David Garcia Diaz owns two small half-hectare plots of land in the village of San Francisco in San Jose del Alto. David has an area at slightly lower altitude which is planted with catimor and caturra and then a higher altitude plot where he grows caturra and bourbon. This coffee comes from his higher elevation farm, which sits at 1800masl. David picks himself and processes and dries his coffee at his house.
San Jose del Alto is an area of Jaen with huge potential for quality coffee. Some of the coffees from this area have a very distinct cup profile, full of complexity and bursting with floral notes. Since the area is slightly isolated, with rather poor roads and being far from the city of Jaen, it has received very little investment both in general and in terms of coffee production. As a result of the lack of investment, many farmers remain un-associated and there isn’t much of a presence from coops or associations, which means the coffee quality, has remained low and intermediaries rule the roost. Whilst this makes it very challenging to work in San Jose del Alto, the quality potential and impact that can be made on producers make it worthwhile and one of the most exciting areas of Peru and Latin America.
We have been working in Northern Peru for several years, buying specialty coffee from cooperatives and associations with whom we have built lasting relationships. This is the conventional way of sourcing in Peru and gives farmers associated with these groups some stability. Whilst a lot of the arrival quality in previous season has been good, we struggled to impact upon that quality or make improvements in the supply chain as we would like. More importantly, the premiums we had been paying for quality rarely makes it back to producers in the same, something we have had very little control over in previous years. In Peru, like some other origins, many coffee farmers are For these reasons we decided we needed to change the way we buy coffee in Peru, and work directly with producers, to be able to control and improve the quality and have full financial traceability. In order to do this, we set up a warehouse in Jaen and started to buy in parchment directly from producers.
The Cajamarca region holds a lot of potential for quality coffee, with ideal growing conditions and great varieties, but quality is often lost in picking, processing and drying, with producers lacking infrastructure and knowledge. The most vulnerable producers are those that are unassociated, who aren’t members of a cooperative, association or organisation, and they represent 75% of producers in Northern Peru. These producers don’t have access to training sessions or premiums for quality or certifications, and their income is totally dependent on the market price. Often, local aggregators, a buyer who lives in the same area, will come to the farm or house of producers and buy coffee their coffee, cash in hand, and then sell it on, in some cases directly to an exporter or more often to other traders and middlemen. This results in the producer being paid very little for their coffee and a lot of quality coffee is lost.
Our field team identified producers and producer groups across Jaen and San Ignacio, who brought their parchment to our warehouse in Jaen, where it was weighed, and a sample taken from each bag. The green sample is then analysed, and yield is calculated, before it is roasted, cupped and graded. The price is determined by the cupping results and producers are paid in full the same day, with premiums well above the market price, in most cases double. We have over 300 registered farmers, who will all be trained on farm management and picking, processing and drying by our agronomist, Auber Terrones Rojas.
This shift in approach to sourcing will allow us to forge long term relationships directly with farmers, improve the coffee quality and increase producer household income through access to quality premiums.