Newsletter: Kenya Gakuyu-ini Offer

I remember speaking with my old pal Ryan Brown a few years back about what makes Kenyan coffees so special. Is it producer acumen? Is it terroir? Or varietal? Or processing? As is always the case, many things contribute to the tasteable outcome, but in the instance of Kenya, process itself has a tremendous impact on profile. These are the cleanest coffees in the world in the most literal sense. Red Fox has its own buying mantra, built around the idea of repeatability in coffee production. Not the repeability of a specific profile, per se, but of a certain level of quality year after year. If our buying philosophy centers around cleanliness and sweetness, then we’re giving producers the chance to deliver to us every year if they can meet those standards. In this sense, picking ripe fruit and maintaining a clean processing environment are of foremost importance for us.

Nowhere are coffees as thoroughly cleaned as they are in Kenya. The typical process looks something like this: after depulping, coffee beans are left to ferment. Then, after 24 hours they are washed and left to ferment again, without water, for another 12-24 hours. The parchment is then washed before being soaked in tanks for another period of roughly 12-18 hours. At this stage, the beans are moved to skin drying beds where they are laid out in thin layers to allow the mass of water weight to fall. This happens over the course of a morning. This entire process is sometime referred to as the 72 hour process. From there the coffee goes to raised drying beds for the next 8 to 12 days. By the end of this process, the coffee is as clean as a whistle. The work is already done. Not a drop of mucilage will be found on the pristinely white parchment, and no extra flavor is imparted to the beans except by what happened at the farm and in the fermentation tanks.

Due to this impeccable standard of processing, flavor profiles of Kenyan coffees are as perceptible as anything we know. Gakuyu-ini is a shining example of that concept this season. Most years we’ll buy an AA from one outturn, an AB from another, and we’ll usually look for a few PB lots as well. Only in the rarest of instances is an outturn so beautiful that we buy it top to bottom, or AA to AB through PB, meaning we buy each separated part of an entire lot.

I spent several days on cupping tables across Nairobi this past February. Coffees were nice the first day or so, but I hadn’t come across something that knocked my socks off. Not until day three, that is, when I tasted Gakuyu-ini. The floral character of the fragrance stopped me in my tracks. That heady, fleeting, ultra-sweet, fresh-cut lilac aroma was irresitible; the crisp green apple, sweet lime juice, and ripe pineapple character in the cup too perfect to deny. It was the most refreshing coffee I’d tasted all year, which is saying something, considering I spent all of January in Ethiopia selecting lots.

All of our Kenyan coffees from this season have cleared into warehouses on both coasts, and our selection is the best it has been since we opened the doors at Red Fox three years ago. We’ll make them available over the course of the spring — a few of the best lots were listed last week, more of those classic, ripe, dark fruit bombs that are not to be missed — but I wanted to kick off the newsletter campaign with my personal favorite of the season.

Kenyan coffee is many different things. To say that Gakuyu-ini is the quintessential Kenya profile would not necessarily make sense. I love blackcurrant and blackberry, too, but those are descriptors more charateristic of Nyeri. What I will say is that this Gakuyu-ini outturn is Kirinyaga at its finest, where the floral character reminiscent of Ethiopia meets the heavy, juicy fruit tones of its neighboring producing zones in the Central Highlands.

The Gakuyu-ini Factory is a member of the Thirikwa Cooperative Society. Altitude reaches 1700 masl. SL28 and SL34 are the primary varietals, although Ruiru 11 can also be found in the area. This outturn was harvested in December.

We are offering two lots today that are essentially the same thing, i.e. coffee from the same cooperative that was harvested, processed, and bulked together over the same period of time. The only difference between them is bean size, and yet they couldn’t be more different from each other. Aromatically speaking, the AB exudes the fresh cut flower character of lilac alongside golden honeycomb notes, while the AA has heavy sweetness ranging from clove and allspice to dried cherry and raw pipe tobacco.

In the cup, the AB is lighter and more ethereal, with the brilliance of lemon-lime soda and passion fruit. The AA is clearly AA — blackcurrant and blueberry are clear as day. Melted butter and something tropical like kiwi surface in the AB’s finish, while the AA stays strong and very sweet through the finish with a distinct apple cider quality.

