Roasters On The Road: Peru
Vibrant, Clean, Juicy Coffees from Peru to Spyhouse
In Peru, all coffee is picked by hand, and people travel through steep hills to do it. Profiles are soft, less chocolate and nutty, with more guava, caramel, kiwi, and strawberry notes. The diversity of their coffees makes it possible to satisfy more customers.
Spending time with coffee producers in Peru, breaking bread together, finding a connection, and forming a relationship was a great experience for Spyhouse Coffee Roaster Jake Underwood's first origin trip. Face to face, he learned about their struggles, what they encounter year after year, and the impact of climate change on their farms. He witnessed these farmers diligently producing their very best, every day. Jake says, “I know that when someone drinks Spyhouse coffee, there is pride and skill behind every sip. Everything is intentional from the farm to the counter."
On a quest to bring Spyhouse customers the best that Peru has to offer, Jake tasted some of the finest coffees in the country. Here is an account of his experience:
Jake Underwood – Roaster on the Road
We arrived at the Airport in Jaén. Everything is new: the people, the food, and the smell of the plants. I can't wait to strap my boots on and get to work!
We arrived at the hotel in Jaén and were warmly greeted. After checking in, we grabbed some breakfast with a coffee producer we worked with earlier this year. Gilmer Mejia Cordova is 26-years-old and along with his father Filadelpo Mejia Cordova, runs his family farm, Finca Ecologica, in Huabal, Peru. Gilmer is the Operations Director and manages a staff of agronomists. He is also responsible for getting containers of coffees moving for the exporting group, Lima Coffees. Lima Coffees works directly with one of our main importers, Cafe Imports, located just down the street from our main office in Northeast Minneapolis.
We had breakfast in Jaén at the local third-wave café, Picorana, owned by Lima Coffee. It’s an outlet for sharing specialty coffee with the people of Peru. Since most of the country’s highest-scoring coffees are exported, they want to allow the people of Peru to taste some of the finest coffees in their country.
After breakfast, we loaded into a truck and started the 3-hour track up windy dirt roads into the coffee hills. Our first visit of the day was the farm of a first-year coffee producer by the name of Edward Fernandez Romero. We hiked about a half-mile up a very steep, muddy path that led us to Edward’s beautiful 1-hectare farm at a crazy high elevation of 2,200 meters above sea level. I quickly discovered that altitude sickness is, in fact, a real thing. It was an extremely humbling experience, to say the least.
After Gilmer showed us Edward’s farm, we headed to Gilmer’s family farm, Finca Ecologica. We enjoyed a beautiful meal, prepared by Gilmer’s mother, while enjoying a beautiful view of their farm.
We started the day with another 3–4 hour drive up into the coffee hills to visit with more coffee producers and visit their farms. When we arrived at the town of La Palma (Chirinos), we were welcomed by a group of 30 producers, all part of an association called La Flor de la Palma. The group is currently working on a reforestation project on community-owned land, where they are planning to plant 2,000 trees. Isabela Correa Paz is president and associate producer of the association. She spoke with us about how they have seen the effects of climate change in their towns and how it has impacted coffee production, in addition to the streams and rivers in their communities. In an emotional moment, Isabela said, "Since our government and your U.S. government won't acknowledge climate change and do anything about it, we will do what we can to save our lands and our people."
After that, we visited the Farm of Alfonso Cordova Saldaña, winner of the Chirinos Cup competition, two years in a row. After a long day of hiking and talking business, we spent time together relaxing, laughing, and connecting as people. I will be forever grateful for the kindness and hospitality that was shown to me that day.
upper left: Rony Lavan of Lima Coffees and Jake tasting some of Peru's finest micro-lots
upper right: Alfonso Cordova Saldaña walking us through the depulping process
below left: This young man is only 18 years old and putting all other coffee pros to shame with his cupping skills
below right: Visiting with Gilmer Mejia Cordova of Agua Colorada and his family
This day, we cupped 48 coffees—6 tables of 8 coffees per table—taking roughly nine and a half hours. After spending the week meeting with all of these producers and spending time on their farms, I was filled with excitement, but also felt the gravity and responsibility to taste and score these coffees to the best of my abilities. The coffees I enjoyed the most were from Gilmer Mejia Cordova, who we have worked with in the past, and Alfonso Cordova Saldaña, who we haven't worked with yet, but got to visit with the day before. We will likely be buying his coffee!
After a long day of cupping, we had a delicious dinner at Picorana, followed by Jaèns’ first-ever latte art throwdown! The event was conceptualized the morning prior, when I mentioned that I’m a coffee roaster that sometimes misses pouring latte art. The night was filled with positive energy and laughter, but I, of course, lost to one of Peru's finest barista competitors. However, no one cared about winning or losing, we were all just happy to be with one another, sharing stories and connecting on a human level.
We flew out of Jaén early and landed in Lima to spend some time there before flying back to Minnesota. All in all, I still have no idea how to intelligently describe my time and experience in Peru. It was one the best weeks of my life, and a good investment of time spent finding some of the finest coffees to serve at Spyhouse.
I can’t wait for Spyhouse customers to taste some of my selections at our cafes this spring!