Coffee

Origin Report: Peru Sol y Cafe

As Royal Coffee NY continued its Peruvian tour, the next stop was the lively city of Jaen.  Driving through the streets of Jaen, two details cannot be missed: moto taxis, three-wheeled motorcycle/carriage hybrids chaotically rule the road, and copious amount of parchment coffee lay drying roadside.  It’s apparent that Jaen is a coffee producing hub of Peru. A plethora of agricultural shops selling fertilizers and coffee cherry de-pulping machines, and advertisements for co-operatives reading se compre café are scattered throughout the city. With all of the coffee-buying competition in Jaen, one cooperative, Sol y Café has emerged as a leader in the industry combining innovative technology, transparency between buyer and sellers, and a culture that intertwines best practices of producing high quality coffee and improving the lives of the families that do so.

Sol y
Café (Sun and Coffee) is a co-operative of 1200 small producers living across thirteen
districts of Northern Peru that sources coffee from many of the growing regions
surrounding Jaen.  Founded in 2008, Sol y
Café has experienced exponential growth in its brief decade of operation.
Touring the co-operative’s facilities with Royal Coffee NY, it’s no secret how
their production skyrocketed from just one container (275, 65kg bags) in 2008,
to filling two hundred containers (approx. 55,000 bags) so rapidly; they’ve
rapidly built up a support structure for their members. Based out of Jaen, Sol
y Café features a brand-new office building and a total of three warehouses,
one of which is part of a larger facility that is located just outside of the
city.  This second location is home to
their farm-development lab and many other interesting new features Sol y Café
has under construction.

So
why would a producer sell their coffee to Sol y Café? Primarily, the transparency
they provide in the price they’re willing to pay to producers is second to none.  All premiums are posted and are based on two
main factors: bean quality and certifications.
All coffees that the co-operative buys are certified Fair Trade and
Small Producer (SPP; this is an original certification).

Sol y
Café has a rigorous quality assurance procedure. Upon arrival, a producer’s
coffee is immediately tagged with an internal reference number to ensure the
coffee is accounted for at all times.
The producer’s profile is pulled-up on their proprietary member-portal software
so they can immediately apply the proper certification premiums (these are
farm-specific).  Next, a 400g sample is
taken of the parchment coffee and is carried across the corridor to the quality
lab.  Here, the parchment is removed, the
beans are screened (16 screen), and defects are removed and weighed against the
400g. Lastly, the moisture content is measured. Each of these tests have
strictly regulated parameters the coffee needs to abide by. If the coffee is of
too low quality, it will be rejected.  After
the green sample is inspected and assessments have been completed, the coffee roasted
and cupped by the Sol y Café quality assurance team.  In the cupping department, there are five
full-time certified Q-graders on the team that collectively cup 150-170 samples
of coffee per day during the harvest season.
An additional two Q graders also work on staff to ensure there is no
shortage of personnel that are calibrated together and with importers across
the globe.

The
Royal NY team spent an entire evening with all seven of the Q graders cupping
fourteen different coffees.  It was remarkable
how calibrated Royal’s Q-certified trader was with their team across all
spectrum of the SCA evaluation components. Both macro and micro lots were
cupped during the session and they all are were fantastic coffees.  We are very excited to add these to our offerings
soon!

To
continue, the graders will perform a full SCA evaluation and place the coffee
into one of five denominations the co-op has designated based on flavor
profile.  These five denominations are at
the core of Sol y Café’s offerings and internal organization.  The denominations are as follows in
descending order of both price and flavor complexity:

  1. Café Dios Te Dé- Floral
    notes of Jasmine and coffee flower, dark fruit aromas and flavors, spiced
    anis.  Intense fine acidity and creamy body.
  2. UUN Coffee- Aroma
    and flavor notes of chocolate, vanilla, lemon verbena, and blackberry and malt
    tones.  Creamy body with a delicate
    after-taste.
  3. Pakas Coffee- Notes
    of honey, sweet fruit, cocoa-liquor tones.
    Medium to high acidity with creamy body and lasting aftertaste.
  4. Café Amojú-
    Sweet notes of honey, apple, and sugar cane. Light body with medium acidity
    that features a subtle aftertaste.
  5. Café Tres Rios- Herbal
    aromas of cereal and sweet grass. Notes of dried fruit, cedar, spices.  Medium acidity and strong body.

Every
coffee that passes the evaluations will be placed into one of these
categories. Sol y Café can tailor an
importer’s purchase order to fit a desired flavor profile. This entire QC process is done in less than
24 hours so that they can pay the producer for the coffee based on quality and
certifications in a timely manner. The
co-op has a comfortable waiting room with a television, a health clinic (free
of charge for members), and a café if the producer wanted to stay and wait for his/her
payment.

A
large portion of the services Sol y Café provides comes in the form of aid for
the producers. The medical facility in the waiting room of the co-op provides
check-ups, monitors vitals (checking blood pressure and cholesterol), and in
conjunction with Grounds for Health, can screen women for Ovarian cancer. Upon
evaluation at the facility, if a medical condition is diagnosed beyond its
capabilities, the medical staff will refer the member to a doctor in Jaen. The
financial services office can also provide medical loans to take care of issues
like these. The co-operative is pursuing initiatives to focus more on
preventative care, distributing nutrition information and best-practices for
personal hygiene, to better care for the farmers and their families.

The
cooperative is much more than a place for the farmers to sell their coffee for
a competitive price and get a doctor’s visit.
It’s Sol y Café’s goal to constantly strive to improve the life of its
members. They conduct extensive research in growing methods, organic
fertilizers, and processing techniques in their own state of the art testing
gardens and nurseries. Their team researches best practices to maintain farm
health and yield, and subsequently disseminates this information and in some
cases, seedlings, directly to its members. This research helps the farmers
harvest more fruitful yields and also prepares them to combat the harmful
effects of coffee leaf rust and the dreaded “broca” coffee borer beetle. Sol y
Café has a number of trainers dedicated to visiting the farms and teaching
these methods to its members so they can be self-sufficient moving forward. As
a member of the cooperative you are also entitled to soil testing every 3 years.

Yet
another service the co-operative offers is an extensive financial services
department that reviews loan requests for its members. Mentioned earlier,
medical loans can be provided in the event a producer needs a specialist.  Other loans that can be taken out involve
farm equipment and infrastructure.  Drying
coffee can be difficult in some regions due to stubborn micro climates at highly
elevated areas; the coop can extend loans for farmers to build raised and
enclosed drying patios to help expedite the drying process. The loan department
can also extend credit for anything a member may need like tools, pre-harvest
essentials, and coffee processing equipment. Additionally, children of members
can also receive academic loans in order to pursue schooling in a
coffee-related field with the stipulation that upon completion, they utilize
their knowledge and efforts to better their family’s farm.

Sol y
Café’s motto is “We are Quality. We are Family.” Quite literally, they are
family.  Every employee of the company is
either a producer themselves or has direct familial ties to producers.  This is why there is such a focus on their
quality-first approach.  The more care
the farmers put into their own process directly correlates to the price they
will receive to support their family.  Royal
Coffee NY has a long-standing relationship with Sol y Café and values their
process deeply. We are proud to offer Fair Trade-Organic Peruvian Coffee
supplied by Sol y Café arriving at Royal NY later this August and into September.  Please contact your trader for more
information!

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