The day I’ve landed in Lima, I have contacted Dionicio Aguilar, a coffee farmer from the Rioja region in Peru, whom I was introduced to by Scottie Callaghan. I was interested in visiting a farm and learning more about the cultivation of coffee, complementing my learning curve in roasting. I wanted to understand better how different growing methods and beans processes alter the flavor in the cup. Little I expected to be so warmly welcomed and becoming a part of Dionicio’s family for that few days visiting ‘La Encanada’ Coffee farm.
Dionico’s farm spreads over 100 acres of land, which only small part of is coffee trees. Dionicio, a father of 2 young children, also grows cows and chickens, and in the process of creating his own vegetable patch. He’s so resourceful; he even created his own gas for heating from compost and his own organic pesticide made out of food leftovers.
Dionicio has always been passionate about coffee, yet the visit of few champion baristas to his farm in 2010 including Scottie Callaghan, has opened up more possibilities for coffee processing, some of which he has implemented since then. Recently he has started building a Coffee Lab, where he set up a sample roaster, a grinder, cupping tools, peeler machine, trying to experiment and understand coffee even better and take knowledgeable decision on the best process to implement on the farm to improve crop quality.
Coffee trees in the farm grow on the surrounding hills. Once the trees are flowering, the cherries will start showing and eventually ripe, then carefully selected and picked by hand around February-April. Dionico’s beans are washed and sun dried. He first places it in large water tanks to be washed and fermented, and later places it to dry on covered mesh beds, thus preventing direct sun light from damaging the beans and ensuring a good air flow to avoid moist accumulating in the beans and that coffee can ‘breath’. Once dried, beans are placed in a machine that peels the mucilage, then sorted and graded by size and defects.
Recently, Dionicio has started experimenting with a unique processing method called ‘Honey’ process, where the beans are washed only twice instead of the traditional 5 times, and the pulp is left around the seed and spread to dry out on those beds. Dionicio has generously offered to teach me more about this method as well as how to recognize defects in the coffee. Then I was invited to sort some beans myself, roast and cup together. We have roasted few samples, both of the ‘Honey’ process and his normal beans that were split into ‘no defect beans’ and ‘high defect beans’. All 3 groups’ samples were roasted as a light and darker roast.
During the Honey process the seed absorbs the sugars in the pulp, which was clearly evident in the sweeter, heavier body, with a clear and clean taste coffee we have cupped. This valuable time spend with Dionicio not only showed me how much of a hard work it all was, but I also realized that a large percentage of each crop is actually a waste of damaged / defected beans, a crucial factor in calculation of cost and profit.
More and more Peruvian growers are incorporating ‘Honey’ process into their coffee beans processing. The Peruvian government spends time and effort educating the farmers not only how to grow better quality beans but also how to cup their own crop and control the flavour in the cup with new technology and processes, offering an attractive product to potential buyers and securing a higher bean price. Dionicio himself has a vision of turning his farm into a learning hub where farmers from all over the region coming over to learn new techniques, improving their crop quality and income are being empowered to support their own livelihood and re invest in their farms.
If you wish to know more about Dionicio’s farm and initiations, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to share.