Peru

Peruvian coffees have Central American brightness but in a South American coffee<coffee flavor package overall. The good organic lots do have more of a “rustic” coffee character.: Organic Peru … you can get it anywhere now. It is usually the cheapest certified Organic coffee on the market, it’s the “blender” coffee of Organics, it’s $4/Lb. roasted at Trader Joes. And it is threatening to lower prices for organic coffee farmers globally. The Peruvian coffee industry took note of the premium prices paid for Organic coffee, and realized they could produce Organic for less cost, focusing on quantity, not quality. They wanted to be to Organic coffee what Vietnam is to robusta. There are stories of forest being clear-cut for organic farm (it takes 3 years for an existing farm to become certified organic… not so with a “new” farm. I doubt the image of cutting forest to grow organic product is an image consumers have in mind … then again, it’s Organic and it’s $4 per lb. roasted. Well, you get what you pay for. The problem is, the Peruvian organic coffee glut forces quality-oriented farmers within Peru and everywhere else too to accept lower prices for their crop in order to compete. And a farm that is trying to produce a truly excellent coffee in a conscientious way cannot compete with a larger quantity-oriented farm, whether its a co-op or not. Cup a Trader Joe’s organic Peru versus a high quality Organic Peru and the differences are profound: not only do the cheap ones have little to no positive qualities, they also have defective taints in the cup, grassy, fermenty notes in particular.Okay, I am a little cynical about Peruvian coffee. It’s not because there aren’t good lots though. They do exist and it takes some detective work to find them. After all, Peru is a hugely varied land and they produce a lot of different coffees. It’s the land of the Incas and by most measures a latecomer in the modern world coffee trade. Peruvian offerings are hardly mentioned in William Ukers 1936 edition of All About Coffee and have not been well thought of due to an indelicate, blunted acidity that doesn’t have the refinement of the Centrals. I think a lot of this is historical bias because Peru can produce some very fine coffees. In general, these coffees have Central American brightness but in a South American coffee flavor package overall. The good organic lots do have more of a “rustic” coffee character. As long as it is kept in check and does not dominate the cup, this can add interest to the flavor rather than detract. The cup has it all, body, brightness and good depth in the flavors. While there are still mediocre arrivals, it doesn’t take much cupping to find a really good one. The Chanchamayo is usually (but not necessarily) the top region, but good Norte and Cuzco from the south are out there. Buy the first Peru you are offered and you are bound for cup troubles. Poorly processed coffee, coffee with defects, might fool the cupper at first, but 2 months down the line the coffee fades, the acidity fails, baggy flavors emerge, and you know you made a bad decision. It’s a lot of work to find a good lot among the abundance offered by brokers and other channels, and it takes slogging through a lot of samples to find them though. But hey, it’s better slogging through samples at a cupping table than stacks of paper at a desk!

Search Our Coffee Glossary
Related Terms