Peru relationship coffee history

There are ten growing regions in Peru.

Alexander Helle-Hansen
April 29, 2022

There are ten growing regions in Peru. The regions we see with most potential for quality are Cajamarca and Amazonas in the north, Junin in what they call the Central Jungle, and Cusco and Puno in the south. Cajamarca is the biggest producing region. Here you can find farms at altitudes above 2000 masl but higher is not always better. There are plenty of great coffees being grown at 1600 and you can find gems at even lower elevations.

Some say that coffee growing in Peru started in the Central Jungle, others say it began in the north. There were growers of German and Italian descent that were farming coffee in the 1800’s. Many of the growers currently working in the Cajamarca came from the Piura region (in the west) in the 1950s and 1960s.

The main focus until recently was certification, be it organic, Fairtrade or UTZ. Coffees are still mainly sold in bigger chunks of commercial and high commercial qualities, up to 84 points, at really low prices. For many this is unsustainable. In Puno, for example, production has dropped from 180000 bags to 8000 bags because of leaf rust and the low C-price. Several cooperatives went bankrupt, and many coffee producers switched to coca production. It is easier to grow, and more profitable, and there are always ready buyers for this raw material of cocaine.

Improved drying in Cajamarca

We are amazed by the potential in Peru. With simple equipment, minimal infrastructure and hardly any governmental support, farmers can produce amazing coffees. Many of the greatest coffees we have tasted have come from producers with a small hand-pulper, a wooden tank for dry fermentation and plastic on the ground for drying. Sadly most of these quality lots go into a big pile which is sold for an extremely low price. Producers are not paid for quality so their investment in improving quality is minimal. Fortunately things are changing.

There are a few private exporters and organisations that are active in promoting better premiums for good quality. We have decided to work in the north of Peru for now, around Jaen and San Ignacio in Cajamarca. We have developed programs with small communities in a few selected areas through a privately owned company called Origin Coffee Lab. Plus we are exploring other single farmer and community projects with a small cooperative called Cedros.

We select micro-lots of the high performing coffees at lot sizes between 10 – 20 bags. Additionally we create blends from the same communities where the coffees are exceptional but the lots are too small to buy individually. As always we pay high premiums for quality, well above the local price, and still the coffees are extremely good value for the quality.

Visiting farmers with our partner cooperative Cedros 2021

Alex's past roles have covered many responsibilities including supply chain, quality, sales, buying and management.