Rayos del Sol Peru
- March 2018
- Written by : Jay Cunningham
Sales Executive / Green Coffee Buyer
Café Solidario is a new cooperative based in San Ignacio, in the North of Peru. Its forty members are led by a team of four coffee veterans who believe that identifying the very best lots of coffee, separating them and processing them meticulously is the best way to ensure good prices for the cooperative’s members.
But the cooperative isn’t all about coffee. This year it has also started an ambitious public health project in the village of El Corazón, where clinics are scarce, access to health services is limited and the impact of the kinds of routine check-ups we take for granted can be profound.
Coffee is Everywhere
Alto Ihuamaca is a tiny village with homes dotted along a single dirt road that winds along a high mountain ridge. It is the home of Percy Pintado, owner of Finca Rayos del Sol, and his brothers Jeffrey and Dionisio. The three Pintado brothers are neighbors whose farms are next to one another’s, and in the ancient Andean tradition of the minga, they share the labor needed to bring their beautiful coffees to market.
Coffee is everywhere in Alto Ihuamaca, laid across the village square on plastic tarps, under translucent plastic in golden rows of parchment and stacked in endless stacks of plastic sacks in adobe warehouses. Most coffee farmers in Peru, process the cherry they harvest in small wet mills in their own backyards, removing the cherry skins with gas-powered depulpers and fermenting it in bathtub-sized tanks. Rayos del Sol is no different. Percy has a mill at the old farmhouse at Rayos del Sol, but he has built a newer micro-mill at his home a few kilometers away in the village of Alto Ihuamaca, where he has also been building additional drying beds attached to his house.
Here in the United States, we are obsessed with home improvement projects: finishing a basement or remodeling a kitchen. In the coffeelands in Peru, producers reinvest in different ways, building out spaces in their homes for coffee, adding nurseries in their backyards, and digging deeper reservoirs for the water used in processing. They truly live with their coffee!
The Pintado brothers introduced an innovation to their drying process this year when they began covering their parchment coffee in the solar dryers at night with plastic tarps. This additional layer of insulation extended the drying time a few days and protected the beans from the big temperature swings at night. Well-processed parchment coffee has a wonderful earthy, aroma, but the best lots seem to always smell sweet. The slight change in processing paid off; the Pintados noticed this lot smelled particularly intense and vibrant.
Dwarf Plants, Big Flavors
This 15-bag lot consists of two varietals from Percy and Jeffrey’s farm, Caturra and Pache. Both coffees are natural dwarf mutations of two famous heirlooms, Bourbon and Typica, respectively, varietals known for their sweet and juicy flavor profiles. The cupping team at Solidario was a little skeptical about the Pache’s potential but was pleasantly surprised by this lot.
Pache is robust and high-yielding but hasn’t historically delivered great sweetness or acidity. Coffee consumers and buyers are understandably enticed by rare varietals and exotic profiles, and Pache is not particularly sexy. But I am constantly surprised by coffee, and this coffee surprises: great complexity and sweetness from two common varieties grown on a small farm in a big country.