Rayos del Sol Peru
- February 2018
- Written by : Jay Cunningham
Sales Executive / Green Coffee Buyer
Café Solidario is a relative new cooperative based in San Ignacio, in the North of Peru. Its 40 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 Alto Ihuamaca, where clinics are sparse and access to health services is limited and where the kinds of basic check-ups we take for granted can be profound.
From the lab, it is a three-hour climb up serpentine Andean roads to the small village of Alto Ihuamaca. 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 lie next to one another’s, and in the ancient Andean tradition of the minga, they share the the labor needed to bring their beautiful coffees to market.
When we pulled up at Percy’s house, where we were greeted warmly by the Pintado brothers and made some coffee together before and touring Percy’s small backyard mill. Percy proudly showed us what was new this year, which turned out to be quite a lot: a nursery of about 50 Geisha seedlings, a water harvesting tank, a depulper, a compost bin and multi-tiered raised drying beds. This small mill handles the overflow from a larger mill at the farm itself, another few kilometers away.
Percy also runs a small general store selling supplies and dry goods that doubles as a warehouse for his coffee: when I visited, the first sacks of parchment coffee from this harvest were stacked in the dry, cool, storeroom next to big bags of dried beans and rice. We had a delicious lunch of rice, plantains, potatoes and roast chicken and discussed his approach to coffee and the importance of drying. I had the pleasure of explaining to Percy that his coffee had made an appearance in the U.S. Barista Championships the prior year in Seattle, a long way from the muddy footpath we walked to access Finca Rayos del Sol.
Bourbon and The Bee
Skinny Bourbon trees lined the footpath, which cuts through an older part of the farm. Like his brothers, Percy has been busy planting new sections of the farm with young Bourbon seedling that have started producing. The cherries were juicy and very sweet, even the ones we picked from the scrawny older Bourbons. As we walked the farm, we discussed varietals, roya, and the role of quality in path forward for Percy and his family.
The old farmhouse at Rayos del Sol has a corrugated steel roof with adobe brick walls and an uneven dirt floor packed to a smooth polish over so many years of use. Percy had laid boards over the upper eaves to create an attic drying area accessible by ladder that was filled with parchment coffee.
While Percy showed us the small depupler above the farmhouse, Jeffrey was stung by a bee. Everyone paused as he picked the small bee off his shirt and placed it gently on the concrete edge of the fermentation tank. It was slowing down, its end drawing near. We talked about the bees and the important role they play on the farm as agents of pollinization. We paused in silence as the bee slowed and grew still, an act of reverent, gentle respect for nature from these stoic men.
Percy has delivered beautiful coffees to us for two straight seasons, but his mind is still not at ease. He is concerned about the capacity of his mill and plans to continue expanding his drying beds as his earnings allow. I tried to reassure him by telling him that the coffee he, his brothers and their neighbors have sent us tastes great, that we will be back again next year and the year after that, that the coffee and has potential to get even better, and that in the end our shared success based on a mutual commitment to quality was the only true path forward.