Peering out the cabin window as the plane makes its final decent, I look over a city that for a minute makes me feel like we’re somewhere in the Middle
East. A city of neutral colored buildings, many constructed from adobe bricks, surrounded by desert. The tires squeak and the cabin rumbles as our plane
touches down on the runway. It’s the beginning of week six, and once again, Gustavo and I find ourselves in a new region of Peru.
Chiclayo, a coastal city in northern Peru, is about 475 miles northwest of Lima in a part of the country referred to as “La Sierra” (The Mountains). Being
a port city, it serves as the home for a variety of exporters, coffee included, which was one of the reasons for our visit. TechnoServe was able to
schedule a meeting for Gustavo and me to meet the senior management team of Perhusa, one of Peru’s largest coffee exporters. Controlling roughly 30% of the
volume of coffee being exported from Peru, Perhusa is a big player and great candidate for the pilot program we’ve been developing.
The meeting, which lasted over two hours, was a great exchange of the issues currently impacting the coffee sector. We shared some of the findings from our
project and they seemed interested in our ideas as well as participating in the pilot program. After concluding our discussion we were given a full tour of
the facilities where we were able to observe colossal size machinery de-shelling and bean sorting. For those unfamiliar, coffee has a thin yellow shell,
which must be removed prior to roasting the bean, which in its raw state is greyish green in color. Stacked inside the massive warehouse were pallets upon
pallets of coffee-filled burlap sacks. I was amazed to learn that in less than 30 days the entire inventory we were staring at would be gone and replaced
with new product.
At the conclusion of our tour, we met the Master Taster who facilitated a coffee “cupping” for us. Cupping is the practice of taste-testing the coffee to
determine its quality. The Master Taster explained all the different types of qualities they test for including, aroma, flavor, body, sweetness and
acidity. The whole process is very scientific, but I wouldn’t recommend cupping if you have an aversion to slurping. When tasting coffee during this
process you don’t sip, but rather use a spoon and forcefully slurp the liquid; the louder the better!
The four days we spent in northern Peru were jam-packed with traveling, site visits and coffee farmer interviews in Jaén, a city that lies in the
mountains, four hours east of Chiclayo. We clocked over 20 hours of windshield time this week, but the views during our drives through the mountains were
breathtaking. I feel extremely fortunate being able to see and experience areas of Peru most tourists never see, including the ancient ruins of Kuelap,
which predate Machu Picchu.
Next week it’s back to city living in Lima, where Gustavo and I will put the finishing touches on our PowerPoint before our presentation with USAID.