to use the [CO.sub.2] method in a new facility.

Sanroke has recently built a [MeCl.sub.2] decaf plant in Portugal and production is expected to begin this month.

Muguira has genuine feelings about the coffee industry. He recommends, "We all should be looking for ways to increase coffee consumption, but altogether (importers, exporters, etc.). It's a good beverage and the cheapest beverage." Muguira hopes to have an iced coffee product available to the Mexican consumer market within the next two years. This line will further complement his roast and ground coffee line - Cafe Verakaff and Kasinka.

The Mexican government has aided the coffee industry in the last two years. With the new President, the administration is pushing coffee to enter all external markets. The industry is taking the time to look ahead, having abolished permits earlier needed for exportation. Since the quota demise in July 1989, there has been more of a demand for Mexican coffees. As of January 18, 1991, 580,000 lbs. of coffee were exported of which 300,000 lbs. were of the old crop. Muguira expects 1991 to have the smallest coffee crop due to a frost in 1989, lack of water, and money. Even though more Mexican coffee was exported, fincas and exporters suffered with lower prices.

The laboratory at this plant is actually the pilot lab for all three processing facilities. The complex is situated on 12,500 sq. meters and facilities have been added and extended as the company grew. The dryers used in this facility are vacuum dryers, which take up to seven hours to dry beans. In the [MeCl.sub.2] plant, their cascading dryer takes 10 hours.

Ramon Ramos is the plant manager of Cafe Descafeinado, which employs 80 people for their 24 hour/7 day/week. Three shifts maintain the processing operations. As it is difficult to maintain the water and oils parameters, a Foxboro control board automates the system. Water consumption for this process takes 200,000 liters per day, and some parts of the process do allow recycleability. Ramos tells us the water and coffee oils process has been utilized for the last two years. At any time, the plant can use either natural or chemical solvents.

Cafes Solubles de Veracruz, S.A. de C.V.

Situated in the back of the Cafe Descafeinado plant is the Group's latest soluble coffee venture. In production just three months ago, expected production is 2,160 tons/year. Serving the roasting facilities of the soluble plant, as coffee must first be roasted in order to solubilize, is a Lilla roaster which roasts 1,200 tons of coffee/month. The roaster has a seven bag (70 kilo) capacity, and its roasting cycle takes 12 minutes.

There are two separate lines of seven extractors to process decaf or regular coffee and in whichever decaf process the client desires for the spray dried coffee. The roasted coffee is sent to double-effective evaporators. Once it is evaporated, the coffee is transferred to a cooling tank and then proceeds to a dryer tank. The tower can either produce spray soluble, which is a fine granular mix, or agglomerated, which appears chunkier.

The soluble coffee plant's lab is open 24 hours/day. The staff routinely checks for moisture, density, color, and number of sediments. The lab also takes samples of all processes every eight hours. From green coffee samples, the proper minimum and maximum roasting levels are ascertained here and should any problems arise, the lab allows for immediate input and corrections. For export, the soluble coffee is shipped bulk in large plastic bags, packed from All-Fill equipment.

Robert Gispert, general manager of the soluble and roasting facility, overseas 80 employees who also work in 3 shifts/24 hour days/365 days/year.

When asked if the world market could accept more soluble coffee entrys, plant manager, Roberto Gispert told us that while worldwide soluble consumption is declining, it may not be profitable for all the present soluble firms to continue. He does see an expected increase in soluble coffee with the acceptance of more iced coffee products. He reminded me that soluble coffee is the base for all iced coffee products. The company intends to export both to Europe and the U.S., and present facilities can easily be doubled in capacity.

Cafes Solubles de Veracruz is the first coffee company in Mexico to produce a naturally decaffeinated soluble coffee product. Another exporter is eyeing the line for inclusion into a major supermarket chain outside the country. Cafe Solubles intends to set up TV advertising and other promotional activities for the Kasinka soluble coffee line, and the Group feels that they can create the market niche for a natural decaf soluble coffee product among the Mexican population.

Gispert tells us the entire production of roast coffee to soluble product takes 24 hours. Approximately 2 1/2 kilos of green coffee are needed to manufacture 1 kilo of soluble. As green coffee has 40% solids, much more coffee is needed to extract a proper cup's worth.

The plant, which cost $10 million, acquired one of its extractor lines with a capacity of 3,000 liters from Hills Bros. The second line was manufactured in Mexico. The five storage bins for soluble coffee hold a capacity of 19 totes (250-300 kg of soluble depending on density). Three roasted coffee bins hold 10 tons each.

Water consumption amounts to 2,500 liters and every eight hours, the purified water is checked.

Soluble de Veracruz feels that currently the overseas market can be acquired faster than the domestic market, and after much research in the foreign and domestic soluble consumption market, there is definitely room for them.

PHOTO : Descorsa looms in Cordoba's countryside.

PHOTO : Quality control-coffee is being evaluated.

PHOTO : Caffeine and wax is scraped off processing vats.

PHOTO : Titrating [MeCl.sub.2] solvent.

PHOTO : Determining density weights of samples.

PHOTO : Control panels keep processing in order.

PHOTO : Interior of Cafe Descafeinado de Chiapas.

PHOTO : The Sanroke Groupe at work. L to R: Domingo Muguira, chairman; Jorge San Martin, Descorsa plant manager; Ramon Ramos, Cafe Descafeinado plant manager; and Roberto Gispert, Cafe Solubles de Veracruz plant manager.

PHOTO : Interior of Cafe Solubles: First the coffee is roasted and then processed into spray-dried decaffeinated coffee.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Descfeinadores De Cordoba S.A. de C.U., Cafe Descafeinado De Chiapas S.A. de C.V., Cafes Solubles de Veracruz S.A. de C.V. produce decaffeinated and soluble coffee
Author:McCabe, Jane Phillips
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Feb 1, 1991
Previous Article:Gourmet segments perk up profits in $6.5 billion coffee, $1 billion tea markets.
Next Article:Into the 90's with tea.

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