Finding a Coffee Farm

When we decided to open a coffee shop we did our research on what coffees were available to us in Peru.  Right away we weeded out anything that wasn’t certified fair-trade and organic and from there we began testing for the best tasting coffee.  Well it didn’t take long to pick the winner.  Tunki coffee, produced by a small producer co-op near Puno, has been an international award winner (1st place in 2010) and maintains high quality taste year over year.  For almost two years now we have been purchasing Tunki coffee through for use in our cafe and for sales in the US.  While we have wanted to take a trip to the valley to visit the coffee plantations and operations an opportunity just hadn’t arisen; until this month.  Greg, Alfredo and I were able to arrange a trip to visit the main coffee factory in Juliaca and then travel on to Sandia (the valley) to visit one of the co-op’s headquarters and to visit with some of the owners of the hillside coffee plantations.
The journey was an interesting combination of excellent and harrowing.  The harrowing part was the travel out to the valley from Juliaca.  Sadly I don’t have pictures to do the description justice but just imagine yourself in 15 passenger van going downhill around sheer mountain cliffs on a one lane road while needing to pass cars or make room for cars coming up the hill.  On top of that there were hairpin turns aplenty and a driver who loved to drive at breakneck speeds.  We were all very thankful to arrive in the valley safely.  We stayed in the small town of Massiapo where the Inambari coffee co-op is located.  One of the members of this co-op submitted a sample to the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) this year and was ranked 3rd best in the world.  The co-op president took us out to visit two different plantations about an hour outside of town, high up on the side of the mountains (about 1800 meters up).  Though we arrived post harvest we were able to see quite a lot.  Plants still laden with beans, beans laid out for drying, a newly developed area with recently planted coffee plants, and more.  Back in Massiapo that afternoon we were treated to a cupping seminar by the co-op’s resident coffee specialist, Rigoberto (a licensed Q grader).  He prepared five different coffee samples for testing.  He talked us through how to officially cup (test) the coffee and how to officially score using international scoring guidelines.  The lesson was very interesting and Greg especially enjoyed himself as he graded the coffee samples with Rigoberto.
We were so grateful to CECOVASA (the parent organization of the various co-ops) for hosting us at their factory and for arranging our guides in the valley.  As we prepare to ramp up sales of CUDA coffee through exporting to the US we felt it necessary to gain a deeper understanding of the coffee we sell.  This trip was an eye-opener and has given us a lot of ideas for our business going forward.  Enjoy the pictures!