South America is full of delicious coffee. In particular, Peru boasts some excellent small scale produced beans. The country has evolved into one of the world’s biggest coffee exporters. Currently, it is the 15th largest coffee exporter in the world. The unique characteristics of Peruvian coffee are driving their demand. It actually is one of the few countries that mostly produces fair trade and organic coffee. This is a result of the culture and history behind Peruvian coffee.
Let’s take a trip deep into the heart of Peru, to explore its dynamic and delicious coffee story!
Peru has a pretty magical terrain. Some may know it best for the Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan citadel resting within the Andes mountain range 7,000 feet above sea level. This is only one fascinating detail of the Peruvian terrain. Peru’s Andes mountains are part of the world’s longest mountain range. The Andes are magnificent with peaks higher than most mountain ranges worldwide. One of the highest peaks is located in Peru; Huascarán is a mountain that is roughly 22,205 feet high. There are several vital river valleys that cross through the mountains. These are also vital for agriculture. Volcanoes are also found in Peru, with many still active. This lends potent volcanic elements to Peruvian soil.
Apart from astounding mountains, Peru also possesses an extensive coastline. It is an incredibly arid area, yet nearly 50 percent of the population lives there. Peru’s capital city of Lima is located on the coast. The Highlands region is also very popular. The highlands are the lower mountains of the Andes. In the North, the slopes of the mountains are less steep, making for a great agricultural area, especially for coffee. The Central Highlands, home to the well known Chanchamayo, is a common coffee-growing site. Yet, the Northern Highlands is where the majority of cultivation is currently.
Peru is a country with an immense cultural history. It dates back way before the famous Incan Empire that ruled in Peru during the 15th century. Ancient peoples developed brilliant traditions, from the arts to sports to agriculture. Over time, the culture diversified with the arrival of the Spanish and African slaves in the 1500s. This diversity together created very colorful customs and architecture.
Not long after the arrival of the Spanish did coffee make an appearance in Peru. The first record of coffee cultivation in Peru is sometime in the 1700s. The lack of record is most likely due to most coffee being produced for only local consumption. Smallholder farmers scattered across the highlands, catering to their own small farms. These farms are on average 3 hectares in size. Arabica beans were first introduced and continue to be produced, particularly special heirloom varieties like Typica. This comprises 60 percent of Peru’s coffee exports today. Typica is a subvariety of arabica originally from Ethiopia, where coffee is considered to be from.
It is very important to focus on Peruvian coffee farmers. They work tirelessly in the mountain slopes on independently run farms. This led to the formation of cooperatives over the past couple of decades. These form as representation and overall marketing for smallholders on the global market. It also enables them to attain loans and subsidies for technological inputs. By ensuring the quality of small scale farms, cooperatives have allowed for quality Peruvian coffee to become accessible worldwide. And, demand has heightened entirely, as Peru is the world’s largest exporter of organic coffee.
Coffee offers opportunities in Peru. Nearly 855,000 people are employed in the coffee sector in very remote areas. This is impressive, as typically job opportunity in isolated areas is scarce. This is an outcome of the Peruvian government’s decision to make coffee a top priority. There are several initiatives to promote coffee, as a means to increase demand and coffee farmer’s overall income.
Today, Peruvians are enjoying more coffee domestically as well. Surprisingly, coffee culture is a new wave in Peru. But, the evolution of its coffee industry coupled with foreign cultural influences makes Peru a new center for coffee indulgence. The country now consumes more coffee locally than its Brazilian and Columbian neighbors. Although a majority of Peruvians consume instant coffee, the opening of local coffee shops and roasters has grown exponentially.
The coffee in Peru is as natural as it gets. As we know, all producers are small-scale in Peru. The size of their farm and lack of funding makes chemicals inaccessible. The farms’ innately natural state inclines farmers to work towards organic and fair trade certifications rather than harmful pesticides. This lends Peru an edge in the international market. It also gives a solid foundation of quality to their coffee from the start!
The coffee is mostly grown in the Highlands. The high altitude supports quality arabica beans. The balance of sunlight and shade in the mountains enables the coffee plants to grow successfully. The mountains also make it more difficult for farmers to transport their ripe coffee cherries. Nonetheless, these folks endure, and some still sundry their beans themselves. This process is known as the natural processed or sun-dried coffee The strong sun exposure in the Andes assists farmers in drying their product efficiently before hulling the cherry from the bean. This provides the coffee bean a different flavor profile, due to its longer contact with the cherry itself! Dry processed coffees typically are more abundant in fruit flavors.
Yet, many Peruvian coffee farmers rely mostly on mills to achieve their final product. Sun-drying coffee may be very ‘natural,’ but it is a hard process to maintain as a small scale farmer who needs to support his business. Therefore, mills work with multiple farmers across Peruvian coffee regions, expediting processing so that farmers can sell their beans quickly.
Most coffee in Peru is micro wet-milled. What does that even mean? Well, it is a crucial part of the coffee process. These small wet mills are responsible for extracting the coffee bean from the cherry and pulp. Then, the beans are placed in a fermentor. They are small in production, which contributes to preserving Peruvian river water. When mills are large, the waste from the pulping stage can pollute water sources. Micro wet-mills focus on low water equipment, which in turn produces less runoff. This showcases how Peruvian coffee is not only innately organic but also a proponent of sustainability.
Once the beans are processed, it is bagged and prepared for sale. The presence of cooperatives aids farmers in selling their products, especially on the global market. Without a cooperative, farmers must travel long distances to bring their beans to city markets. Yet, this often deems inefficient, as farmers are not provided storage for unsold products. Cooperatives allow for products to be brought together and assessed once more for quality. It also allows for quality of Peruvian coffee to develop proper branding and safe packaging. Most importantly, cooperatives act as a group representation which also works to supply guaranteed prices for farmers. In this manner, most Peruvian coffees are not from one single farm, but rather a few different farms most likely operating in the same geographic zone.
But, let’s chat about flavor! Peruvian coffee brings unique aromatics to the table. The flavor profile can vary slightly on where the coffee is grown. The most iconic location may be Chanchamayo in the central highlands. This coffee illustrates the quality of Peruvian coffee. Its flavors are delicate but still potent. The coffee is elegantly acidic, with notes of chocolate, citrus, and a hint of nuts. The citrus notes reflect the coffee’s high altitude production. As you try more high altitude Peruvian coffee, you will dedicate more citrus and floral notes. In more volcanic regions, you can even find some smokey notes in your brew! Typically, Chanchamayo and all Peruvian coffee are light or medium roasts.
The Best Preparation
Peruvian coffee can be enjoyed in several formats. To best dive headfirst into the coffee, we suggest the ever-popular pour-over method. It is a simple way to explore the flavor of your chosen Peruvian coffee roast at home. And, the equipment necessary for a pour-over is easy to find! This single-serve option will leave you aromatically blissed out!
If you preserve a more concentrated brew, Peruvian coffee makes for an excellent espresso. Although it is not a typical dark roast used for espresso, Peruvian coffee’s chocolate notes and nuttiness shine in an espresso shot. When milk is added, the citrus notes really blend well. Thus, we suggest you treat yourself to a Peruvian cappuccino or even latte!
We invite you to start your Peruvian journey with our ‘Tres Cumbres’ roast. This organic Peruvian coffee is clean and smokey, making it a wonderful addition to any coffee routine. And, it comes in decaf as well! This makes Peruvian coffee accessible to everyone. Let us know what you think!