After sourcing some lovely coffees with Promoting Peru through the Valle Inca Association last year, we decided to visit Peru’s Cusco region with José Prudencio, the association’s president, to connect with those farmers whose coffee stood out, to see what made them so special. One of those such producers was Ricardo Ccallo Olave, of Finca Pampa Blanco, who is growing coffee in the Quinuay area of Peru’s Cusco region.
Finca Pampa Blanco in Quinuay experiences a breezy and dry climate. Ricardo grows almost exclusively Typica, with tiny amounts of Bourbon and Pache, on his 4 hectare farm which spans from 1,900 – 2,000m. He actively tries to keep moisture in the soil by leaving any fallen matter from shade trees, along with any spent Coca leaves, chewed by workers whilst harvesting cherries, which grows in rows amongst the coffee. Not every part of the farm is suitable for coffee cultivation, and he actively chooses the best spots, as well as growing other shade trees and food crops, such as chirimoyas, oranges, avocado, limes and pacai.
The coffee trees are fed a rich compost, comprised mainly of chicken and guinea pig droppings, as well as spent coffee pulp, which worms break down into rich black humus. A good handful is added to each tree just before the rains come, which helps distribute the nourishing organic fertiliser, with any trees looking less vigorous receiving two handfuls of the nutrient-rich mulch. Having farmed coffee in this region for 25 years, most of Ricardo's trees are between 20 and 30 years old. All of them get pruned right back every 6-8 years, but he pointed out some areas of his farm that will require a full replanting, where the coffee trees are simply too old and tired
Once harvested they very gently manually de-pulp the coffee cherries, which he says is only achievable with a ripe harvest. With the sugars acting as a lubricant, it makes the job of turning the hand crank that little bit easier. Once sieved to remove any cherry skin the sugary parchment is put in GrainPro sacks and sealed in barrels to undergo what they call an "anaerobic fermentation". This system of processing by sealing the coffee into barrels with an airlock system that allows CO2 to escape is being called “anaerobic fermentation” by the Valle Inca Association. The term “anaerobic” seems to be a current fad in the specialty coffee world. Whether or not a truly anaerobic environment is created, or if the term “anaerobic fermentation” is actually meaningful, are both debatable, but for us it is interesting to note that the group and their more willing coffee producers are taking steps to control more parameters that ultimately affect how the native microbiome of bacterias and yeasts go to work on their depulped coffee. Given how their lots are cupping this year we think they’re doing a great job of improving quality across the board using these controls and protocols. Their next step is to look for an alternative to using GrainPro sacks, so that the processing is less wasteful.
Ricardo wakes around 3 am to wash his coffee once the fermentation is complete, as he wants to get it out under the rising sun to maximise the hours of sunlight available. Dried on black mesh on patios and under a plastic roof with both sides open for ventilation, Ricardo wishes to eventually invest in raised beds to have more control over his drying. We’re thrilled to have secured some of Ricardo’s coffee again this year, and hope to support him and the Valle Inca Association members for many years to come.
Quinuay, Suyo, Calca, Cusco, Peru
Syrupy & sweet, flavours of tinned peach & vanilla balance out a rich, dark chocolate body & velvety mouthfeel. In milk expect honeysuckle & sponge cake.