Chirinos is one of the seven districts of the San Ignacio province, north of Jaen. This remote mountain region is where the mayor of San Ignacio hails from and it’s thought that this is the reason why more government money has been spent on improving infrastructure for the area. Concrete roads and electricity are common here and the town centre boasts a bank and other local amenities which make this an ideal central hub for many local cooperatives and exporting companies which serve the district.
Our first visit to Chirinos was to meet some producers who Falcon work with. Due to the proximity of the local cooperatives very few producers from this area consider it worth the effort of transporting their coffee as far as Jaen despite the higher prices and instead sell their parchment locally. Judging by the enthusiasm and obvious sense of pride in their work from these excellent producers it was clear that they are wholeheartedly committed to the relationship with Falcon and the higher prices they achieve are inspiring them to continually improve what they do.
The first producer we met was Herminio Romero Ramirez in a village called Los Cuyes (translated as “the guinea pigs”) which was divided into two areas, Las Pirias and Alto (high) Pirias. We were given a tour of the drier and wet mill where we were treated to a processing demonstration and Herminio explained how pleased they were we were to be receiving visitors and how the high prices Falcon were paying were enabling them to reinvest in their facilities. We had a great walk around his fields before heading up the hill to Alto Pirias to meet Graciela Espinoza and see her recently built drier, which has enabled her to produce some amazing naturals. Just across the road we met Juan Espinoza who treated us to a delicious stew in what turned out to be an old shop, complete with seemingly random dusty relics on the shelves.We rounded off our day with a visit to Eli Espinoza Soberon who showed us his amazing drier and wet mill despite the dark.
Our remaining time in Chirinos was spent with Thomas, a coffee consultant who works in Mexico, Guatemala and Peru, helping smallholder producers improve their practices and connecting them with roasters. In Peru he works closely with Finca Churupampa, an exporting company who provide agronomic support, transportation and organic fertilisers for local producers.We stayed on their idyllic farm in the guest houses they built for seasonal workers during harvest time.
The second half of our trip began with being invited to join the judging panel for the Chirinos quality competition. We spent the first day cupping through and scoring the 48 submitted lots which made it through and on the second day the top 14 were cupped and scored again to determine the winners. The whole town was in full festival mode with a huge market of street vendors selling clothes and local delicacies. The competition culminated in an auction which took place on a stage in front of what seemed like the whole town. There was a palpable sense of excitement as bids were cast and lots were won by the buyers who were present. Only the top three lots actually achieved vastly inflated prices and one of the lots which we won ended up closing at a price which was less than could have been achieved outside of the auction for a lot of that quality so we agreed to pay a premium on top of the auction price. Whilst these types of quality competition do inspire people to improve their quality, the flip-side is that they can actually give producers unrealistic expectations as only the very top lots sell for many times their market value and achieving less than the market value for a lot which places fifth for instance can have a profoundly demotivating effect.
We drove out to Pacasmayo to visit the farms of Rodrigo Goicochea and Ana Adelita Montealbán. The area is high in the mountains at 1,900 masl and upwards and has so much potential for great coffee but some improvements are still needed for some of the processing facilities and practices. Ana showed us a huge area which was being dug out where she was planning to build a new drier. We shared some food with the family whilst Rodrigo regaled us with tales of his legendary father and hidden treasure in the mountains.
The next day we headed to El Corazon to visit Fidel Huancas Huancas, who produced many lots which had stood out during our time cupping at Churupampa HQ as well as one of the competition lots which we won at the auction. His farm is located at around 1,900 masl and he proudly showed us his solar drier, in which he closely monitored the temperature and humidity. Afterwards we checked out a couple of his fields and saw that he had remote processing setups in a couple of them. These consisted of a de-pulper, fermentation tank, composting area and raised African beds for drying. As the fields are far from his house, it makes sense for him to start processing there and transporting parchment rather than carrying the extra weight of intact cherries. In addition to his two fields, he is renting a third which he pays for in coffee and is hoping to be able to purchase soon.
After checking out his super healthy Caturra and Bourbon trees we headed back to the house to see his drying house and storage, then shared a delicious meal which contained the best fried potatoes we tried in the whole trip. Fidel had such a lovely unassuming way about him and was really warm and humble. We’re really happy to be working with him and his processing is impeccable.
On the way back to Chirinos, we dropped in to see Clever Acosta who was excited to show us his experiments. After a walk through his beautiful fields and a look at a 1,000 year old endangered tree on his property, he showed us his impressive wet mill and drier where he had some hydro-naturals and experimental honey processes drying. Clever has also built his own cupping lab complete with a de-huller and sample roaster which he uses to assess his own lots and improve his skills. It was amazing to see someone with so much passion for quality and enthusiasm for experimentation.
We spent a lot of time cupping through lots from producers in Pacasmayo and El Corazon to find coffees suitable to blend together for our CONNECT espresso and selected five producers whose cup profiles fitted our brief. We are hoping that the relationships we have forged with these producers will be ones which continue to develop and strengthen over the coming years.