Peru is one of the best places in the world to grow coffee. It has some of the best, most fertile high-altitude growing areas, with many plantations being 2,200m above sea level. The country also benefits from numerous unique microclimates. A large amount of Peru’s coffee comes from small farms that are just five hectares or smaller in area.
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Coffees in Peru
The main types of coffee exported from Peru are Typica, Pache, Caturra, Bourbon and Catimor. These are primarily grow in in Cajamarca, a region in the northern area of the country which accounts for more than a third of all of the coffee grown in Peru. There are smaller farming areas in Cusco and Apurimac, in southern Peru.
The History of Coffee in Peru
Coffee was first introduced to Peru in the 1700s, and since those early days it has become highly respected as a coffee-growing country. It began exporting coffee as a commercial good in 1887, and has grown to become the 8th largest coffee producer in the word. Today, it is the world’s largest exporter of organic certified beans, producing around 2,000,000 bags per year. This amounts to 5% of total exports.
Today, the typical variety, which is an heirloom variety for the country, accounts for about 60 percent of its exports. There are more than 110,000 farmers focused on coffee growing in the country, and the majority of them are indigenous people who have Spanish as their second language. They live in remote areas, with no running water or electricity, and depend on the coffee industry to support them.
The Coffee Industry
Most of Peru’s coffee growers are small farms that have banded together to form cooperatives. The country has invested a lot of time and effort into improving its reputation as a specialty coffee grower over the last few years, and is focused on improving the traceability of its coffee so that the most exceptional small producers can be recognized.
Peruvian coffee tends to be traditionally cultivated and shade grown. It is processed in micro wet-mills, and hand-pulped. The processing is something that has been quite a problem for the local ecosystem, because of the pollution that the pulping factories produce. While there is still a lot of work needing to be done to make the processing a more sustainable procedure, the good news is that once the coffee is processed, it is transported to the nearest town – either on food or by mule. This trip can take as long as eight hours, for some farmers. Each Saturday, the town plaza becomes a trade hub for coffee growers, who depend on this weekly contact with buyers to keep their farms going.
Co-operative organizations and Fair Trade networks are working with farmers to offer them reliable and predictable purchase prices for their goods, rewarding the highest quality growers for their produce, rather than simply focusing on the raw volume of coffee produced by each farm the way that the commodity coffee buyers do.