BOOTS ON THE GROUND IN PERU
BOSQUES VERDES COFFEE COLLABORATION PROJECT 2019
Zest is committed to working with coffee farmers at origin to build ethical, transparent supply chains and direct relationships that genuinely benefit the farmers and cooperatives that we work with.
Our goal is to bring about positive change for coffee workers and their families, to innovate in coffee processing techniques and to educate, share knowledge and experience, and give back to these amazing communities.
Our philosophy in helping farmers references the saying, ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’. Translating this to coffee and we see the need to work hands-on with farming families and look for ways to support their progress through donating infrastructure that aids long term quality improvement and explore processing method improvements that will add value to their crops.
Our purpose is to demonstrate to farmers that it is possible to produce high scoring coffees using the same cherries that are normally sold as commodity grade coffee. We do this by focusing on alternative ways of processing. This significantly can increase the cup quality score and value of the crop and therefore can make their farming activities more financially rewarding and sustainable.
In 2019 we chose to continue to work with the Bosques Verdes Cooperative in Peru – a group we had already conducted an initial project the year before and we import their coffees for use in some of our premium blends.
This is a cooperative that was formed in 2005 by the union and effort of 45 coffee-growing families located in the last city of the Inca Atahualpa (San Ignacio - Cajamarca - Peru). Since that day, these farmers carefully de-pulp, ferment, wash and sun-dry their crops individually on their own farms in order to produce an excellent coffee. Over the years, membership has expanded to 265 coffee farmers. These families aim to sell their product at better prices in order to improve their quality of life.
Richard Jaramillo and the team at Bosques Verdes efforts are committed to produce and sell quality coffees in harmony with the environment by providing members with training and education about sustainable agricultural practices. Among its main objectives, Bosques Verdes is specialized in providing ongoing technical assistance to its members in order to improve their coffee and to allow them to obtain a competitive price on the market. The cooperative is based on the principles of quality, social responsibility, environment and sustainability.
Our project this year centred at a farm called Finca Don Nolasco on which our experimentation and research was to be conducted.
FINCA DON NOLASCO
This is a family finca (farm) perched high in the Andes mountains. A long, steep and perilous track leads up to the farm from San Ignacio. These little farms are isolated in so many ways – time, distance, difficulty of travel - and yet they function to sustain the simple living of many close-knit family groups who seem quite content with their rustic rural lifestyle far from the bustle of city life.
Jose Nolasco and his wife, Diana, live and work together with their family including Jose’s aged father and mother.
Happy, friendly and hospitable (despite the significant language barrier), this family welcomed Darren, Aryan and Andy into their lives for two weeks during harvest. With amazing mutual trust and dependence, the teams worked hard together to search for new ways of doing things that would help the Nolasco’s prosper into the future.
While the heart of our expedition lay in knowledge sharing and experimentation, Zest also donated some of the much needed equipment and infrastructure that would not only be used during the coffee processing trials but also would enhance the farm’s production capabilities for many years to come.
Our investment included 130m2 of raised drying beds, A shade structure, three 2500 litre fermentation tanks, brix, pH and temperature monitoring instrumentation and two weeks of hands-on day and night work at the farm.
Our focus at origin is on hands-on research and experimentation with different processing techniques.
The life of every coffee bean starts as the seed inside the coffee cherry. The outer layer of the fruit is a thick skin with a fleshy pulp layer and then a sticky mucilage surrounding the bean. Under the mucilage is a papery layer called parchment which encases the seed. Lastly there is a super thin silky layer called the silver skin and then the green rubbery seed.
The removal of all the layers is what we call processing.
Most processing methods involve a step called fermentation. Fermentation is when the sugars and starches inside the coffee cherry fruit break down through bacterial and yeast action into acids and alcohol. This process imparts interest and complexity to the cup profile including sweetness, acidity and fruitiness.
By manipulating this fermentation process in terms of time, temperature, atmospheric environment, etc., we can manipulate the outcomes and gently coax a greater array of flavours our of the coffee. This can add significant value by increasing the score of the coffee.
Our team produced three main lots:
- Control batch - Washed process, 16 hours fermentation
- Natural process, anaerobic 90 hour fermentation
- Washed process, Intenso yeast 24 hour fermentation
- Washed process, Cima yeast 24 hour fermentation
Each batch began with selective picking of ripe Red Bourbon and Yellow Caturra cherries. The cherries were then washed and floated to remove defects. The natural lot involved fermenting the whole cherries in a tank and then drying them on raised beds. The washed lots were passed through a depulper to remove the skin and flesh and then placed in the fermentation tank.
While a story of teamwork and innovation is always a rewarding one, the real value of our journey with Finca Don Nolasco lay in how we were able to improve the quality and sell price of their coffee.
Listed below are the results of the four lots. The first is used as a control as we used the standard process currently being used on the farms in the area. The other three show a significant improvement in cupping score. Based on these scores and the average farm gate prices in the area, we were able to determine an indicative percentage of increase in the prices per kilogram of each lot.
|MICRO-LOT||SCORE||PRICE INCREASE % PER KG|
|Control batch - Washed process, 16 hours fermentation||80.75||0%|
|Washed process, Cima yeast 24 hour fermentation||83.5||+15.7%|
|Washed process, Intenso yeast 24 hour fermentation||85||+42.1%|
|Natural process, anaerobic 90 hour fermentation||87.5||+68.4%|
Looking at these improvements we see how truly impactful and valuable it is to actively pursue the possibilities of innovative new techniques.
We are truly grateful for the opportunity to work with such a wonderful coffee community and we’re humbled yet thrilled by the positive contribution to a brighter future for these farmers our team has been able to make.
We also take the opportunity to thank all our café partners for their support for Zest which makes our collaboration with coffee farming families a reality. Speak to us to link your café with this work at origin.