Improving Coffee Quality in PeruJuly 18, 2018 (Published: June 30, 2018)
Since 2012, our team of cuppers has worked with Peruvian coffee farmers, café owners and baristas to improve the quality of coffee they grow and prepare. Recently, Education and Sustainability Director Brandon Bir and Coffee Buyer Dave Eldridge led a team including executives from The Ohio State University to expand relationships and spread knowledge of American coffee quality standards.
“I have been optimistic about Peruvian coffee since I first visited coffee farms here in 2012,” Brandon said. “In just six years, I’ve seen significant advances in coffee quality – in farming, processing, roasting and café culture. Especially since Cup of Excellence came to Peru, more people are involved and motivated to continue learning and perfecting their craft.”
Brandon and Dave were accompanied on the trip by Senior Director Zia Ahmed and Corporate Executive Chef Lesa Holford of the Ohio State University, Office of Student Life, University Dining Services. The university serves Crimson Cup coffee on campus.
“As a coffee roaster, Crimson Cup believes it’s important to connect people who serve our coffee in the U.S. with the folks who work so hard to grow and process it at origin,” Dave said. “This helps coffee sellers tell the story of the coffee they’re serving, and it gives growers a better idea of how to cater to American tastes and get a higher price for their coffee.”
The team spent the first three days of the trip exploring café culture in the Miraflores and Barranco suburbs of Lima. While there, Brandon – who is an SCA certified coffee taster and licensed Q Grader – helped Peruvian Barista Champion Mauricio Rodriguez of Neira Café Lab prepare for the World Barista Championship in Amsterdam.
“Everyone had a chance to sample the coffee that Mauricio was preparing for the competition, which had nuances similar to a high-quality Ethiopian coffee, rarely found outside of Africa,” Brandon said. “Elevating the quality of coffee in Peru helps foster growth of internal consumption and competition.”
From Lima, the group flew to the mining town of Tarma, and then drove through the Andes to reach NARSA (NEGOCIACIONES AGROINDUSTRIAL AREVALO S. A.) a cooperative based in La Merced, capital of the Chanchamayo Province in Peru’s Junín Region. Since 1988, NARSA has focused on helping small coffee and cacao farmers in Peru’s Central Highlands and Amazon regions with achieving market access throughout Peru and beyond.
Through our Friend2Farmer direct trade program, Crimson Cup has been working with NARSA Founder Don Julio Arevalo Tello for the past six years on quality initiatives such as raised drying beds and cupping competitions among local farmers.
Currently, we are helping NARSA develop a coffee quality lab built to the new Specialty Coffee Association standards that went into effect in January 2018. Brandon, who is an SCA certified lab inspector, went over progress with Denise Carrión, commercial manager for NARSA.
“The SCA has determined that building a quality lab at origin presents unique challenges as compared to building a facility in the U.S. and other developed countries,” Brandon said. “We went over the inspection sheet and talked about creative solutions to the difficulties they were encountering.”
Brandon plans to return to NARSA in August to inspect the completed facility for potential SCA certification. Once certified, the lab will become an important resource for coffee education in the region.
The group also visited Cholo Café founded by Arevalo’s daughters, who are both Cordon-Bleu trained chefs. The café serves local coffee and dishes inspired by local farms and ingredients.
After dinner, Brandon went through the café’s coffee program, calibrating the espresso machine and suggesting some improvements. “As I was preparing coffee using an Aeropress brewer, I looked up to see about 20 local baristas watching me,” he recalled. “Word had gotten out via social media that I was in town, and they hurried over to see what they could learn. That’s how dedicated they are to improving their craft.”
Founder and President Greg Ubert has committed Crimson Cup to working with coffee growers in the Chanchamayo Highlands long-term. “Given the growing conditions and the passion for quality we’ve encountered, we believe the area can produce exceptional, 90-point coffees,” he said.