Farm: El Paraiso, La Cascada, El Bosque–Amongst Others
Varietal: Typica, RedCaturra, Pache & Bourbon
Processing: Fully washed & dried on raised beds
Altitude: 1,800–1,900 metres above sea level
Owner: Guerrero Caleron Jose Cododac, Alberto Campos Garcia, Elmer Cruz Garcia
Town / City: La Coipa
La Coipa, San Ignacio -Organic #1 - 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 primarily by 3 smallholder farmers all of whom reside near the small town of La Naranjas in the San Ignacio province; high in Peru’s Cajamarca region.
All three 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, the names of each farm 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 is often small; however, families in the region have created a living form 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 producer 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 10-year rotations focusing on each variety individually. When a plant reaches the end of its 10-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 mainland 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 into ripe and overripe. Farmers in Las Naranjas have it particularly difficult. Once the coffee has been picked, bags of cherries are placed on their back and carried across the difficult terrain until the reach the road. Once here, coffee sacks are placed on mules and taken to their homes in La Coipa, ready to be processed. Cherries are first placed in polypropylene bags to ferment for 12 hours over night. 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 depulped, the beans are placed in a wet fermentation tank for anywhere between 30-36 hours, depending on the climate. Finally, the coffee is washed three times and placed on raised beds to dry for around a month (25-30 days) depending on the level of rain.