I just returned from spending the last week of August in Peru with some of the team at Cafe Imports. The focus of our trip was judging a micro lot competition for CENFROCAFE at their headquarters in Jaen. CENFROCAFE is a Fair Trade and Organic certified cooperative, representing producers from all over the Cajamarca region. By the end of the year they are expecting to have 2,750 members through a network of 110 local associations. The majority of the coffee producing areas of Cajamarca are exceptionally lush with heavy rainfall and nutrient rich soil, leading to coffee marked for exceptional chocolaty sweetness. Last year we carried APU, their top level community selection, and have planned on doubling our inventory of it this coming harvest.
Cafe Imports and CENFROCAFE have a long history together and last year the cooperative released their first four micro lots ever exclusively to Imports. This year the cooperative is looking at producing entire containers comprising of single-producer micro lots out of single communities. The team I went down with cupped through 21 of the best early harvest arrivals to determine which lots should be entered into the upcoming national competition. Although it is challenging to evaluate coffee so quickly after harvest, there were definitely some stand out offerings.
Throughout our time there, we were able to meet with 4 of the coop's member producers, including the top 3 from the competition. The members we met all processed their coffees in a very similar fashion with simple depulping machines and washing tanks. The consistent techniques between members allows the cooperative to produce a dependable product with an exceptionally large amount of small producers. The heavy rainfall in this region makes properly drying the coffee a challenge but the farmers employ a few creative approaches to ensuring this important stage is preformed properly. From my previous experience, I feel that the combination of heavy rainfall and extended drying periods produces extra sweetness as well as stability and clarity in the coffee as it rests.
The producer that stood out to me the most on the judging tables was Mardoqueo Estela Diaz. He operates a hectare farm located a half hour hike from his home. The farm is divided into two parcels name Finca El Cedros & Finca Berlin, ranging between 1800 and 2000 meters. As with most members of the cooperative he grows caturra, typica, and a varietal known there as "Costa Rica." He processes his coffee with a small hand cranked depulper and single washing tank. To combat the humidity of the region he places mesh screens on the rafters of his eaves. This protects them from rainfall and allows for air circulation.
Peru is an often overlooked coffee producing country. It is not an easy place to work in. The massive size of the country means a huge amount of time is dedicated to riding on bumpy dirt roads, weaving through the Andean mountain valleys. After a flight north from Lima, we still had to drive 7 hours to reach the CENFROCAFE headquarters. From there we drove as much as 3 hours to see individual members. Some have to travel as much as 8 to bring their coffee to the coop's collection facility. This was a lot to pack into a week. There are many tasks around the roastery that consume my time, and traveling is often difficult to justify. However, I have seen many coffees coming out of this region that are phenomenal and buck the low reputation this country carries; therefore, I am honored to be able to travel and meet these men and women and bring these outstanding coffees to you, our customers.
- Tony Querio, Head Roaster & Green Buyer