LIMA – Coffee is Peru’s biggest legal crop with close to 276 million kilos (304,000 tons) produced a year, a figure that could grow a lot more considering the relatively small amount consumed by Peruvians – which is why National Coffee Day is being celebrated Friday to spread the taste for a good cup of the aromatic brew.
Some 223,000 farm families in Peru currently grow coffee on 425,000 hectares (1 million acres) of land located in the high forests and mountains above 1,500 meters (5,000 feet), an area where it serves as an alternative crop to the coca leaf, the principal raw material of cocaine, and could even outdo the drug in sales if more locals enjoyed a few cups of coffee during the day.
However, almost all the special and organic coffees, the gems of the Peruvian harvest, are exported to big coffee markets like the United States, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and Canada.
The average Peruvian consumes 850 grams (30 oz.) of coffee a year, and has probably never tried the coffees flavored with chocolate, grapes, or other fruits and flowers that are produced in Puno, Cuzco, the Amazonas region and Cajamarca.
To get an idea, Colombians drink 2 kilos (4½ lbs.) of coffee a year and Brazilians consume 6 kilos per person.
“Fifteen years ago, we had 200 grams of consumption per capita and now we’re at 850 grams, on the way to drinking 1 kilo of coffee per capita by 2021,” Lorenzo Castillo, chairman of the National Coffee Board, told EFE.
The Peruvian coffee-growers’ representative attributed the recent spurt of coffee consumption to a series of projects by young entrepreneurs who have decided to market top-quality coffee in the new coffee shops being opened in Lima and other big cities.
“The new coffee shops are promoting the high-quality coffees that exist in all the regions where the grain is grown. Above all, on coffee plantations above an altitude of 1,500 meters, which have very careful management,” Castillo said.
Among the leading crop areas, Castillo pointed to the Jaen-San Ignacio corridor in Cajamarca, as well as Bagua in Amazonas, which do exceedingly well in international competitions.
One of the coffee shops in Lima that offer organic coffee from those agricultural regions is Apu, owned by a cooperative made up of 2,700 coffee-growing families who cultivate some 6,000 hectares in Jaen, San Ignacio, and Bagua in the Amazonas region of northern Peru.
“Our coffee always takes the first five places in international contests. The Gourmet has a score of 85 percent and the Espresso stands at 84 percent – it’s a coffee that requires permanent tastings, just like wine,” the coffee expert told EFE.