Farm: El Mexico (Maria)&El Cedro (Angelita)
Varietal: Typica,RedCaturra & Pache
Processing: Fully washed& dried onraisedbeds
Altitude: 1,850–1,900metres above sea level
Owner: Maria Gloria Neyra Santos&AngelitaRafaela Ramirez Lizana
Town / City: El Cautivo
Region: San Ignacio, Cajamarca
Overall: lychee, green tea, lemon
El Cautivo – La Coipa - Peru
Every year, Mercanta send a member of the team out to Peru to select the very best lots of new crop to add to our offering. This 2019 lot was produced by two smallholder farmers, Maria & Angelita, who’s farms are located in the small town of El Cautivo; high in Peru’s Cajamarca region.
This lot from the town of EL Cautivo is particularly special, as both farms are owned and managed by women. Maria lives in the town of El Mirador; around 5km from her farm in El Cautivo. Maria works hard to provide for her family, waking up earlier to cook breakfast, before setting off for a day of picking cherry. Once she has collected all the ripe cherry for the day, Maria will load up her fresh cherry into sacks; transporting it back to her house via donkey. Here her husband, Ines Carrasco, helps her to de-pulp the cherry. For Angelita, the commute is not so easy. Angelita lives in the village of Barro Negro. Due to the thick forest in the region, to reach her farm, Angelita must travel down to La Coipa; before heading back up to El Cautivo. Due to the distance, Angelita and her husband travel together to the farm to pick and prepare the coffee cherry. Often due to the distance, Angelita and her husband will eat dinner at the farm, before travelling home.
Both farmers belong to the producer organisation, Alpes Andinos. Founded in January 2019 by just 25 farmers, today the association encompasses 115 farms from various villages; located to the north of the Cajamarca department. Like so many in this region, farm names are chosen in honour of trees or natural features on the farm that stand out among the wilderness. This is often the case in the region. Farm names will be symbolic, referring to characterisable trees or features that help distinguish the farm. Profit from coffee farming in the region is often small; however, families have created a living from for themselves and their families, relying almost solely upon coffee for income. Although other produce is grown, coffee cultivation is often the sole means of income, with all other fruits of labour reserved for personal consumption.
One of the primary goals for the newly formed Alpes Andinos association was to re focus on producing highly valued coffee for the speciality market. Much of the drive to produce quality can be seen via the level of attention to processing. Varieties are selected to suit the climate and also to produce an excellent cup profile. This is either by sharing varieties between farms or by buying new varieties from other parts of the country and testing their quality. Alpes Andinos members have been encouraged to replace Catimor with high quality varieties such as Caturra, Pache, Typica and Bourbon. Although these are more susceptible to coffee leaf rust, the association is working to train producers on fighting this plague using purely organic methods.
All association members are also trained in renovation techniques and each has a nursery that they have seeded themselves. Pruning takes place at the end of each harvest in order to ensure productivity and plant health. Farms work in 15 year rotations focusing on each variety individually. When a plant reaches the end of its 15 year life cycle, it will be dramatically cut back; either by ‘El Descope’ (to take off the top part of the tree, allowing for new growth at the bottom) or ‘Zoqueo’ (cutting the stems back to just 30 centimetres from the ground, in order to stimulate the emergence of new stems). In preparation for this event, trees of the same variety are planted two years in advance, meaning there is an uninterrupted supply of mature cherry.
Soil analysis is regularly conducted with fertiliser applied in March and after the harvest in November. The fertiliser is made up of a mix of compost and ‘guano de las islas’, meaning guano from the islands. Located just off the coast of Peru are a collection of small islands, home to large sea bird populations. These birds produce large amounts of excrement, or, guano, which settles on the ground as a nutrient rich top layer. Guano is collected on the island and transported to the main land to be used as a fertiliser.
Coffee processing techniques in the region are tried and tested methods of production, often passed down through the generations. Harvest season for La Coipa spans from June to October .The process begins with the cherries being selectively handpicked, before being sorted by hand into ripe and over ripe. Next, the coffee is pulped: each producer has their own de pulper located on the farm, often close to the house. Once the coffee has been de-pulped, the beans are placed in a wet fermentation tank for anywhere between 30-36 hours, depending on the climate. Finally, the coffee is washed and placed on raised beds to dry for around a month (25-30 days) depending on the level of rain.