Farm: El Cedro, El Mexico, El Guayaquil, ElMirador& El Limon–Amongst Others
Varietal: Typica,RedCaturra, Pache &Bourbon
Processing: Fully washed & dried on raised beds
Altitude: 1,800–1,950metres above sea leve
Owner: Cooperative: Alpes Andinos–Managed by Eric Jara
Town / City: La Coipa & Huabal
Overall: peach iced tea, black tea, sweet
Alpes Andinos – Cajamarca – Organic - Peru
Every year, Mercanta picks out the very best lots from the communities of La Coipa and Huabal, as well as the surrounding region. This 2019 lot hails from the newly formed association, Alpes Andinos, located high in Peru’s Cajamarca department. Built off the back of Eric Jara; all round coffee expert and long term Mercanta collaborator, the new association is helping local growers focus their efforts on producing the highest quality coffee.
Founded in January 2019 by just 25 farmers, today Alpes Andinos is a NGO association made up of 115 small farms located in the villages of La Coipa, Huabal and Chirinos. Originally part of a separate association, Eric and other Alpes Andinos members decided to break-away; re-organise; and re-focus efforts on producing high valued coffee for the speciality market. The primary objective behind this effort is to in turn empower smaller producers. Profit from coffee production in the region is tight; however, farmers are able to make a living from coffee providing the financial return to support a family. By supporting farmers to produce a higher quality product, to sell at a fair price, Alpes Andinos is having a significant impact on the producing community. Eric hopes this goal of creating a common good, can help improve social inclusion as well as encourage care for the environment.
This particular lot is made up of five different farms, all of which are members of Alpes Andinos. Many farms in the association are often named after trees that are cultivated on the farm, e.g. El Cedro, (Spanish cedar). This is often symbolic, as names are dedicated to a tree that grows successfully on the farm. Each farm will on average total just 5-6 hectares, cultivating only coffee as a means of income. Any fruit trees or other produce grown on the farm is often reserved for personal consumption.
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 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. The process begins with the cherries being selectively handpicked, before being sorted by hand into ripe and over ripe. The picker’s day will finish at 5pm, with the cherries being placed into large sacks overnight for 12 hours to ferment. 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 and placed on raised beds to dry for around a month (25-30 days) depending on the level of rain.