Elmer Cruz Guerrero – Peru
Every year, Mercanta sends a member of the team out to Peru to select the very best lots of new crop, to add to our offering. This lot hails from the newly formed association, Alpes Andinos, located high in Peru’s Cajamarca region. Through extensive cupping, Elmer Cruz’s farm, El Bosque, has been singled out as one of the top lots in the region. Alpes Andinos Manager, Eric Jara, recognizes Elmer as one of the very best producers; praising him for his high scoring coffee.
Elmer’s farm is located in La Copia, around 20km from the association’s headquarters in Jaen. Unlike many farmers in the region who grew up in coffee-producing families, Elmer only turned his hand to coffee in 2010, when he purchased his first farm plot. Elmer named his farm El Bosque(or ‘The Forest’ in English) in reference to the mature native trees found on the farm. Like many other farms in the region, the name is symbolic, reflecting the distinguishing characteristics in the surrounding area. Coffee production is currently Elmer’s only means of income, with any fruit trees or other produce grown reserved only for personal consumption.
Situated at over 1900m above sea level, Elmer’s lot is made up of local varieties, Typica, Red Caturra & Yellow Bourbon; all of which thrive at high altitudes. Consistent tree pruning is conducted to maintain the quality of the crop. Farmers work in 15-year rotations, focusing on each variety individually. When a plant reaches the end of its 15-year life cycle, it will be dramatically cut back using the ‘Zoqueo’ practice (cutting the stems back to just 30 centimeters from the ground, in order to stimulate the emergence of new stems). In preparation for this event, trees of the same variety are planted two years in advance, meaning there is an uninterrupted supply of mature cherry.
Soil analysis is regularly conducted with fertilizer applied in March and after the harvest in November. For fertilizer, Elmer uses a mix of compost and ‘guano de las islas’, meaning guano from the islands. Located just off the coast of Peru is a collection of small islands, home to large sea bird populations. These birds produce large amounts of excrement, or, guano, which settles on the ground as a nutrient-rich top layer. Guano is collected on the island and transported to the mainland to be used as a fertilizer.
Elmer’s harvest spans from July to November. Coffee processing begins with the cherries being selectively handpicked, before being sorted by hand into ripe and overripe. Once sorted, the coffee is pulped; each producer has their own mechanical de-pulper located on the farm, often close to the house. Once the coffee has been de-pulped, the beans are placed in a wet fermentation tank for around 40hours, depending on the climate. Next, the coffee is washed in a separate fermentation tank three times, before finally placed on raised beds to dry for around 20 days, depending on the level of rain.
Although Elmer’s current crop of Typica, Red Caturra, Amarillo and Bourbon is already producing a great cup, Daniel is considering cultivating another 2 hectares of Yellow Caturra and Yellow Bourbon. The drive to develop great coffee is one promoted by the association; believing that producing great quality, leads to producer empowerment and wider benefits for all coffee families.