Driving at 18,000 feet across the Peruvian Andes. Peering down over the side of rough mountain roads with no guard rails. Meeting the high mountain farmers who specialize in shade grown coffee of the finest calibre. Finding premium coffee growers is a quest like no other.
Nic Ellis, one of the business team members behind Public Market Coffee, recently made a trip to Peru on such a quest. First, he visited Lima where processing plants are and where they process beans of “single origin” (one bean from one farmer to one plant). Instead of several farmers putting all their beans into one “bucket”, they practice a certain quality control.
Then he journeyed onward to Junin, Peru. Junín is a town in Central Peru, capital of the province Junín in the region Junín. Raúl Pacheco and Gladys Tejeda, both Olympic marathon runners, were born here. Approximately 1 million people live in the region.
Nic drove over the Andes at 18,000 feet — a scary drive with no traffic laws. No guard rails. No lane dividers. The passing lane is in the middle of what seems to be only two lanes… somehow trucks and cars manage to find a third lane. White knuckled is the best way to describe the experience on that road. Two girls in the same car (daughter’s of a friend of Nic’s father, living in country) threw up Fear and altitude sickness can do that.
After making it over the high Andes mountains on their Indiana Jones like harrowing drive, Nic reports that his group made it into the jungle and met the Mayor of the Region, who took them up to meet the farmers who grow the beans on the top of a hill at high altitude. The altitude is just one of the secrets that make this coffee unique.
The farmers have an amazing attitude with smiles on their faces at all times, even though the labor is back breaking. The farmers dress very nice and are friendly even though some of the living conditions are primitive compared to the US. Some of their families have grown coffee for centuries. According to Wikipedia, “In 1895, the Journal of the Society of Arts recorded that Peru was known for many years as a coffee-producing country, but the coffee grown on the coast was used primarily for domestic consumption, and it was only later that it developed as an exporting nation.”
Going forward, your Public Market Coffee team wants to learn “how do we give back”, says Nic. One example is that you can fund an NGO — Non Governmental Organization — that could be involved in agriculture in positive ways. Currently, negotiations can be brutal on the farmers when some buyers they rely on renege and lower previously agreed upon pricing. And these are the same farmers who produce coffee that is shade grown (plant pine trees around them for shade), and so they are deemed “organic” — and USA certified (see USDA site for definition). This is part of the quality quest our company has taken on. It’s what make these farmers proud — and it is what brings our customers the gourmet experience. In the end, it will be what drives Public Market Coffee’s management team to take care of those farmers.