Peru holds exceptional promise as a producer of high-quality coffees. The country is the largest exporter of organic Arabica coffee globally. With extremely high altitudes and fertile soils, the country’s smallholder farmers also produce some stunning specialty coffees.
Though coffee arrived in Peru in the 1700s, very little coffee was exported until the late 1800s. Until that point, most coffee produced in Peru was consumed locally. When coffee leaf rust hit Indonesia in the late 1800s, a country central to European coffee imports at the time, Europeans began searching elsewhere for their fix. Peru was a perfect option.
Between the late 1800s and the first World War, European interests invested significant resources into coffee production in Peru. However, with the advent of the two World Wars, England and other European powers became weakened and took a less colonialist perspective. When the British and other European land owners left, their land was purchased by the government and redistributed to locals. The Peruvian government repurchased the 2 million hectares previously granted to England and distributed the lands to thousands of local farmers. Many of these farmers later grew coffee on the lands they received.
Today, Peruvian coffee growers are overwhelmingly small scale. Farmers in Peru usually process their coffee on their own farms. Most coffee is Fully washed. Cherry is usually pulped, fermented and dried in the sun on raised beds or drying sheds. Drying greenhouses and parabolic beds are becoming more common as farmers pivot towards specialty markets.
Cooperativa Agraria Cafetalera Alto Mayo (Alto Mayo, for short) was founded in July 2012 by a group of 3 women and 12 men who were looking to improve quality of life for their families. For these farming families, coffee was the only cash crop and was essential for their survival.
Today, Alto Mayo has over 1,500 producing members spanning across 53 production zones. Members receive technical assistance on a variety of topics, including proper pruning, plant nutrition and pest management.
In 2020, Alto Mayo initiated a new project “Coffee Mujeres LMF” with an importing partner. The project focuses on empowering female growers to improve their coffee quality. Coffee Mujeres LMF helped female growers build drying modules on their farms and provided training on proper drying practices.
The farmers in the San Martin region produce the most certified-Organic coffee in Peru. The unique microclimates across San Martin, combined with the good practices of Alto Mayo members leads to excellent quality Organic coffee.
Farmers in Peru usually process their coffee on their own farms using the Fully washed method. Cherry is usually pulped, fermented and dried in the sun. Traditionally, smaller farmers would use tarps laid on the ground or under the roof of their homes. Increasingly, cooperatives are establishing centralized drying facilities – usually raised beds or drying sheds where members are encouraged to dry their parchment. Some farmers are beginning to adopt these practices on their own farms, and drying greenhouses and parabolic beds are becoming more common as farmers pivot towards specialty markets. After drying, coffee will then be sold in parchment to the cooperative.