This past weekend, we journeyed to Chanchamayo for the first of a series of workshops to promote good harvest and post harvest techniques with the local coffee growers. We met with representatives from Edegel, non profit AVSI, and Tostaduria Bisetti of Lima. We also had the good fortune to be accompanied by world renowned food critic & prolific author Ignacio Medina. Ignacio is well known for his discerning palate and is an expert on Latin American cuisine .
We gave ourselves an extra day & arrived in San Ramon early which turned out to be a good thing as there is work happening on the carretera central (Central Highway) and it took nearly 10 hours to arrive (vs the “normal” 6.5 – 7.5 hours.) We ate at a local favorite restaurant, and settled in early. We did some exploring next day and met some new friends.
The Day Begins
We awoke at 6:00 am to the sound of torrential rains. I could picture in my mind the roads that we would have to take, and wondered if we would even be able to go. Our driver arrived promptly at 7:30, and we headed for San Jose Villano for the first workshop. As we left, a message arrived that part of the group from Lima was slightly delayed. No worries, we’ll take our time. An opportunity to enjoy the countryside.
We made our way out of San Ramon, climbing slowly into the Andes, meanwhile the rains continued. We started to encounter more and more water on the roadway, and there were several small streams to cross, but so far nothing too alarming. We could see skies lightening a bit in the distance, so were hopeful for a respite from the rain.
We ran into several more spots that were flooded, but passable and we arrived at San Jose Villano for the first workshop of the day. The skies cleared somewhat.
Ignacio Medina was introduced, gave an inspirational speech regarding the importance of quality & the appreciation for the subtle flavors of good coffee. With over 30 years of writing and traveling, Ignacio has earned the respect of food connoisseurs, especially for his extensive work in Latin America. He enjoined the audience to take advantage of the help offered through the Curibamba Coffee Project.
David Torres Bisetti, a coffee expert and the owner of several coffee shops in Lima, including the much loved Tostaduria Bisetti in the hip Barranco district began the presentation emphasizing the importance of selective harvesting of only the mature coffee cherries, and proper fermenting and drying. With PowerPoint slides & coffee samplings, David demonstrates the differences in flavor between correctly harvested coffee, and coffee using under or over ripe coffee cherries.
Next are discussions of the many ways that coffee can acquire bad flavors, such as waiting too long or too little in the fermentation process, poor drying techniques, improper storage etc. Questions and answers follow, and after speakers from Edegel & Avsi share updates and encouragement for an upcoming “best coffee contest,” we break and head up to Uchubamba for the afternoon workshop and lunch.
We once again met in the community center right on the Plaza de Armas. The afternoon workshop was the same presentation as in the morning. This group of farmers had many questions, and it was a pleasure to see many of the growers that we had purchased coffee from last year. Here’s hoping for some great coffee this year!
Wrapping Things Up
The workshop wound down, and all the presentation materials were stowed and as the day began to turn to dusk, we headed back to San Ramon where we agreed to meet for dinner.
A Conversation with Ignacio Medina
Dinner was at the delightful Italian Chanchamayo-Italia Ristorante in San Ramon. The owners are descended from Italian colonists who came to Peru in the 19th century. Adorning the walls are native artworks, but even more interesting are the old photos of the colonists.
The food was wonderful ( I had the pesto fettuccini,) and everyone was soon relaxed and enjoying friendly conversation accompanied by the house red wine.
We were all captivated by his passion and enthusiasm for Peruvian foods as we chatted back & forth with Ignacio Medina. Ignacio who has traveled world wide in the search for fine cuisine. He’s lived in multiple countries and has written many books and guides including the “Comer En Carretera’ Guidebooks. and as a frequent presenter at Madrid Fusión, one of the most influential culinary conferences. Medina’s work has been recognized with the Premio Nacional de Gastronomía.
When asked if he missed his native Spain, Ignacio remarked that he’s happy wherever he is and doesn’t yearn for one place over another. Most interesting was a conversation about the future of fine food in South America, particularly Peru. Ignacio believes that it is the rise of the middle class that leads to an appreciation of and demand for high end fine dining. As the economies of South and Central America grow, so will the quality of the food. With so many exceptional fruits and vegetables in Peru, and the increased recognition of the excellent regional and national delicacies, Peru should continue to delight the most demanding tastes.
Returning in June
We’ll return in June for follow-up workshops, and to see how the coffee production goes for 2015. Stay tuned!
©2015 Ben Gangloff
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