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Coffee From Peru - A Real Surprise!

The wonderful part of this love affair with coffee, besides drinking it, is that it grows in so many interesting countries. From the lowlands of Vietnam through to the slopes of Mount Elgon in Uganda, and so many others in between, each region not only brings its own growing characteristics, but for the coffee buyer, a certain charm.

Coffee farmers in Peru working in theirplantationPeru is no different, and by a stroke of luck, we found ourselves looking at Peruvian coffee due to a shortage of our traditional Colombian green beans. Located on the north-western side of South America, Peru is bordered by Colombia to the north (which is why we saw a similar geographic region), Brazil to the east, and Chile to the south.

What you may not know, and we certainly did not, is that Peru is a major coffee producer and one of the top 10 coffee exporting countries. In fact coffee contributes over 25% of its agricultural income and over 250 000 families rely on it for their livelihood.

Yet, it is also an extremely difficult country to find the “right” coffee as its coffee growing regions offer a multitude of different soil types, varieties and microclimates, and we haven’t even gotten to processing!

Our preference for high grown arabica narrowed our search to the Cajamarca region at around 1800m above sea level, but the country has other outstanding highland coffee growing regions in the south, such as Cusco, famed for its quality coffee, and Puno (where you’ll find Lake Titicaca). It is worth mentioning that the Cajamarca region was home to the Inca tribes many moons ago and is an imposing area with the Andes as a backdrop.

Cajamarca is a well known coffee growing region in Peru. It is mountainous with thick vegetation.The highland coffees are distinguishable by their lower acidity and medium body profile. We enjoy the milder acidity because, although clearly present, the acidity is not so pronounced that our cappuccino loving clients complain about it. The body is more pronounced than say the Mexican origins, which are gown at lower altitude, but not as strong as you’d find in a Ugandan coffee grown at the same altitude. They often have fruity flavours and the floral elements we find attractive in our more central south American coffee.

Many farmers will use a wet process to remove the pulp around the coffee beans and then dry the beans. Slow sun drying surely plays a part in defining the distinctive nature of Peruvian coffee.  However, in Cajamarca, where temperatures hover between 15 and 20 C, the weather conditions are not always suitable for typical sun drying in the harvest season, and so parabolic dryers are often used. These look like greenhouses and consist of plastic tunnels where the beans are protected from the elements but still subject to solar heat and wind currents for drying.

Cenfrocafe is a long standing organisation set up to support coffee farmers in the Cajamarca region of PeruOne very well-known and long-standing co-operative is Cenfrocafe. With close to 2500 members, the majority of which farm on less than 5 hectares, the organisation has become a pillar of support, and success, for small holder farmers. Their focus on short term production loans, training, education and improvement in cultivation and processing, has resulted in premium coffee coming out of this region and improved livelihoods.

Our discovery of Peruvian coffee, brought about by the unavailability of our normal Colombian bean, has proven fortuitous. It is interesting that we typically get a chocolate flavour but have had notes of berry at times. The region is clearly not homogenous, and the processing methods are also so varied as to bring out these different notes.

We’ll be exploring Peru in more detail over the next years to increase our understanding of the various growing regions and to home in on those that complement the coffee blends our clients enjoy so much.

Join us on this journey by sampling the blends we produce!


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