Brandon Bir is buzzed about Peruvian coffee. On his annual coffee buying trip to Peru’s jungle highlands, our Coffee Sourcing and Education Director found farmers, roasters and baristas eager to up their coffee game.
“Since Cup of Excellence came to Peru, everyone is much more focused on coffee quality,” he said. “We’re excited to work with key players in developing exceptional coffees.”
A licensed coffee Q Grader, Brandon started this year’s trip at Lima’s Tostaduría Bisetti, where he taught a class on chlorogenic acid and the sensory evaluation of coffee to a select group of local roasters, shop owners and baristas.
“Our focus was on roast time and bean exposure to heat – especially how short-time roasting promotes both an optimal flavor profile and health benefits of coffee because it retains a higher proportion of chlorogenic and other acids,” he said. “Chlorogenic acid is a polyphenol with antioxidant properties, so it is responsible for a lot of the health benefits of coffee.”
The class became a forum for a wide-ranging discussion on how to improve coffee quality. “Several roasters came away resolving to try new roast times and curves,” he said.
Brandon then spent a day exploring Lima’s coffee cafés before returning to Neira Café Labs to work with owner Harrysson Neira, a Q Grader and one of Peru’s top baristas. He calibrated the shop’s Malkonig EK43 coffee grinder, cupped local coffees and helped Café Barista Mauricio Rodriguez Carrasco prepare for the upcoming National Barista Championship, which he won.
From there, Brandon flew into Peru’s central jungle and stopped for a brief coffee cupping and luncheon reception at NARSA (NEGOCIACIONES AGROINDUSTRIAL AREVALO S. A.) a cooperative based in La Merced, a town in the 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.
“In working with NARSA over the past five years, we’ve been extremely impressed with the way they live their principles of integrity, eco-efficiency and transparency,” Brandon said. NARSA produced our Friend2Farmer Peru La Merced Mundo Pache coffee.
From La Merced, he drove to the town of Villa Rica and Finca Santa Rosa, owned by third-generation grower Selena Contreras Obregon. Established by Contreras’ grandfather in 1927, the 104-acre, Rain Forrest Alliance-certified farm grows catuai, caturra, bourbon, typica and geisha varietals under a canopy of indigenous trees at an elevation of 5,250 feet.
“This is the fifth year we’ve visited Selena and her farm,” Brandon said. “This year, we inspected their new wet mill and some of the solar dryers they had installed. By taking moisture readings on the coffee, we were able to help them determine the optimum time to pull their honey process coffee.”
Brandon also selected 30 pounds of perfectly ripe, handpicked coffee cherries. He divided these into two, 15-pound lots and sent them back with two different honey-processing recipes for testing on the NARSA solar dryer funded with Crimson Cup donations in 2016. After the test is complete, we plan to import about three to five bags of green coffee processed according to the winning recipe.
“Through our partnership with NARSA and its affiliated COOPERU organization, we’re now able to specify exactly how we want our coffee to be processed,” he said. “This will allow us to give our customers better coffees and pay NARSA and its farmers a higher price for the coffee.”
Next, Brandon inspected Villa Rica’s Moali Coffee Lab, which roasts and analyzes coffee and offers services to local coffee growers. “We had visited last year and been impressed with their services, so this year we used them to roast samples for our cupping on the last day,” he said.
From there, he visited farms in Oxapampa, a new coffee-growing region for Crimson Cup. “The terrain is unlike any coffee growing region I’ve seen in Peru – or possibly the world,” he said. “Oxapampa sits between the Andes and another range to the east, so you have these lush jungle mountains and behind them you see the white-capped Andes. The elevation is 5,900 feet – perfect for coffee growth. It is very mild during the day and very cold at night. It stresses the coffee plant so that it produces sugars and flavors you can’t get anywhere else.”
At the end of his trip, Brandon returned to La Merced for a large coffee cupping attended by local farmers. “We cupped over two dozen coffees, he said. “It was really cool to offer feedback and suggestions from sensory analysis of their coffee.”