Both coffees are from the same outturn, but you’d never guess by tasting them. They’re 90 point coffees by industry standard, but they’re more than just that. We suggest procuring a bit of both and offering them side-by-side for conversation’s sake alone.

Cheers,

Aleco

Newsletter: Ethiopia Early Season Arrival: Yukro Cooperative

Tasting the first washed coffees from the Technoserve Agaro coops back in 2008/09 was like unlocking the code on a brand new origin. Coffees from this area, just west of Jimma town about an hour or so out the road to Illubabor, can be unique and utterly special. But they weren’t always. Jimma had long been an afterthought of a region, producing primarily Grade 5 naturals. Of course, washed coffees falling under the DOC of Grade 2 Limu can be great, but the Limu 2 denomination covers an extensive swath of land, and identities of great individual coffees can be camouflaged or entirely lost.

But let’s stay on track. Let’s talk about cup profile. The aromatics of the best lots in Agaro are as florally potent as anything coming out of Yirgacheffe, though the cup character leans more towards yellow fruits like peach, mango, and even sweeter rainer cherry. Acidity in these coffees is piquant and effervescent, like champagne grapes. Sweetness is heavy like honey, but complex enough to conjure notes of candied ginger.

What are you waiting for? If the cup profile alone is enough to pique your interest, skip ahead to the offer below or hit the Book Online link above to reserve coffee or request samples now.

If you’re still with me…harvest in Western Ethiopia begins and ends a little bit earlier than down south. This year, I spent the month of January in Ethiopia analyzing and assembling lots, cupping through all of the Agaro week separations before other buyers arrived in Ethiopia. Lot variation is always a rollercoaster ride out there, so being early certainly reaps its own reward. Another benefit to the timing of that trip is that our first Ethiopia containers of the new season have now arrived.

Among the newly arrived coffees is one of our favorites in all of the coffee producing world: Yukro. Yukro is a cooperative that now falls under the jurisdiction of the Keta Union, which governs this newly famous growing region of Agaro. The original Yukro Multipurpose Cooperative, established in 1977, produced and sold both coffee and honey. The coffee was naturally processed junk. The honey was great.

Delving into more recent history, we have the the Technoserve projects in Jimma, Illubabor, and Kaffa to thank for changing the processing approach out west. Technoserve gave cooperatives like Yukro (and Nano Challa, Duromina, etc.) the opportunity to increase the value of their coffee by developing its inherent quality through improved processing. No more sun-dried natural crap. Instead, and with the help of Penagos equipment, coffees in Agaro were being washed clean for the very first time. Now, after mechanically removing the bulk of the fruit/mucilage from the beans, they are soaked overnight in fiberglass tanks. This allows for any remaining sugars to be fully removed from the surface of the beans. The coffees are perfectly clean by the time they hit the drying beds for the 8+ days they’ll need to complete processing. Yukro has the good habit of managing the initial 24-48 hours of this stage under shaded canopy to protect the wet parchment from intense sunlight. This keeps the parchment from cracking, which protects the beans from direct sunlight and damage, lengthening the shelf life and roast potential of the coffee.

Yukro is beautiful again this season. It’s taken several years of cupping and patience to understand how these coffees evolve from being fresh off of harvest to PSS to arrival, then through summer and into fall. In an enigma that is uniquely Ethiopian, sometimes these coffees truly hit their stride 10-12 months after harvest. We’ve tasted the evolution of this year’s Yukro from harvest to PSS to arrival and all signs indicate that this lot, representing weeks 3-5 of harvest, is going to be something decisively delicious for many months to come.

I’ve conservatively scored the arrival 88/89. Aromatics are less intense, but still sultry in their sweetness — yellow peach, hints of fresh ginger, and dark honey prevail. The cup is laden with ripe nectarine and pluot notes that become very apparent as the cup hits room temperature. When cool, the finish effervesces and refreshes with an ethereal crispness reminiscent of some of my favorite sparkling Savoie wines.

