South of the U.S./Mexico between Arizona and Sonora, in the lush Yaqui Valley, there sits Ciudad Obregón—a city roughly the size of Wichita, Kansas, or Florence, Italy. This where entrepreneurs Luis Mario Felix and Jose Antonio Felix, owners of Lúdica 59, are helping to plant a flag for specialty coffee in Mexico, outside of the world-class coffee scenes in cities like Mexico City and Guadelajara.
Lúdica 59 opened in 2017, with a focus on bringing coffee quality to what they felt was an unexplored market. Coffee culture in Sonora is not like other parts of Mexico—here in the north, far from the coffee-producing regions of Chiapas, Veracruz, and Oaxaca, Mexican coffee producers and coffee lovers are disconnected by geography from coffee producers and consumers in the northern regions of the country. The Felix family wants to bridge that gap, and also to incorporate an educational component to the hospitality of their cafe. “Customers will walk in during a production cupping,” says Luis Mario, “and suddenly it becomes a public cupping.” These moments are invaluable from an educational perspective, and in fostering a sense of community and coffee culture here in Ciudad Obregón.
Today, Lúdica 59 is meticulously sourcing and roasting Mexican coffees from various southern regions, though they had initially started as a multi-roaster. Luis Mario became inspired by Verve Coffee Roasters in the early stages of his coffee journey. He would often travel to Los Angeles to meet Verve’s staff in order to discuss coffee, culture, and community. During that time he also became energized by a well-known Mexican roaster based in Veracruz, Mexico, called Impetus Cafe. Both of these roasters were featured on Lúdica 59’s official coffee lineup for about a year, showcasing coffee not just from Mexico, but other parts of the world as well. This slowly introduced consumers to various flavor profiles aside from Mexican coffees.
Shortly after that, Luis Mario, his wife, and brother embarked on trips to origin with Impetus Cafe, to Veracruz. By doing so, Luis Mario realized the importance of becoming a roaster himself in order to display quality Mexican coffees to drinkers in Sonora. Impetus became a pivotal company by assisting Luis Mario in green coffee sourcing and purchasing. Luis Mario says that as part of his sourcing practices and ethical filters, he needs to believe 100% in the producer and the coffee in order to serve it to customers. “I am the first customer of Lúdica 59,” he says. With that same mentality and focus, Lúdica 59 has an intentional menu, ranging from various extraction methods like Hario V60, Clever, and French press, to espresso-based beverages as well as blended drinks and a range of traditional pastries incorporating local ingredients.
Lúdica 59 is a brand on the grow, expanding to open multiple retail shops across the city. One of those is located inside a high school, where the Felix family can gradually introduce specialty coffee to the younger crowd; the other is managed by sister Emma Sylvia Felix under the brand Eureka 59, and housed inside of a busy coworking space. In Spanish, the word “lúdica” refers to the act of learning and dominating various techniques, but there is also another hidden meaning, according to Luis Mario—“lúdica” it can also mean leisure. That balance fits the brand just right: these are pleasurable, leisurely spaces, but with a huge emphasis on the preparation of every cup of coffee. Ciudad Obregón has much to be proud of.
David Palazuelos is a freelance contributor. Read more David Palazuelos for Sprudge.