Farm: El Romerillo
Varietal: Caturra, Pache, Catimor & Typica
Processing: Fully washed & dried on African beds
Altitude: 1,850 metres above sea level
Owner: Helibrando Martinez Aguila
Town / City: Pedernales
Overall: Berries, boozy, pulpy, honey
Pedernales (Huabal) - Peru
Helibrando Martinez Aguila’s farm, El Romerillo may be small, but it is high – with stunning views! Located at 1,850+ metres above sea level near the town of Pedernales, Cajamarca, Peru, the farm is perfectly situated to produce very high quality coffee. Helibrando lives here with his wife and three daughters, who sometimes help him on the farm. He takes the time to monitor the state of the farm to make sure that all harvest and post-harvest work is done to the optimal standards. His efforts have paid off as this special ‘Pedernales’ microlot shows.
Helibrando uses strict harvest and processing methods so as to insure that the natural potential of his coffee is maintained. During the harvest, coffee is selectively handpicked with only the ripest cherries being harvested at each pass. These cherries are then hand-sorted to ensure no underripe or damaged cherries make it into the fermentation tanks. The coffee is pulped on the same day that it is picked using a mechanical pulper, located on the farm itself. After pulping, it will then ferment in a tank for around 19 hours (depending on ambient temperature) before being washed at least three times in pure water. Helibrando has also constructed raised ‘African’ beds for drying, and the clean parchment will lie on these, being turned regularly, for around two weeks, or until humidity reaches 11.5% humidity.
Helibrando is a member and client 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 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. For instance, coffee Leaf rust poses one of the largest threats to coffee in the Cajamarca region, and in order to combat it, carefully timed fertilisation is very important. Santuario provides advice and technical assistance with this.
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. 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. Each producer has their own processing infrastructure, but all are 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.