Cheers,

Aleco

Newsletter: Guatemala, Chimaltenango: Los Gigantes

Small producers in northern Chimaltenango call Typica ‘gigante,’ or ‘giant,’ for the long curved shape of the bean. Typica is planted abundantly, alongside smaller amounts of Bourbon and Caturra, in an area of northern Chimaltenango defined by San Jose Poaquil, Comalapa, and San Martin Jilotepeque. This region has ideal conditions for growing these older varieties, with elevations exceeding 2050 masl. Often, these smallholders have less than one hectare of coffee planted, and most harvest their own cherries, taking them to nearby receiving stations where they are then processed and dried in Antigua.

Cupping the Los Gigantes arrivals, our flavor notes gravitated to the sweeter, rounder profile. Think milk chocolate, honey, and raisin with a subtle balancing brightness. These coffees will play well with others in a blend, while also shining as a single origin offering. Sweet and clean, they are sure to please.

These lots are also extremely stable, with water activity ranging from 0.52-0.55, and moisture content averaging 10.2%. These coffees will stay fresh. Buy them now and use them as an espresso base or single origin through fall.

Joel

Newsletter: Colombia Harvest Update & Delivery Schedule

Colombia buying got off to a rocky start this season. In July and August, a countrywide truckers strike blocked goods from reaching the ports of Buenaventura, Cartagena, and Santa Marta. We typically get a container or two afloat before Labor Day, but this season our first containers left Colombia in the second half of September.

But the strike ended and the congestion at the ports cleared up, and we have been steadily shipping fresh coffees from Inza, Narino, and Huila to both coasts. The second semester harvest is soon coming to a close, which means we have a flotilla of containers en route and clearing customs, with fresh arrivals available spot in both The Annex & Continental Terminals. Our last containers will ship in early February before we break until next season.

Our regional focus continues to be the same: we work with longstanding relationships in Inza de Cauca and Northern Narino through the first semester, and in Inza and Southern Huila through the second semester.

LOT CONSTRUCTION & OUR OFFERINGS

Before getting into the Inza harvest report, I have something else on my mind that I haven’t articulated well enough yet. ‘Lot Construction’ is what we spend the majority of our time doing, both while on the road and back at the ranch in Berkeley. We cup everything. We construct each and every one of our Colombian lots from the ground up. Often, and this is always the case in Inza, this means cupping every tiny 30kg, 50kg, and 100kg lot that a single farmer delivers, in order to build larger lots, not just by individual producer and their family, but by village and/or greater region as well. This takes tremendous time and effort: between filtering at origin and in our lab in the bay, we cup thousands of lots in a season. We’ll cup a single producer’s lots as many as a dozen times over between summer and mid-winter.

If you’re looking at the Colombia lots on our website offering list, you’ll notice the 9 bags from Eibar Rojas and the 6 bags from Nancy Munoz. You’ll also notice a 14 bag La Milagrosa lot and a 35 bag lot from San Rafael. The same meticulous detail went into the construction of each of these offerings. In some ways, I consider the 10, 20, 30+ bag bulk lots to be the greater masterpieces. Red can be a bold, beautiful color but layering green and yellow with it amplifies the volume. In the same way, a combination of coffees from several neighbors can make for a more nuanced, complex coffee. The sum being greater than its individual parts, you know? 240 kg from Norbey Sancho + 156 kg from Alejandro Oidor + 360 kg from Jose Amir Medina + 256 kg from Luz Mila Mazabuel = 11 bags of the most delicious coffee you’ve dug into all winter. We often combine coffees from these fine folks to make our San Jose offerings. It’s one of my all time favorites.

We think it’s important to share this detail with you. It’s one of the core virtues that makes Red Fox unique. And, honestly, with the sheer volume of work we put in every fall between Colombia and Peru, I’m surprised that neither the sample roaster nor Joel has melted yet. Let’s call it a miracle.

INZA DE CAUCA

Our longest standing relationship of all. Here’s a snippet from last season’s update:

“I’ve spent a good bit of past decade of my coffee sourcing life in Pedregal de Inza, Cauca. I first started collaborating with the Asorcafe group here in 2006, and my relationship with these farmers has been nothing short of a thorough education in coffee buying. A few of these folks have become the examples I reference all over the world, not only as models for how to produce quality coffee, but for how to turn a small farm into a sustainable business as well. In so many ways the coffee producers of Inza were my inspiration and motivation for creating Red Fox.

