Farm: El Horcon
Varietal: Caturra, Bourbon, Typica & Pache
Processing: Fully washed & dried in a ‘carpa solar’
Altitude: 1,900+ metres above sea level
Owner: 6 Producers from La Coipa
Town / City: El Horcon, La Coipa
Region: San Ignacio, Cajamarca
Overall: milk chocolate, almond, green apple, pecan, brown sugar, creamy
El Horcon (La Coipa) - Peru
This community lot was produced by 6 smallholder farmers all of whom reside in or near the small town of El Horcon in the San Ignacio province of Cajamarca, Peru. The entire population of this small hamlet high in the mountains is the same family, composed of no more than 15 people. Each contributing family member has their own, individual farm – in this case El Romerillo, La Guayaba, La Naranja, El Bosque, El Aguacate and El Eucalipto (The Chamomile, The Guava Tree, The Orange Tree, The Forest, The Avocado Tree, and the Eucalyptus tree). All of these are names that refer to features of the land or to native species residing on the farms themselves. They have chosen, however, the name ‘El Horcon’, their home town, to represent the unity of their production.
All the participating farmers collaborate with one another and provide one another with mutual support. They have lived and worked in this area for many years and feel blessed to have such amazing conditions for producing high quality coffee. They are doubly blessed as their farms have not seen a trace of the coffee leaf rust plaguing so much of Peru currently, as all their farms are at least 1,900 metres above sea level.
Finally, they feel triply bless to be members and clients of the newly formed ‘Finca Santuario SA’ – a small coffee business formed of numerous small farms that neighbour one another in Cajamarca Peru. Established in August of 2017, ‘Santuario’ members must have more than 20 years of coffee growing experience and must share a vision of improving the quality of their production. Although the participating farms are all small – around 5 hectares on average – the total land under coffee represented by the group is around 250 hectares in total, thus the productive potential is substantial.
Usually ‘Finca’ would refer to a single farm. In this case, the founders of Santuario have chosen the word as it is productive unit of the small producers with whom they work. Furthermore, by calling it ‘Finca’ in the singular, they emphasise that although the farms may be individually owned and operated, the goal of the group is the same as if they were one single farm. “Santuario/Sanctuary" refers to the fact that all the farms working as a group are in the buffer zone of the Tabaconas - Namballe National Sanctuary. This environmental placement is important to Finca Santuario SC as the company prioritises environmental conservation and biodiversity.
Santuario’s main objective and activity is to work in cooperation with small producers and producer organisations in order to promote coffee quality improvement. The business not only helps with market access, they also assume the role of agricultural extension – or technical field assistance – where individuals with agricultural expertise and training advise on all aspects of soil fertility, cultivation techniques, harvesting, post-harvest and, generally, improvement of quality. The coffee that the organisation works with comes from varied and unique production areas of the Cajamarca region. With diverse microclimates and high soil quality, they’ve identified practices that enable individual producers to instil the very best quality in their diverse lots. The focus, then, is on the production of small, distinct and unique high quality microlots…. And of course on making sure that these very special coffees find the right home with speciality roasters.
Long term goals of Santuario include expanding the presence of high quality Caturra, Typica and Bourbon. These plants will increase productivity while maintaining quality. Renovation work is a key aspect of the agricultural extension services provided by Santuario representatives, but they also focus on organic methods of controlling plagues and on soil fertility.
All participating producers are required to take strict care with regards to harvesting and processing, which also helps overcome the limitations of low technification in the region. Coffee is selectively hand-harvested and is pulped on the same day at each individual producer’s small wet-mill. Most producers with whom Santuario works have their own processing infrastructure, but often this is old and needs maintenance, one of Santuario’s long-term goals.
Quality has, above all, been a focus for the organisation, given the demands of the current market for exceptional coffees, and since processing in Peru is rustic, great care and attention must be taken with all stages of processing. Fermentation is usually determined ‘complete’ when a wooden pole stands unassisted in the fermented mass of coffee. This ‘rough’ method when properly applied can yield results just as good as more advanced means of measuring ph and temperature. However, the producer is required to apply the utmost attention and check the coffee frequently.
The installation of large-capacity solar tents (carpa solares) is also being planned, since by increasing production, producers will need more drying capacity to be able to dry their coffee according to the climatic conditions at the time. The climate in Northern Peru can be unpredictable and is often wet when you need it to be dry. Solar dryers usually feature a room built either of wood or adobe covered with plastic or polyurethane sheeting. Add in raised beds, and you have a significantly improved drying capacity. When drying coffee, moisture is monitored by either biting the parchment, assessing firmness, or by cutting a bean in half. In the latter case, if one half jumps away from the knife, its humidity is 14-15%; if both halves jump, then it’s below 12%. Even using these simple techniques, Santuario’s producer partners are producing some great coffee.
Ultimately, Santuario aims to help producers in one of Peru’s most impoverished but also promising (coffee-wise) districts to find sustainable markets for their coffee and improve their livelihoods. Mercanta is excited to be able to help them achieve this goal.