South America 2018: discovering peruvian coffee estates
After leaving Bolivia, our trip to South America to discover new coffee estates continued towards Peru, a territory already known and dear to us for the collaboration with the CACE Alto Palomar, a farmers’ co-op with which we have been working for eight years. Together with some members of the cooperative we shared our experiences and worked to control the quality of the coffee they produce (and consequently, of our product). Here is the travel diary of our experience in Peru …
2 July 2018
At 6:00 in the morning we set off for the CACE Alto Palomar, located in the district of San Luis de Shuaro, in the heart of the Peruvian Amazonia. It is a mountainous and impervious area, difficult to reach and therefore little known as a coffee area.
Ellar, Felix Marin’s cousin, comes to pick us up. He is an old acquaintance of ours and the founder of both La Florida and Coopchebi farmers’ co-ops.
Along the road that will take us to Alto Palomar, on Felix’s recommendation, we stop to visit a coffee processing plant – Pampawhaley, located on the bank of the Perené River. Several farmers who grow their coffee in this area, over 1.500 m asl take here their crops (Caturra variety, Catuaì and a remarkable amount of Geisha!). The plant is located at a height of 700-800 m: this helps reduce the fermentation time, improving the coffee drying process.
This is the aspect which Felix was particularly interested in, since it facilitates the production of natural coffees. The drying of the coffee cherries takes place both on suspended patios and on the ground, on plastic sheets, in order to quickly cover the coffee, if necessary and to prevent the coffee from touching the cement surface of the old patio.
Soon after, we meet Artemio Minaya, historical memory of this place, who tells us about these territories. He tells us that in 1892, after the Pacific War against Chile, Peru had to repay the British for the practically nil help, they claimed to have lent during the conflict. The extremely poor Peruvians were forced to yield to the British the property of a million hectares in the region of Chanchamayo. Afterwards, the British government granted the exploitation of this land to a company called Peruvian Corporation. At that time, around 3.000 tons of coffee were produced: the cherries, transported by gravity, left from the farms, located at 1.500 m asl and reached the processing plant of Pampawhaley. However, Peruvian government reduced the extension of the concession to 500.000 hectares because the British, who had committed themselves to building a railway, had not fully respected the agreements.
In the 1920s, the processing plant and the coffee farms were sold to a Dutch company and then to a German company.
In 1972 the property seemed ascribed to the Juan Velasco Alvarado Cooperative, which later redistributed the land to the original members, maintaining the role of service provider and processing 1.500-2.000 tons of coffee.
In the eighties the group Sendero Luminoso started the first terrorist attacks and the persecutions; people fled from their homes and entire farms were deserted. In 2015, when the Coopchebi bought the whole area, the original condition of these farms has been finally restored. After the meeting with Artemio, we head to the acopio of the CACE Alto Palomar, where the coffee cherries are harvested and then processed.
The quality control of the coffee cherries arriving at the beneficio is made by taking a fixed quantity of cherries from each bag. The samplings are then mixed and a 500 g sample is put into water, to flotar.
Any immature / damaged cherries, called flota, remain on the surface and are removed by hand.
At the end of the evening Donna Iris Violeta, a long-standing member of the cooperative as well as a very decent, smiling and lovely woman, hosts us, for the night, in a cute house deep in a wooded area.
We fall asleep exhausted but happy.
For further details see the interview with Felix Marin.