Farm: Fincas La Flor, El Jardin & La Montaña
Varietal: Pache, Caturra & Typica
Processing: Fully washed & dried in solares and raised beds
Altitude: 1,850+ metres above sea level
Owner: Two smallholder farmers from COOPAGRO, including Juan Heredia Sanchez
Town / City: Flor del Norte, Huabal
Region: Jaén, Cajamarca
Flor del Norte - Peru
This community lot was produced by two small holder coffee farmers living near the town of La Flor del Norte in Peru’s Huabal district. With a total population of just over 200 people living in only 45 households, it is clear that the town is rural to the extreme. Nonetheless, the climate and altitude are ideal for growing exceptional coffee. In fact, one of the producers contributing to this ‘Flor del Norte’ lot was Peru Cup of Excellence 2017 #1 winner, Juan Heredia Sanchez, whose winning lot scored a whopping 92.25 points when judged by an international jury.
Both farmers belong to the producer organisation, COOPAGRO, which was formed in 2016 by 279 farmers from various villages, all located within the district of Huabal. Both farmers - like so many in this region - grew up with coffee and have learned coffee production from their parents and grandparents. The contributing farms of La Flor, El Jardin & La Montaña 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 Juan’s recent win of First Place in 2017’s Cup of Excellence (COE). Since he was a child, Juan had always liked to be on the farm, working, but he never imagined that his coffee would win a place in history as the very first Peruvian coffee to win the COE. Juan has expressed that he, however, is not special and that all his neighbours produce exceptional coffee. The key to this development, according to him, has been hard work and cooperation – primarily through the Producers Association COOPAGRO.
Prior to his involvement with COOPERAGRO, he had only sold his coffee locally in Cajamarca. The support and encouragement he received from the cooperative, however, convinced him that he could do more and earn more from his production. This year and in the future, with the support of COOPERAGRO, Juan plans to plant an experimental and testing plot, improve soil fertility and plant additional shade trees. He will continue to improve his production through training facilitated by the group.
Juan and all producers working with 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.