Farm: La Esperanza
Varietal: Red Caturra, Typica, Geisha & Bourbon
Processing: Fully washed & dried on raised beds
Altitude: 1,850 meters above sea level
Owner: Esmerita Vazquez Ramirez
Town / City: El Cautivo, La Coipa
Overall: Floral, orange, black tea
Barro Negro – La Coipa - Peru
Nearly every year, Mercanta send a member of the team to Peru to select the very best lots of new crop to add to our offering. Unfortunately this year, due to COVID-19, this was not possible. With one of the highest COVID rates in the world, our partner in the region, Alpes Andinos, has faced untold pressures at exporting their lots this year. Not only has Eric and the team at Alpes Andinos faced the usual problems of rust and untimely rains, but nationwide restrictions and curfews have made coordinating it’s 115+ members even more difficult. However, with great effort, we are proud to be offering some truly fantastic coffees from the region this year, thanks to Eric and his team.
Through extensive cupping, Ines’ farm El Mexico, Teotista ‘s farm El Mango and Esperanza’s farm Las Fresas, have each been singled out as some of the top lots from the region this year. All three farms are located in the town of Barro Negro, around 1.5 hours from the association’s headquarters in Jaen; high in Peru’s Cajamarca department.
All three producers are considered founders of the association, having been members since its inception in 2019. Since its beginnings, producers have benefited greatly, as not only can members receive a higher price for his quality products, but also can attend training sessions on topics such as how to make their plots more productive. This drive to develop better coffee is one promoted by the association, believing that producing great quality, leads to producer empowerment and wider benefits for all coffee families.
Like many other farms in the region, Teotista & Esperanza named their farms in reference to other trees, plants or landmarks found on the farm. The name chosen is often symbolic, reflecting the distinguishing characteristics in the surrounding area. Coffee production is currently Ines, Teotista & Esperanza’s primary means of income, with any fruit trees or other produce grown reserved only for personal consumption.
Situated at over 1800masl, each farm is 1 hectare in size and made up of local varieties, Red Caturra, Typica & Bourbon; all of which thrive at high altitudes. Consistent selective tree pruning is conducted to maintain the quality of the crop and to increase its yield. Farmers 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 using the ‘Zoca’ practice. This sees the tree cut back to the stem just 30 centimetres from the ground, stimulating the emergence of new growth. 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 organic fertiliser applied in March and after the harvest in November. For Fertiliser, all three farms use 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.
Harvest in Barro Negro spans from June to October. 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 floated in cool clean water to remove any low-density cherries. A typical harvest day starts at around 6 am and ends at 6 pm, with a 2-hour break between 12 pm to 2 pm. Once picked and floated, the cherries are placed into sacks with grain pro liners to induce a dry fermentation for 24 hours. Next, the coffee is pulped: each producer has their own de pulper located on the farm, often close to the house or main building. Once the coffee has been de-pulped, the beans are placed into tanks and fermented again for around 12 hours, depending on the climate.
Once complete, the coffee is then washed three times using water from the nearby El Mirador Mountain, to remove all remaining mucilage. Any excess water is drained, before finally placing the beans on raised beds to dry. Here, the beans will remain for around 15-20 days, depending on the level of rain.
After making sure that the coffee is dry, the beans are stored in polypropylene bags to preserve their quality and avoid any contamination during storage or transport to the association's warehouse in Jaen. Once delivered to the warehouse, coffees are analysed for quality, before being prepped for export.