Farm: La Huabilla, El Cedro, La Colina, El Pajuro & La Montaña
Varietal: Bourbon, Caturra & Typica
Processing: Fully washed & dried on raised beds in a solar
Altitude: 1,800+ metres above sea level
Owner: 5 smallholder farmers from COOPAGRO
Town / City: El Huaco, Huabal
Region: Jaén, Cajamarca
El Huaco - Peru
This community lot was produced by five small holder coffee farmers living near the town of El Huaco in Peru’s Huabal district. The climate and altitude in this region, located in high, cool Northern Peru, are ideal for growing exceptional coffee. Historically, the only problem has been finding routes to market.
All the farmers contributing to this lot belong to the producer organisation, COOPAGRO, which was formed in 2016 by 279 farmers from various villages, all located within the district of Huabal. Like so many in this region, the contributing producers grew up with coffee and have learned coffee production from their parents and grandparents. The contributing farms of Fincas La Huabilla, El Cedro, La Colina & El Pajuro have been cultivated for more than 50 years, and the name that each producer gives to their farm is in honour of trees or natural features on the farm that stand out among the wilderness. Parcel sizes are small; however, families have eeked a living from coffee here for themselves and their families, relying almost solely upon coffee for income. It is only with the advent of specialty coffee markets, however, that producers in this region are seeking to expand both productivity and quality. COOPAGRO has helped its producer members achieve their goals in this regard. One prime example is one of their member’s recent win as #1 in the 2017 Cup of Excellence competition. The win was supported and encouraged by the cooperative leadership and has been celebrated as a group win – not just as a winning individual.
Prior to their involvement with COOPERAGRO, most producer members had only sold their coffee locally in Cajamarca. The support and encouragement they have received from the cooperative, however, has convinced them that they can do more and earn more from their production. This year and in the future, with the support of COOPERAGRO, they are achieving access to higher prices on speciality markets, which they never thought possible.
Members of COOPERAGRO 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 cooperative is working to train producers on fighting this plague using purely Organic methods. Above all, adequate fertilisation is a big focus.
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. Plantations are regularly assessed by internal assessors who advise on best practices and help troubleshoot if producers are having problems.
Quality has, above all, been a focus for the organisation, given the demands of the current market for exceptional coffees. All coffee is selectively hand harvested, and while processing in Peru is rustic, traditional methods work just fine if care is taken. Each farmer owns his/her own mill since most homes are located on the farm itself. Coffee is pulped on the same day that the coffee is picked – usually in the afternoon. Fermentation is usually determined ‘complete’ when a wooden pole stands unassisted in the fermented mass of coffee, usually around 12 to 16 hours after pulping. 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%. This stage usually takes about 10 to 15 days, depending on levels of humidity. Using these simple techniques, the group is producing some great coffee, however.
Organic coffee is key to the Cajamarca Province’s economy, and as such, COOPAGRO remains committed to the principles of organic agriculture. They are currently certified according to USA NOP and EU standards.