Welcoming back a coffee from the producer of our first ever Peruvian filter coffee release: Yolanda Cabrera Álvarez.
Yolanda grew up amongst coffee and, as a child, would help her parents around the farm. 32 years ago, she inherited the 10-hectare family farm, Palmira, named for the wealth of palm trees in the valley and for the last 3 years she has been working with the Valle Inca Association. She has a history of placing well in the Peruvian Cup of Excellence competition, a testament to her dedication and hard work.
6 hectares of the farm, situated at a staggering 2,200 metres, are planted out with Typica and Caturra coffee trees, which are between 6 and 15 years old and kept separate during harvest. Yolanda is working totally organically, making her own compost to fertilise the coffee trees, which are shaded by Pacay trees and planted amongst corn and passionfruit planted as secondary food crops.
What first stood out to us when we cupped Yolanda’s coffee in the Valle Inca lab in Peru in 2019 was the intensity of fruit characteristics in her coffee. We discovered these were being driven by a novel, water-chilled extended fermentation processing method she is trialling.
After manually depulping the coffee cherries the sugary, mucilage-covered parchment coffee is bound up in plastic bags, which are then left to ferment. If they leave the fermentation uncontrolled, the hot days and cold nights experienced on Yolanda’s farm mean that the fermentation profile is stilted and can swing from 24°c to 60°c over 24 hours, leading to alcoholic, banana-like aromas developing.
In 2019, they trialled holding the sealed bags of coffee in a tiled tank, which is drip-fed natural spring water that acts as a cooling mechanism, to maintain a more consistent temperature throughout the day. At night they remove the bags from the tank and keep them close together, to maintain some residual warmth from the day.
After anywhere between 35 and 49 hours they open the bags and check the aroma and feel the parchment, and rather than banana they experience more fruity pineapple and passionfruit like aromas using this fermentation method. Once the parchment is slippery and smooth the mucilage is deemed sufficiently broken down, and they fully wash the coffee before drying from 10 to 15 days on raised beds in covered polytunnels. The water used for washing the coffee is treated in wells.
Yolanda says that through partnering with the Valle Inca Association she is able to learn a lot about pre- and post-harvest protocols, implementing new methods and technologies to improve the quality of her coffee. Achieving high places in the Cup of Excellence is great, but what is more of a success story is that coffee has been the crop that has supported Yolanda financially and paid for her children’s education.
In 2018, our first year buying coffee through Valle Inca, the group had around 100 members, a number which has almost doubled in 2019. This is predominantly thanks to word of mouth, with producers telling their neighbours of the premium prices that they were able to receive, having been able to access a more discerning coffee market through the association. All the members are working organically and are certified as such via the Valle Inca group. For a member to join, there needs to be a baseline of quality met, dictated in part by altitude and the type of varieties planted, but ultimately it is down to the desire of each member to improve their quality through hard work. The group provide agronomical advice and training as well as pre-financing, so the farmer members are supported in multiple ways.
Through being introduced to the association via Promoting Peru, we travelled with them to see the operations and producers first hand. When we cupped with the president of the association, José Prudencio, and his team at their lab in Calca during our last visit we tasted some really interesting small lots which we didn’t want to pass up on, and this coffee from Yolanda Cabrera Álvarez was our favourite coffee of the trip. We’re thrilled that her harvest is tasting great once again from the 2020 pickings, and we have been able to continue buying her coffee.
Umapata, Lares, Calca, Cusco, Peru
Forest fruits & an intense sweetness abound in a wild, playful cup. Notes of cooked plums, gummy sweets & raisins lead to a coating, chocolatey finish.