Inza is a municipality that straddles the border of Huila and Cauca. On clear days, you can see straight up to the Nevado de Huila. It’s a few hours drive from both Popayan and La Plata in either direction, but it’s not easily accessible. The famous Paez river runs east through the valley below, connecting Cauca and Huila. Elevation is phenomenal here, with very little coffee grown below 1750 masl and great portion of it growing at 1900 masl and above. Caturra has held strong as the varietal of choice, with a surprising amount of Bourbon and Typica also found in the area. Castillo and Colombia are found in small doses, but are not major players in the varietal landscape of the region.”

Going into a bit more geographical detail, we buy coffees from three main towns, doubling as counties, within the Inza municipality: Pedregal, San Antonio, and the town of Inza itself. Yes, that would be Inza de Inza. So when you see village lots from us like San Jose, that’s actually San Jose de Pedregal. La Palmera also lies within Pedregal. La Milagrosa de Inza and Alto de Topa de Pedregal are other examples.

Each village is often composed of just a handful of families. And there aren’t more than 20-30 hectares planted with coffee in each village either. These village lots represent something very specific and repeatable. When volume allows, we bulk by family or individual producer.

The 2017 season has been one of the most successful we’ve had in Inza. Competition is fierce for top lots, but Red Fox continues to offer the best price for 86+ scoring coffees. That’s been the case for many years. We’ve also expanded our reach into the neighboring communities around the towns of Pedregal and Inza. Between the first and second semester harvests, we’ve sourced roughly 600 bags of the very best coffee the greater region of Inza has to offer. We culminated the season with our first ever Red Fox Quality Competition, which we held in Pedregal just last month. These coffees will be available in Continental come early March. In the meantime, we have absolutely gorgeous producer-specific and village-specific lots from Inza available in NJ and stripping into CA.

To me there are no more complete coffees in all of Latin America than the top lots from Inza. By complete I mean they don’t lack in any area. Aromatics are heavy, with characters ranging from floral honey and jasmine to ripe peach to dark sugars; acidity is clean, running the gamut from subtle to expansive; mouthfeel is supple and viscous, reminiscent of apple juice with even a honeyed texture; and last but not least, sweetness is supreme. I could write endlessly about the muscovado, raw honey, and kiwi-like tones in these coffees, but you get the drift by now.

Heading into the first semester 2017 harvest, we will be offering the opportunity for roasters to establish relationships with specific villages and producing families in Inza. Stay tuned for more information on that come spring. Don’t hesitate to reach out now if this is of interest to you. Purchasing from the 2016 harvest puts you in pole position for the coming season.

DELIVERY SCHEDULE

The first Inza container has landed and stripped into Continental Terminals (NJ). These coffees were delivered to our export partner’s warehouse in Pitalito before being moved to Armenia for dry milling and packaging. As always, all coffees are packaged in GrainPro-lined jute bags.

Inza lots will be available in The Annex (CA) before month’s end. Both coasts will have reinforcements stripping into the warehouses next month, and again in March for a final time.

Please make sure to copy Adam, Joel, Julia and Chloe (info@redfoxcoffeemerchants.com) with your interest and sample requests. I’m in Ethiopia for the remainder of the month and may be unreachable at times.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Aleco

Newsletter: Rwanda Arrivals – Old Favorites & New Finds

Rwandan coffees tend to be the first of our fresh-crop coffees to land in the US in the fall and, after the end-of-summer shipping lull, it’s always something to celebrate when these sweet, vibrant coffees make it through ours doors. It’s a stellar year again for Kanzu, a consistent favorite of ours, and we’re excited to have some new offerings to share with you as well. Fresh lots now are available spot on both coasts.

