Level Ground in Peru: Visiting Pangoan Producers

Coffee farmers, staff, stand together, hold green coffee beans

We believe in connection — ones made by sharing our coffee with you, as well as with the farmers and communities where we source our fair trade beans. To continue fuelling these bonds, one of our favourite things to do is visit these communities. We want to immerse and educate ourselves about the culture, connect with the farmers and producers face-to-face, and witness the changes made possible by fair trade.

In September, we took a fantastic trip to Pangoa, Peru, an area where we’ve been buying coffee since 2005. We want to share the experiences our Director of Coffee, Joshua, and our Head Roaster, David, had in Peru.

Which Encounter Had the Most Impact on You?

Joshua: I visited the farm of Raul Arani, a coffee farmer in the Pangoa region and a member of CAC Pangoa, the coffee co-operative we have been partnered with for nearly 20 years. His growing area is not expansive, but it’s very well cultivated.

Due to the challenges with climate change, just a year prior to our visit, he was seriously considering pulling up all his trees and never growing coffee again. Thanks to one very young, inspirational agronomist from the co-operative named Alexander, Raul’s coffee-growing future has been revitalized.

Thanks to this collaboration, Raul’s farm has been transformed into a showcase of coffee varieties. I’ve seen farmers plots with different varieties growing side by side, but never like this. He had Catimor, Caturra, Yellow Bourbon, and Geisha all growing nearby, something usually only seen in test gardens. This was the first occasion I experienced tasting several varieties of coffee cherries side by side, in similar ripeness. All of these tree varieties were growing together!

David: Well, maybe it was the second visit on the first day. During travel, days blend together, but moments stick out.

The emotions came quickly on this visit. I think it was largely a culmination of talking about this trip for so long. We prepared forever for this epic adventure. (Epic doesn’t begin to describe moments of holding onto a grab bar on the back of a truck, for hours, to stay alive!)

In retrospect, getting onto the first farm was an epic moment. But the moment that really talked to me, was with Rahul. He was inspirational about how much he cared about the coffee. How much it meant to him. It was more than just a bean, or a cup score. It was about others loving his product. He lit up when he talked about that.

Rahul made Geisha coffee for us. He was really excited to present it to us. In Peru, like most of South America, they sweeten everything. When we mentioned that wasn’t typical for the way we drank coffee, they quickly hurried to make more without sugar; they were always eager to be such great hosts.

Two men stand beside blossoming coffee tree

How Did the Coffee Cherries Taste?

Joshua: For the uninitiated, tasting a ripe coffee cherry is a unique experience. A coffee cherry is roughly the size of a cranberry and has the unexpected flavour of fresh garden peas combined with honeysuckle-like sweetness and a fruit texture similar to a blueberry.

For me, the experience of tasting a coffee cherry is a rare pleasure that exists only when you visit a coffee farm. However, this experience was tremendously unique in that I could taste several arabica varieties side by side! Think about traveling to an orchard and tasting different types of apples growing all together — now put it in the jungle!

I was able to taste the sweet, fresh garden pea-like flavour of the yellow bourbon coffee cherry, and then move on to the somewhat similar (yet starkly different) onion-like secondary flavour of the Catimor cherry! As if this wasn’t enough of a contrast, when I moved to the Caturra variety, the impression changed ever so slightly. There was still the persistent note of fresh garden peas and the sweet juicy mouth feel of honeysuckle, but the fruit component had a crisp cleanliness of a perfect red delicious apple. When I moved to the Geisha cherry, I was absolutely blown away by the intense flavours of peach nectar, jasmine flowers, and a honey-like mouthfeel! So syrupy and intense, yet delicate. I was in coffee heaven.

What Did You Take Away from the Trip?

David: My moment was me and a cup of coffee. But it was so much more than that. It was coffee they grew on their farm, roasted on their farm, and prepared and served to us on their farm. I was so happy to have this cup of coffee. It was beautiful and amazing. Grown on the very farm I was sitting on. Grown by the people who were graciously serving it to me. It was coffee, but so much more than just coffee.

Joshua: To have the opportunity to taste and experience the magic of coffee fruit such as this is a memory that I will cherish beyond the life of my ability to taste. It may sound overly romantic or sentimental, but I’ve dreamt about this day – both before it happened and since it has. When I close my eyes, I can still return to this moment and I hope I always can. More than this, I certainly hope that I can go back to Pangoa again. For the coffee and the people — both are too lovely for words.

The next time you have a cup of our Peruvian coffee, know that you are connected to a beautiful experience we shared with the farmer who grew those beans.

Four people stand with blossoming coffee tree

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