Coffee has become one of Peru’s main exports. Coffee from the Central Region in Peru includes two of the best known coffee growing areas, Villa Rica and La Merced. La Merced and Villa Rica coffee has a thick, creamy body typical of this region, also referred to as the Chanchamoyo area. The typical coffee acidity has a salmonberry tone but it is not as overpowering as that of the high grown Puno and Cuzco coffees.
In the 1930’s German immigrants laid the foundation for the coffee industry in Villa Rica. This is a unique ethnic and multi cultural area. The original settlers eventually adapted to the jungle environment. Today’s farmers are descendants of these immigrants. These descendants celebrate their heritage through festivities such as Settler’s Day (June 26) which feature Tirolese dances and music. The European influence is noticeable in the coffee, cigars, cheese, cold meats and other dishes served in their area. Almost all descendants have kept their ancestors’ farms in their families passing them and their traditions from generation to generation.
Villa Rica is a prosperous and busy town located on the eastern foothills of the Andes. The combination of shade coffee plantations found in this area and the remaining forest areas make Villa Rica an excellent bird sanctuary. Villa Rica has a list of more than 400 different bird species documented to date.
As a country, Peru has the second highest number of bird species in the world. Peru also has the world’s largest flying bird, the Andean Condor and the next-to-smallest bee hummingbird, the Little Woodstar. Bird watching in Villa Rica is fun, interesting and plentiful: the shade growing plantations are a preferred bird and butterfly habitat.
Villa Rica established the tradition of “technified shade coffee growing,”
What this means is the use of Inga, a tree in the bean family, planted to provide the shade that coffee needs. Inga trees are called locally “Pacay.” They produce flowers and fruit that attract hummingbirds, parrots, warblers and tanagers.
The coffee farms are organized in cooperatives to market their coffees collectively and take advantage of their buying power.
The farms in Villa Rica vary in size; they are larger than the average Peruvian coffee farm.
Each farmer, as is common in Peru, has his own wet mill and partially dries his or her crop before taking them to a central collection point.
There, the dry milling is completed and the coffee is processed for the export market.
The cooperatives achieve significant savings through their own dry mill because they can ship product directly for export and avoid outsourcing the coffee milling and packing coffee in Lima.
The coffee cooperatives are linked with the international Fair Trade and similar organic networks. This stimulates the coop growth and adherence to organic cultivation practices.
It is remarkable to notice that, after working as partners with Equal Exchange, Peruvian small coops such as in Villa Rica, became the second largest suppliers of Fair Trade certified coffee after Mexico and one of the world’s top organic coffee producers.
Equal Exchange is a for-profit Fairtrade worker-owned, cooperative dedicated to small-scale coffee farmers in the developing world.
Each farm also maintains a nursery where young coffee plants are grown and planted to replace mature coffee trees.
The farmers use natural fertilization including the use of compost removed from the coffee cherry skins and pulp during the wet milling. Literally, “coffee grows coffee.” Nothing is wasted in the process, a very efficient and smart use of natural resources.