Aleco and I went to Rwanda in July this year and, while I’ve been to South America a handful of times with Red Fox, this was my first time seeing coffee production in Africa. We started the trip with a visit out to the Kanzu washing station in the Nyamasheke district of Rwanda’s western province. Kanzu is a jewel of a factory, neat and well-run, set against green hills of coffee, cassava, sweet potato, sugarcane, bananas, and beans at 1900 masl. The hills beyond border the Nyungwe Forest, now a protected National Park, and the cool cloud cover from the montane forest drifts over Kanzu, which makes for beautiful diffuse light and exceptional coffee-growing conditions. When the views are clear from the top of the ridge above the washing station, you can see all the way down to Lake Kivu to the west, which stretches the length of Rwanda’s border with the DRC. Aleco first started buying coffee from the Kanzu in 2007, and it has been one of our strongest offerings every year at Red Fox. Lots are separated by week coming through the washing station, and we cup through and select the top lots. This year’s Kanzu lots are incredibly sweet with dark sugars like panela and muscovado balancing fruits like blackcurrant, white grape, and asian pear with lots of florals and fresh cream. Kanzu lots are available now on both coasts, but they won’t last long.

 

And now to introduce our newest finds! We have expanded our purchasing in Rwanda this year and we have some exciting things to show for it. Twumba is a new washing station in the district of Karongi, just north of Nyamasheke and also in the western province. Elevation is high here as well — the washing station sits at 1856 masl, with farmers bringing cherry down from the hills above. This coffee has been blowing us away since we first cupped it this summer. The aromatics are full of candied fruit and bright cane sugar, with white peach, sweet lime, and black cherry in the cup. We bought just a single lot from Twumba this year and there are 11 bags available now at the Annex.

Back in Nyamasheke, just a few valleys over from Kanzu, lies the Gatare washing station. It was built in 2003 and was one of the few washing stations in the country to process cherry for speciality coffee at the time. Elevation here is 1765 masl and up, and climate is very similar to Kanzu. The washing station and region have the potential for greater volume in the years to come and we’re looking forward to more brilliant coffees ahead. These lots are full of big, bright, clean fruit — red currant, lychee, kiwi, and peach — along with honey and cane sweetness, and candied ginger and citrus peel.

Lastly, we have two incredible lots from Kibirizi, which also come from a new washing station in its first year of operation, this one in Rwanda’s southern province in the district of Nyamagabe. Built and operated by two farmers from the area who wanted more control over the processing to preserve and improve quality, they are now processing cherry from their own 20,000 coffee trees along with cherry from neighboring farmers. These profiles are bursting with red fruit from dried cherry to raspberry to cranberry and have layers of sweetness — cane sugar, apricot jam, and creme brûlée, with elegant rhubarb and hibiscus notes.

Please email info@redfoxcoffeemerchants.com for all booking and sample requests.

Cheers,

Julia

Newsletter: Harvest Update & Delivery Schedule Peru 2016/2017

Greetings from the Fox Den, where we are in the thick of the South American shipping season. Lots from Colombia and Peru that we approved earlier this fall are starting to arrive on both coasts, and we’re sprinting to keep up with the influx of new samples from later in the harvest. In Colombia, where the harvest season lasts much longer, our offerings are spread out more evenly and ship more consistently. We already have coffees available in the warehouses on both coasts and will continue to ship a couple of containers per month throughout the winter. The buying season in Peru is much more intense and compressed. With our primary focus on the southern departments of Cusco and Puno, the vast majority of what we buy is from the peak harvest in August/September/October. Our time is devoted to filtering and approving Peru samples in both Lima and Berkeley from September through November. We just received our last batch of Peru offer samples in our Berkeley lab and, if all goes according to plan, we’ll finish cupping and send our instructions to the cooperatives by the end of this month.

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2016 POST-HARVEST REVIEW

We have put a new system of filtering samples in place in Peru for the 2016 harvest. It’s designed to make us more efficient at analyzing and approving samples, bulking lots and selecting micro lots, and, perhaps most importantly, at ensuring that stable coffees are milled, packaged, and shipped in the most timely manner.

