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Behind the Beans: El Horcon Alto – La Coipa from Peru

Jorge and Esperanza are both Peruvian coffee farmers in the town of El Horcon Alto, each owning their own farm and running it with their families to produce some of the top lots in the region. They both produce for a cooperation called La Coipa, which has its headquarters in Jaen, high up in the Cajamarca region of Peru. Associations like these make it possible for small local farmers to work together and support each other through sharing equipment and responsibilities – opening up more opportunities for the group than a small farm would have alone.

Jorge, aged 41, lives at and runs his farm, La Lima, with his wife and two young children by his side. La Lima sits 1900 metres above sea level and consists of 2 hectares – one planted with local tree varieties Red Caturra and Typica, and the other recently replanted with Yellow Caturra and Typica, along with some newer varieties such as Geisha.

Esperanza’s farm, Las Fresas, sits in the village of La Palma around 40 minutes away from El Horcon Alto and is run by Esperanza and her husband. The farm sits at 1800 metres above sea level and is spread over 1 hectare where Esperanza cultivates local varieties Typica and Pache by visiting every day to ensure that the picking process is only carried out when the fruit is at its most ripe. Coffee is both Esperanza and Jorge’s only means of income at the moment, so whilst La Lima and Las Fresas may both have small groves of other crops – these are only for personal consumption.

Jorge and Esperanza’s farms are both heralded locally for producing some of the best coffee in the area, and this is achieved through hard work and commitment. To keep the quality of produce consistently high, both farms employ selective tree pruning, which is where farmers will grow a particular variety for 15 years and then dramatically cut back the trees to only 30cm from the ground (known as the Zoqueo practice). This simulates the emergence of new growth, and keeps the trees healthy, helping them to produce the best coffee “cherries”, which are then pulped and dried to create coffee beans as we see them. To ensure that the farms keep producing throughout this process, trees of the same variety as those due to be cut back are planted 2 years before the trees reach the end of their 15-year life cycle. Jorge actually carried out this process last year on one of his hectares, and plans to duplicate with the second hectare soon.

Another way Jorge and Esperanza strive for the highest possible quality produce is by carrying out regular soil analysis and using fertiliser made from compost and “guano de las islas”, which means guano from the islands, which is rich in nutrients. When the coffee cherries are at their ripest, Jorge and Esperanza personally oversee and help with selective picking, to ensure only the best fruit is picked and at exactly the right time. The cherries are then floated in cool water to remove any that are too low density to be used before being pulped to extract the beans, which will then be fermented and dried in the Peruvian Sun for up to 25 days to create that unmistakable flavour.

All of this hard work lands in your cup with flavours of molasses and dried orange notes. It's got a medium body and is perfect for any time of day, no matter your chosen method of extraction.

Buy your beans here.

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