I’m Emma and I’m the Senior Brand and Designer Manager here at Tchibo Coffee Service.

A few weeks ago, I set out to visit Peru to check out some of the farms that produce our Smokin’ Bean coffee. It was a great opportunity to meet the farmers right at the beginning of the coffee journey, learn about the coffee growing process, how the farms become certified ‘organic’, and visit the export mill. Here are some things I learnt along the way…


Emma Baker, Peru 2019

The coffee harvesting season in Peru is from April through to November

I spent some time with Sol Y Café, one of the cooperatives we work with to source Smokin’ Bean coffee. During harvesting season, the farmers sell coffee beans to the co-op and the co-op work with international buyers to export their product into the UK and other countries.

Peru produces a lot of organic coffee!

80% of the coffee that goes through Sol Y Café is organic certified. The coop first became organic certified in 2006 and their aim is to move to 100% organic coffee over the next few years to help further improve the living conditions of the farmers. It is a long process for a farm to transition to organic – it can take three years in total.

It’s common for coffee farms in Peru to be named after plants and trees

We visited La Orquida (the Orchid) and El Cedro (the Cedar).

It takes approximately 220 days to go from bud to coffee cherry

The coffee cherry is ready when it’s almost purple. The process from blossom to fruit to harvest takes around 9 months. All cherries are handpicked using a basket, which allows them to be carefully picked without any damage.

It takes approx. 40 cherries to make one espresso

We were shown how to pick coffee cherries by coffee farmer Gerardo and his family. It was amazing to learn that around 40 coffee cherries are required to make a single espresso, which is why picking is such a hard job! It took me a good few minutes to pick 40, while it took the professionals took significantly less time to pick the same amount!

Coffee is taste tested onsite

At Sol Y Café there are 7 coffee ‘Q graders’ who are qualified to taste the coffee. It is very hard to become certified to do this. Each cup is tasted three times at different temperatures to ensure the score is consistent. The cuppers taste the coffee and the payment to the farmers is within 24 hours – a super quick turnaround. The coffees are given an aggregate score from the cuppers. Farmers are invited to the Sol Y Café office to learn how to cup if they want to. The cuppers also go into the mountains to explain about the cupping process and how it works so the farmers can understand what the cupping sets out to achieve and what qualities the cuppers are looking for.

The co-ops look after the wellbeing of coffee farmers

There is a subsidised café/restaurant at one of the Sol Y Café warehouses that is open for 3-4 months of the year for the farmers to enjoy reasonably priced meals on site whilst cultivating their coffee. The farmers also have free access to the fruit and vegetable crops grown at the warehouse, such as tomatoes, passion fruit and bananas.

At the Sol Y Café office in Jaen city centre, we met with the farmers who were waiting for their weekly payment for their coffee. Next to the waiting area was a health screening area, where farmers can be health screened for free.

They support education within the community

In August, a school is opening on site so that farmers can bring their families whilst they are harvesting the coffee. Next to the school there are also hotel bedrooms (approx. 20) which are rented out for around $3 a night to the farmers and their families. The school will start with 40 children but has a maximum capacity for 100. The whole warehouse is like a small community, with a real family feel. Coffee farming usually runs in the family.

Sol Y Café has its own coffee house

This was a two-year project as part of an education program for the local community. It offers the guests a good cup of locally produced coffee and a place to socialise. They had a traditional machine and trained Baristas, selling lattes, cappuccinos, frappes and light snacks. We met here with Willy, a representative from Fairtrade, and several of the Sol Y Café management team who were all very welcoming and cooked us pizza! In the Coffee House, they also sold chocolate bars produced with local cacao, coffee honey and a few small merchandise items.

It can take around five or six weeks to arrive at the roastery after shipping

The export mill was run by Norandino, another Coop based in Piura who work with Sol Y Café. All coffee from Jaen is delivered to Piura for processing before it is exported. In Piura, the coffee is hulled, sorted, graded and bagged for shipment. The hulling machine removes the remaining parchment layer from the cherry in one fell swoop. After polishing, cleaning, and sorting, the coffee is ready to be graded and prepared for export. It was fascinating to see all the heavy-duty machinery at the mill and the precise processes that the coffee goes through before being shipped.

The milled beans (green coffee) are put into 69.5kg bags and loaded into shipping containers. From there it is then shipped to its destination. The shipping can take around five or six weeks to arrive at our UK roastery.

It was interesting to see the amount of hard work that goes into making our favourite morning pick-me-up first-hand.

It was very humbling experience and visiting the farms showed the true meaning of a circular economy – the farms use and reuse absolutely everything they can and had very little or no waste. This goes to show that the Smokin’ Bean values of being sustainable, traceable and environmentally friendly go right from the crop to the (compostable) cup!

Check out the photo video of Emma’s trip below.

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