We have a new coffee on our counter this month – El Morito – from Peru. We haven’t had a coffee from Peru for several years and it is interesting to think about how and why that happens. Peru is a large coffee producer and over the thirty last years or so has really concentrated on the cooperative and certified-production marketing models. It used to be that if you needed organic certified coffee, you found it in Peru. The cooperatives generally do great work, and the certified coffees bring a basic and sure level of income to many small holder farmers. But there has always been this little niggle that there could be some amazing coffees there that were being lost in the bigger systems and just haven’t managed to find their way out. El Morito is in the coffee growing area of the Cordillera del Marañón mountain range. The Cordillera del Marañón is part of the Andes range and extends north through Colombia all the way to Venezuela. Peru has the altitude, latitude, soil type and micro-climate to grow specialty coffee with fantastic flavour profiles, but it hasn’t quite managed to find ongoing traction against the more established producers across Central and South America.
Cultivarcoffees.com saw and realised the potential in Peru and are helping to bring these coffees out to the market. Farmers and roasters can approach Cultivar Coffees and if the quality and commitments are right, then there are coffees that have the flavour profiles which can sit well on the various coffee counters (virtual or physical) around the world. Like other roasters we get approached by farmers, exporters and brokers looking to place their coffee with us. We try all the samples that are sent to us and we are always particularly interested in coffee from countries where we don’t have established relationships already in place. For some countries we just don’t have the volume to buy directly, and in others there aren’t the structures in place to allow direct buying, so we rely on people like Cultivar Coffees and others to help us.
We are often asked how we find and buy the coffees we have, and this route is one of the ways. We get sent a sample by an intermediary, we try it, we like it and then want to learn more about it, especially the relationships that are forged along the way. Sometimes the way the coffee is traded doesn’t suit the way we like to work and other times, as in this instance, we see a great coffee and transparency along the chain, and we want to give it a go. Our coffees from Ethiopia also follow this path. Whichever way this process works, it is vitally important to us to meet the farmer and see the farm for ourselves. There is nothing like physically being there to really get a sense of the place and gain some insight into life on the farm. Video calls have been great over the last year, but we are itching to get back to the farms and to meet the farmers who are new to us in person.
The first year with a new coffee on the counter is always a bit nervy and exciting. We obviously loved the El Morito on the tasting table and we’re excited to have it on our counter, but the real test of it is when it is in the hands of our retailers and customers. Anyone who typically enjoys our coffees from Nariño, Huila or Huehuetenango should enjoy the El Morito. The closest coffee we have had to it was on the counter many years ago, Agoga from Papua New Guinea.
In-between deciphering lockdown statements and figuring out how to adapt to changing new normals, take a look at cultivarcoffees.com for more information about the work they are doing. As we get into spring the new crops from Central America will start to land. We have some of our favourites coming back onto the counter from Guatemala, Costa Rica and El Salvador – plenty to look forward to!
Do we dare put away the winter coats?