As many of you know, Tiny Footprint recently sent me (Thomas) to Peru to get a first hand look (and taste) of the culture of coffee in Peru. We have been buying the same coffee from CenfroCafe in Jaén, Peru for the last four years, and we have good reason. If you are in need of a clean, balanced cup of coffee that you can drink all day long, the Peru APU is what you are looking for. Below is a glimpse into the Cenfrocafe warehouse. The blue bags are the APU, the coffee we buy. As you can see it’s a small percentage of the total amount of coffee they sell.
Right now, the APU is among the best coffee coming out of Peru. Higher scoring coffees receive higher premiums, which allow farmers to not just subsist – but flourish. Not only do the APU lots give the farmer an incentive to take the steps necessary to increase the quality of their coffee (higher premiums), but it shows us as coffee drinkers that Peru is capable of producing high quality coffee.
Relative to their neighboring countries, Peru is a newbie in the specialty coffee world. There are a few main reasons for Peru’s slower climb to the speciality coffee realm. For one, there isn’t a national organized body to represent Peru’s coffee industry as a whole. Adding this body of organization has made a big difference on quality in other countries, such as Colombia. Such a central organizing body helps coordinate among different regions and stakeholders throughout the supply chain to make the processes more efficient.
The coffee infrastructure in Peru is also still developing. Most producers are doing their own wet processing and drying on their own land, which makes consistency difficult to manage on a large scale. Adding to the difficulty, these farm locations are often many miles from the coffee drop off locations. The producer must either bring his coffee to town right after drying, which is often inefficient, or he must wait to fill an entire truck, resulting in an even longer waiting period. The coffee can sit out on the drying bed (usually a tarp on the ground) for so long that repeated wetting and drying occurs – degrading the potential of the bean.
These are not impossibly high hurdles, especially with the dedication of the farmers. The villages we visited on this trip were committed to investing in better infrastructure (namely, raised drying screen with rain covers) in order to improve the quality of the cup, which would ultimately raise the producer’s premiums. The coffee we purchase from CenfroCafe is Fair Trade certified but these quality premiums are essential to improving the quality of life for the producers that help us wake up in the morning.
Yet understanding the local culture around the coffee is just as important as understanding the industry itself. We were able to spend an entire afternoon with the people of Corrazon de Jesus – dancing and sharing a meal high in the mountain, 1850 meters up. While in the city itself—in between cuppings of course—we spent time at local restaurants and attractions— we even went the zoo.
It was an incredibly humbling experience to see coffee from the other end. As a specialty wholesaler, we don’t often get to interact with the coffee drinker, but even less so the producers. Again, we are reminded that—despite the distance—we all play a larger role in each other’s lives than we may think, from farmer, to roaster, to you.