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Coffee culture with Rob Butterworth: Raising awareness of micro-lot coffees Peru has to offer

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Rob Butterworth, coffee producing
Rob Butterworth, coffee producing

This August I was fortunate to be invited on an expenses paid trip by a division of the Ministry for Exports in Peru and visit Expo Amazonica in Moyobamo, where producers were attending to meet with traders from around the world and show off their wares from coffee and cacao to fruit and nuts in the raw form, as well as retail food stuffs in shelf ready packaging.

The principal purpose of this activity was to promote speciality coffee to new markets and raise awareness of the micro-lot coffees Peru has to offer.

Butterworth and Son has been buying Peruvian coffee since we first started roasting in-house in 2011. It was in 2012 we roasted a Peruvian coffee from the Cecovasa Co-operative called Tunki which was used by Howard Barwick, who, after winning all the awards at the regional heat of the UK Barista Championships, went on to claim 3rd place at the finals in London with this coffee. So our relationship with Peruvian coffee is not new and we have always sold Peru coffee in its own right.

A bit about Peru coffee: Peru is the 7th largest producer of Arabica coffee and the largest producer of organic coffee in the world. The biggest purchaser of Peru coffee is Colombia.

So why is the Peruvian trade department looking to promote speciality coffee if the country the seventh biggest producer in the world? Predominantly, Peru coffee is sold as a commodity and only enjoys World Trade prices (5c/lb below Brazil and 15c/lb less than Colombia, its neighbour), unless the coffee is certified when it will enjoy the slight premiums awarded to it from the various certification schemes. However, the real bonuses and long-term benefits lie in smaller batches or ‘lots’ of coffee where the trading is done at regional level and small ‘lots’ are separated for their quality and sold at a premium, at much higher prices than commodity coffee. The co-operatives reap the monetary benefits more directly and share the knowledge of growing and harvesting methods to help develop better crops and higher quality coffee, maintaining their livelihoods. This, in turn, gives a better quality coffee.

Peru grows predominantly organic coffee – I was amazed by the abundance of butterflies and insects in Peru. Spraying crops isn’t great for our insect wildlife, we only have to look in our decreasing bug/bee population and articles relating to this pointing to intensive crop spraying as the main suspect. Farmers in Peru are also under constant pressure to grow illicit crops for the drugs trade, without concern for the environment, but growing good quality coffee helps farmers maintain their land and the natural environment.

This leads on to speciality coffee and what it is and what it means, this I’ll write more about in another article. . .

Rob owns Butterworth & Son coffee roasters and tea smiths, based on Moreton Hall, and Guat’s Up! café in Guildhall Street. His job takes him around the world visiting coffee farms to source great coffees.