Real People, Really Good Coffee (The Coffee Chronicles) #1

Love great coffee? Interested in knowing about the point of origin? Support sustainable organic farming? Feeling adventurous? Follow us from the rain forests of Peru to your local coffee shop as we chronicle the lives of Real People, Really Good Coffee…


Real People, Really Good Coffee tells the real life stories of all the many folks that are involved with that delicious coffee in your cup. If you’ve always wondered who was behind your morning java, we’ll chronicle the lives and stories of everyone in the long chain from field to cup. Farmer to dockworker, roaster & coffee shop to truck drivers and packaging companies, here’s the real story…

Our goal is to share these stories, promote great coffee, and personally work to aid in the success of these small farmers. Whether it’s as simple as building a “solar tent” for drying the coffee off the ground (better flavor,) or providing workshops on better harvesting techniques, every improvement in quality & yield can help these hard working, but relatively impoverished growers to better their lives.

We’ll look at farming practices, living conditions & take a peek into the daily lives of those who struggle with the task of producing great coffee in spite of coffee rust, birds, insects, fierce rains, and all the other challenges that farming entails.

From Lima to the Rainforest

Our adventure starts in Lima, Peru as we “cup” (taste test) a variety of samples of “Curibamba” coffee from Chanchamayo in the Central Rain Forest of Peru. It’s gold in our cups as the coffee is wonderfully smooth & delicious. We can’t wait to buy some to bring home to the States.

We’re at “Tostaduría Bisetti” with David Torres Bisetti who has graciously prepared all the samples for testing, and is sharing his many years of experience with us. David comes from a coffee family & not only has a lifetime of expertise on coffee, but also currently owns two coffee shops, one in the Larcomall shopping mall in Miraflores (Lima,) the other the Tostaduría Bisetti (Roastery) in the hip artist district of Barranco.

David is very serious about his coffee & detailed with exacting preparation standards. He is known locally as an expert and is often asked to speak about coffee preparation & specialty coffee. (Most recently at Mistura – the gastronomy fair where foodies from all over the world unite to sample the finest of Peru.) David also speaks and trains at Cafe Expo (a Peru coffee convention held every October.) As our story unfolds we’ll spend more time with David & share some pearls of his knowledge with you.

Another player in our saga is Miguel from EDEGEL which is a provider of electricity to the remote areas where our farmers live and work. Miguel is in charge of empowering the farmers by improving the quality of the coffee so that it can be sold for higher specialty coffee prices (often as much as 100% more than they would receive today.) Miguel works with several agricultural engineers who train and assist the growers. Miguel is super friendly and never seems to stop working.

Chanchamayo – Central Peru

No serious discussion of the farmers could begin without a little background of the land, conditions & climate of the rainforest. Chanchamayo is located in the central part of the Peruvian “selva” (rainforest) east of the main Andes range. It’s a lush area at lower altitudes, however reaches as high as  3,050 m (10,006 ft – in Tarma) and there are many high mountain areas ideal for growing rich hard bean coffee.

There is a rainy season from December to March, and roads are often impassible. Many communities have at least one river crossing access, so they are trapped for days (sometimes weeks) at a time. The narrow dirt roads are occasionally washed away by torrential rains in sections, making truck travel difficult. A typical family might have a motorcycle, but the muddy roads are difficult to maneuver.

Outside of the rainy season, showers can be frequent, however at times it can be dry for months at a time.

Living Conditions

In the villages there are some homes made of “materiales nobles” noble material or of what we would consider “construction grade” material whether that be brick, concrete or wood.

The rest of the the families live in wooden shacks of varying levels of quality. Some are quite primitive, but others are two story homes & appear quite cozy by jungle standards.

In the community of Uchubamba, only recently (July 2014) was telephone service installed & electricity only arrived a few short years ago. Satellite dishes are beginning to appear…

There is always the possibility of dengue or malaria here. Dengue has been more of a problem over the last several years rather than malaria.

Most farmers here are subsistence growers. They usually are well fed enough with food that they can grow as well as fish, chicken etc, however “consumer goods” are often sparse as they don’t earn enough for more than the very basics.

The work is hard & demanding. Virtually all harvesting & processing is done by hand & is time sensitive in order to avoid spoilage. (Long days.) In addition to coffee, a farm will grow much of its own food for consumption and any extra for trading.

Hospital facilities are far, but there are some clinics in the larger villages.


Edegel is the largest power company in Peru. They supply power to the Peruvian power grid, producing 8,700.4 Gigawatts in 2013 (Source Edegel.)

In addition to assisting the growers with coffee production, they also assist in producing Chirimoya ( a local fruit,) avacado, eucalyptus, granadilla & lucuma (two other loved fruits.) Also supported are native forest species to restore any deforested/damaged areas.

Edegel also provides several community centers which allow not only for communal events, but provide a facility for training, meetings etc. They have also funded several road projects & maintenance making easier access for the rural population.

Edegel is committed to a wide variety of educational projects primarily designed to aid the small grower to grow not only his produce, but his business, as well as education for children in these rural areas.  Currently, they assist & continue development in 11 educational institutions in Las Orquídeas de Pacaybamba, Yanayacu, Los Ángeles, Utcuyacu, Chincana, Vitoc, Chacaybamba, Uchubamba, Tingo, La Florencia y Shincayacu, in all affecting over 289 students, plus additional professors and other staff.

The Coffee

100% Arabica, virtually all the growers here raise species Caturra. It matures usually from the end of May through the beginning of October. Production can vary depending on the weather in any given year. Coffee is greatly affected by weather, in particular drought. Insects can do considerable damage to the crop, and the last few years have brought “la roya” (coffee rust) which has not only reduced yields, but has also lowered quality.

This ends Part #1 – Sign up for email updates to receive more Real People, Really Good Coffee

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