Every year, Mercanta selects the very best lots from the community of Los Tigres, high in Peru’s Cajamarca Region. This 2018 lot hails from a single farm – the small, 2 hectare La Naranja, owned by Ramiro Farceque Mijahuanca.
La Naranja sits at between 1,850 and 1,900 metres above sea level, perfectly situated to produce very high quality coffee. Ramiro grows only Caturra and Typica here. The trees are around 15 years old but very well cared for and regularly renovated. All harvest and post-harvest work is done to the optimal standards.
Ramiro uses strict harvest and processing methods so as to insure that the natural potential of his coffee is maintained. During the harvest, coffee is selectively handpicked with only the ripest cherries being harvested at each pass. These cherries are then hand-sorted to ensure no underripe or damaged cherries make it into the fermentation tanks. The coffee is pulped on the same day that it is picked using a mechanical pulper, located on the farm itself. After pulping, it will then ferment in a tank for around 30 hours (due to the very low ambient temperature at this altitude) before being washed in pure water. He has also constructed raised ‘African’ beds (at the recommendation of his local association) for drying. After being pre-dried on patios or tarpaulins, the clean parchment will be spread on these to dry for around 20 days. The parchment is turned regularly for slow and even drying until humidity reaches 11.5% humidity.
The Santuario Association of Coffee Producers (Asociación De Productores Cafetaleros El Santuario) was created in 2017 to help producers in the Cajamarca to improve the quality of their production. Advised by Santuario agricultural technicians, all the farmers who belong to the organisation use the same strict harvest and processing methods so as to insure that the natural potential of their coffee is maintained.
The farmers feel blessed to be members and clients of Santuario. ‘Santuario’ members must have years of coffee growing experience and must share a vision of improving the quality of their production. Although the participating farms are all small – around 3 to 5 hectares on average – the total land under coffee represented by the group is around 250 hectares in total, thus the productive potential is substantial.
The name - “Santuario/Sanctuary" - refers to the fact that all the farms working as a group are in the buffer zone of the Tabaconas - Namballe National Sanctuary. This environmental placement is important to Santuario, as the company prioritises environmental conservation and biodiversity.
Santuario’s main objective and activity is to work in cooperation with small producers and producer organisations in order to promote coffee quality improvement. The business not only helps with market access, they also assume the role of agricultural extension – or technical field assistance – where individuals with agricultural expertise and training advise on all aspects of soil fertility, cultivation techniques, harvesting, post-harvest and, generally, improvement of quality. The coffee that the organisation works with comes from varied and unique production areas of the Cajamarca region. With diverse microclimates and high soil quality, they’ve identified practices that enable individual producers to instil the very best quality in their diverse lots. The focus, then, is on the production of small, distinct and unique high quality microlots…. And of course on making sure that these very special coffees find the right home with speciality roasters.
Long term goals of Santuario include expanding the presence of high quality Caturra, Typica and Bourbon. These plants will increase productivity while maintaining quality. Renovation work is a key aspect of the agricultural extension services provided by Santuario representatives, but they also focus on organic methods of controlling plagues and on soil fertility. For instance, coffee Leaf rust poses one of the largest threats to coffee in the Cajamarca region, and in order to combat it, carefully timed fertilisation is very important. Santuario provides advice and technical assistance with this.
All participating producers are required to take strict care with regards to harvesting and processing, which also helps overcome the limitations of low technification in the region. Quality has, above all, been a focus for the organisation, given the demands of the current market for exceptional coffees, and since processing in Peru is rustic, great care and attention must be taken with all stages of processing. Each producer has their own processing infrastructure, but all are required to apply the utmost attention and check the coffee frequently.
The installation of large-capacity solar tents (carpa solares) is also being planned, since by increasing production, producers will need more drying capacity to be able to dry their coffee according to the climatic conditions at the time. The climate in Northern Peru can be unpredictable and is often wet when you need it to be dry. Solar dryers usually feature a room built either of wood or adobe covered with plastic or polyurethane sheeting. Add in raised beds, and you have a significantly improved drying capacity. When drying coffee, moisture is monitored by either biting the parchment, assessing firmness, or by cutting a bean in half. In the latter case, if one half jumps away from the knife, its humidity is 14-15%; if both halves jump, then it’s below 12%. Even using these simple techniques, Santuario’s producer partners are producing some great coffee.
Ultimately, Santuario aims to help producers in one of Peru’s most impoverished but also promising (coffee-wise) districts to find sustainable markets for their coffee and improve their livelihoods. Mercanta is excited to be able to help them achieve this goal.