Farm: Mitad del Corazón
Varietal: Red Caturra, Typica, Costa Rica & Bourbon
Processing: Fully washed & dried on raised beds
Altitude: 1,900 – 2,000 meters above sea level
Owner: Santos Romulo Huancas Chinchay
Town / City: La Libertad, La Coipa
Overall: Apricot, orange rind, butterscotch
Santos Romulo Huancas Chinchay – 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 their 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, Santos Romulo Huancas’ farm has been singled out as one of the top lots from the region this year. Originally born in Piura, Santos lives at his farm, Mitad del Corazón, in the town of La Libertad, La Coipa, around 4 hours from the association’s headquarters in Jaen; high in Peru’s Cajamarca department. Santos, aged 49, has lived in La Libertad for 25 years, purchasing his farm 10 years ago. Today, he lives with his wife, Santos Irene Cruz Carrasco, and their three daughters aged 23, 20 and 16.
As well as growing local varieties such as Red Caturra & Bourbon, Santos is fortunate to also produce a small amount of Costa Rica; all of which thrive at high altitudes. Santos also plans soon to begin growing the Geisha variety, with seeds provided by the association. Due to the ever-increasing premiums paid for 85+ SCA scoring lots, numbers of new varieties and ‘Nano lots’ continue to grow in the region to meet demands. This drive to develop great coffee is also one promoted by the association, believing that producing great quality, leads to producer empowerment and wider benefits for all coffee families.
Santos’ farm, named Mitad del Corazón (translating as ‘The Middle of the Heart’ in English) takes its name after the farm's heart like shape. Like many other farms in the region, the name is representative, reflecting the distinguishing characteristics in the surrounding area. More so in the case of Santos, who Eric labels as a very symbolic man, as the name is chosen as it expresses passion; a force regularly found at the farm. Coffee production is currently Santos’ only means of income, with any fruit trees, livestock or other produce grown reserved only for personal consumption.
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 ‘Zoqueo’ 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 fertiliser applied in August. For Fertiliser, Santos uses a mixture 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 La Libertad 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 and sorted into ripe and overripe, before being floated in cool clean water from the mountain; removing any low-density cherries. 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 in a wet fermentation tank for around 48 hours, depending on the climate. The coffee is then washed three times to remove all remaining mucilage, drained of any excess water, before finally placing the beans on raised beds to dry. Here, the beans will remain for around 25-30 days, depending on the levels of rain.