El Paraíso is a village in the Huabal district. Aptly named ‘paradise’, the village centre is atop a small mountain with beautiful vistas in every direction, sitting at 2000masl. Producers in this village mostly grow caturra, bourbon and catimor, mixed together, and the farms are located around the village centre and between 1800 and 2050masl.
The producers of El Paraiso have wonderful coffee and some of the most potential in the area, but for years they have been selling to intermediaries and receiving very low prices for their coffee. Not only that, local coyotes have been promoting catimors, which certainly have their benefits, but in high altitudes like those in El Paraiso they don’t produce much other than leaves, since they’re much better adapted to lower altitude. They were also poorly advised about aspects of farm management, pruning and the use of chemical fertilisers and herbicides. However, with our field staff, we are working to right all these wrongs, and improve quality and production in this area, which we believe holds incredible potential and could produce some of the best coffees in all of Latin America.
On a field visit in El Paraiso we came across an unusual variety which we believe could be an orange mutation of mundo novo. We cupped this separately and it had beautiful floral notes and amazing complexity. Since there isn’t much of this variety we have taken and distributed seeds and our technical staff are going to monitor how they grow so we can ensure they stay healthy and get all the nutrients they require.
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.