Last month, I was fortunate enough to lead the Roasters Guild Origin Trip to Peru on behalf of the RG Executive Council. Our trip began in Lima where we were invited to participate at the ExpoCafe 2014, which gathered almost 5,000 people together, comprised of farmers, fertilizer suppliers, and processing equipment manufacturers. We had the chance to be a part of some round table discussions on the current situation of famers and the need to access direct markets. These meetings were intended to be “negotiation tables,” but we decided to make them discussions to get a better sense of the struggles farmers are faced with and learn about the realities of growing coffee in Peru.
Later in the day, myself, Jonathan LeRoy Meadows of Cultivar Coffee, Mary Tellie of Electric City Roasting, and Jeff Taylor of PT’s Coffee were part of a panel discussion talking about the roll that Peru can play as a specialty coffee grower, and there is great potential for this through becoming the Portrait Country at upcoming Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Exposition in Seattle, WA. Mary, fellow Roasters Guild Executive Council member, and I, as representatives of SCAA and the Roasters Guild, gave a presentation about the SCAA, Roasters Guild and Barista Guild. We talked about the educational and certificate programs that are offered through these organizations, and the importance for Peru farmers, roasters, cafe owners and exporters to be part of this community.
The next destination on our trip was the northern town of Chiclayo, a town near the Port of Eten. That morning, just after our in-country flight landed at 11:00am, we took a seven-hour trip to the northeast town of San Ignacio, which is home to some of the best coffee regions of northern Peru. The morning was full of visits to small cooperatives and different farm owners that gratefully toured their farms with us. A common view on every farm was the recent change to the Catimor variety, from the very first to the very last farm that we visited. Also, every farm that we went in Peru was Organic and was participating in the Fair Trade program, and they were all part of cooperatives, which showed how committed they are among themselves.
The next morning also included other cooperatives and one more farm visit, which included a small tourist project from a small four-acre farmer who had his small pulper, fermentation tank, raised bed, and housing all very neat and even selling roasted coffee for his visits. It was really very shocking for us to see all the effort that this farmer was putting into his great coffee, and then seeing his harvest being blended with everyone else’s at the mill we went to right after.
That afternoon we headed southeast to the city of Jaen, surrounded by beautiful mountains in the middle of the Cajamarca Region. Visits included only co-op processing stations within the city. At this point, we noticed that Jaen is a big collection center for cooperatives, except for one or two big mills that do dry milling. Most of the farmers and co-ops from all the surrounding coffee regions bring their parchment, either to finish drying or just to warehouse so that they can use their truck to move coffee and get a full load for the six to seven hour ride to Chiclayo, where most of those coffees are hulled to export. Many cuppings and presentations followed the next day as well, but still no sign of hulling stations.
The last day in Jaen included a visit to a beautiful farm up on the top of the mountain range with a nice, brand-new depulping station, very good farming practices, and excellent understanding of quality by the farmer. It was at this farm where most of us were relieved to finally see some specialty coffee that was being depulped and kept separate; we were eager to go to the dry mill the next day, which processes the parchment for export. We started off the day by cupping the coffees. And there it was: great coffee. The time came for the mill visit and there we saw it again: bulk coffee. This farm’s coffee had been blended with the rest of the coffees from that region; in fact, we were at the second biggest dry mill of Peru.
Headed back to Chiclayo for the last day of our trip, we saw many trucks full of coffee along the highway on their way to get hulled. Our visit included three dry mill operations, where first we cupped coffees and toured mills; one of the visits was to the biggest exporter in Peru.
This trip allowed us to see everything from farming, depulping, drying, warehousing, hulling, export, lots of cupping, and we were even able to visit some cafes. All in all, it was a great trip to see the reality of a coffee country. I really appreciate the opportunity the SCAA and RG gave me to lead this trip and our hosts did an incredible job leading this group. We had an awesome time and all of us learned so much from each other, but most importantly we learned so much from this beautiful origin. Peru was incredible.
To read a trip report from Jonathan LeRoy Meadows of Cultivar Coffee, be sure to pick up the latest issue of Roast Magazine and read the Roasters Guild regular column, The Flamekeeper.
EMILIO LOPEZ DIAZ is a sixth generation coffee producer in El Salvador. He is experienced as a grower, managing two plantations, Ayutepeque and El Manzano. He is a miller/exporter and roaster, founding Cuatro M, Single Origin Coffees and Topeca Coffee in 2001. He has been a member of the roasters guild since 2002, and was recently elected to the Roasters Guild Executive Council. He is heavily involved in researching the variables of coffee production, and their effects on the final cup, titled the El Manzano Project. He is eager to continue these efforts, to better contribute to the roasting community.