Peru’s northern Andes are lush, humid, mountainous, and a kind of visceral threshold between the drier Pacific slopes and the cavernous and rainforested lowlands of the Amazon basin on the eastern side. The highlands here are broad and varied in elevation and microclimate. Coffee has had a dominant presence here for decades and the northern departments of Cajamarca, Amazonas, and Piura are well-established in the marketplace for their certified cooperatives representing tens of thousands of smallholder farmers, as well as the high quality potential throughout the region.
Cooperativa de Servicios Multiples Juan Marco El Palto (JUMARP) is a small and focused cooperative in northern Peru that manages coffee from more than 300 farmer associates. The cooperative was formulated in 2003 with 35 local producers in the Lonya Grande district, part of the greater Amazonas department, and now the coop represents coffee growers across the highlands of Amazonas, as well as neighboring coffee powerhouse department, Cajamarca. During the years since its inception, JUMARP has made a name for the “El Palto” terroir, named after the highlands encircling Lonya Grande, and was also one of the first cooperatives to successfully process coffee beyond the traditional fully-washed standard—today they regularly offer natural and honey process lots, most often from single famers within the group.
This specific lot comes to us from María Blanca Altamarino Guevara, a single grower with a 3-hectare coffee farm called “El Manantial”, or “the spring”, located in the community of Providencia, south of the Lonya Grande district along the Amazonas/Cajamarca border. María was born into a coffee farming family and continues the multi-generation tradition along with her husband Percy Ramos Castillo. Together María and Percy have been cooperative members with JUMARP since 2013. Coffee revenues completely sustain their family, including the education of their 3 sons, all of whom are still in school.
During harvest María employs 6 workers to cover the labor of picking and processing, all of which is carefully and entirely done by hand. Processing at El Manantial is reflective of small-farm processing throughout northern Peru, with the exception of a shorter fermentation to achieve the honey process: coffee is mechanically depulped using a small machine, fermented in an above-ground tank for 15 hours (instead of the usual 36), and then moved into a solar drier with some of the original mucilage still intact on the parchment. The honey coffee is dried for 15 days, during which it is constantly raked and rotated to avoid clumping or uneven humidity. Finally, fully-dried parchment is delivered to one of JUMARP’s local warehouses for safekeeping and conditioning. From there deliveries are sampled and consolidated by JUMARP’s quality team or kept separate for traceability or quality reasons.
In Peru by far the bulk of coffee production comes from small farms owned and managed by people who have for many years followed organic farm management practice attuned to their cultural connection with the land. Producers, like Valentin and the rest of JUMARP’s associates, typically cultivate coffee on just a few acres of land intercropped with shade trees, fruits and vegetables. Small producers are often very careful about picking and sorting their cherry prior to depulping, fermenting, washing, and drying the coffee, all on personal equipment and on personal property. While producers design farm management and post-harvest solutions to fit their varying needs, they also need a strong business alliance to bring their coffee to the international market and earn fair prices, regardless of whether the coffees are blended or sold independently.