Not much has been documented about the arrival of coffee in Peru, but we do know that it was introduced into the country in the late 1700’s. Most of the coffee grown in Peru is cultivated on small farms found high in the Andes Mountains that are less than two or three hectares in size and sit at about 1,000-1,800 meters above sea level. Most of the farmers are indigenous and speak Spanish as a second language. Their coffee is picked by hand and generally processed on the farm using small-scale wet mills. The growers almost always travel long distances on foot to sell their coffee to intermediaries in commercial centers, usually at a relatively low price. Between the local town and the exporter’s mill the product may change hands several times, and runs a risk of being mixed with other coffees which adds to the farmer’s many challenges.
Additional challenges to the coffee industry in Peru are poor roads, the isolated locations of many farms and problems associated with wet processing and drying. However, in recent years the Agricultural Ministry in Peru has introduced more modern farming methods and encouraged the development of farmer organizations. This more organized and centralized system with an emphasis on certified coffees has resulted in higher quality coffee, higher demand for Peruvian coffee in international markets and competitive pricing for the product.
Peru is the 9th largest producer of coffee in the world accounting for 2% of global coffee production. It is also one of the leading producers of organic and Fair Trade certified coffees. The exceptional altitude of the Andes Mountains and ample shade of its forests provide an ideal environment for the cultivation of Arabica coffee.
Peru’s grading system uses a unique term called “Machine Cleaned Mejorado” (MCM) to designate a high degree of mechanical sorting and preparation prior to export. The cup profile of a standard specialty Peru Gr. 1 MCM tends towards nutty, chocolatey flavors, usually with a crisp acidity, light-medium body and a brisk finish. Traceable coffees from Peru can exhibit a full range of complexity from tropical fruit to lush red wine and sparkling citrus, catching the attention of many a buyer looking to jazz up their offering list.