The work begins with our field agent, Tibed Yujra, who is based in Puno and engages daily with the producers, cooperative leaders, millers, and exporters that we work with in Peru. Beginning right around the halfway point of the harvest season, Tibed begins collecting parchment samples from receiving stations throughout southern Peru. He takes physical measurements of all the samples to analyze water activity and moisture content, and excludes any samples that fall outside our specs. After this initial filtering, we meet up with Tibed in Lima to conduct a first round of cupping. All the coffees that we determined are “clean” at that point are brought back to the Berkeley lab for final analysis, where they are again measured for water activity and moisture content and cupped for a final time. It’s at this point that we determine which lots should be kept separate as micro lots, and which can be bulked by cooperative or region. Results and milling instructions are immediately sent back to the the cooperatives, and coffees are dispatched to be prepared for shipment. Tibed is waiting for these lots as they enter the dry mill to assure that a proper job is done. So far we’ve found this new system to be faster and better organized, and we’ve trimmed 2-3 weeks off of the entire process compared to last season.

Storage conditions for our coffees in Peru are ideal. The coffees are kept in very dry, cool climes prior to milling — between 2800 masl (Andahuaylas) and 3400 masl (Juliaca) — and most coffee is milled in Juliaca itself. Many of you who have bought Peruvian coffees from us in the past have remarked at the impressive longevity of these lots. We think the explanation is the excellent milling and storage conditions, along with Tibed’s ability to move coffee from the interior to the dry mill to port at what seems like the speed of light.

We spent time this season trying to solve the water activity issues that plagued some of our coffees from the 2015 harvest, and on our first trip to Peru this year we discovered some excessively fast drying practices in La Convencion, Cusco. Coffees were being dried on patios in direct sun in just 3 to 4 days and, while the coffees were reaching the proper moisture content in that time, it was wreaking havoc on the stability of those coffees. Even drying is more important for overall longevity and quality than a target moisture level, and water activity is a far greater measure of stability for us for this reason. We find that drying coffee at such an extreme rate doesn’t allow for an even distribution of water within the coffee bean, and we think slower drying times — we recommend a minimum of 8 days — equate to lower water activity, a longer lifespan, and greater freshness for green coffee.

At our request, the cooperative in La Convencion has installed raised beds in most of the washing stations they operate, and they are covering the parchment at midday to protect it from the ultra-intense sun. Where raised beds couldn’t be installed in time this season, they are drying parchment in larger piles to slow down the drying times. Overall, the results are markedly improved. We have adhered to a strict protocol with water activity this season, and only accept coffees that measure between 0.50 and 0.59. All coffees shipped this season are within this range.

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CUSCO

Cusco is the future. It’s like a brand new origin for the ultra quality-focused buyers out there. We’ve written before about the monumental implosion of the old cooperative union. Now a handful of new cooperatives have risen from its ashes, and they’re looking to connect with the specialty market. We have built strong relationships with two of these cooperatives, and hope that more will come with future harvests.

Altitude in Cusco is supreme. I don’t know a region in Peru that has more 2000+ masl producing zones. Scratch that. I don’t know another coffee producing region in the world with as much 2000+ masl coffee. Our focus to date has been in the La Convencion area of Cusco, an absolutely gigantic swath of coffee-producing land. We’ve spent days on end driving in and around the producing valleys within La Convencion, seeking out the hidden crevices. They are the most epic areas in the coffee lands that I know.

The two cooperatives we currently work with in the department of Cusco are both on the southern end of La Convencion. Though they seem close to one another on the map, the distance between is quite far in reality. They’re separated by a rugged 10+ hour drive across altitudes upwards of 15,000 ft.

On one end of the journey, just over the Cusco/Apurimac border, is the Incahuasi Valley. The valley has an otherworldly beauty, like being on another planet. The feeling of escape from the rest of the world out there is unlike any other place I know. It’s just the producing community, the coffee, and us when we visit. No interruptions. After a long hiatus buying from this group, we got back into the swing of things two years ago. The connection between the producers, the cooperative leaders, and Red Fox is strong, and this year they will be our largest provider in all of Peru.

The three main communities within the Incahuasi Valley are Pacaybamba, Amaybamba, and San Fernando. Each has its own centralized wet mill where producers can deliver their cherry. A smaller portion of the associated farmers process cherry at their own farms in a similar fashion to what you’d encounter in Colombia: manual depulping, fermentation in small tanks or buckets, washing by hand, and drying on raised beds. Baseline altitude for most of the valley is 1900 masl, and the peaks above San Fernando are home to some of the 2200-2300 masl farms. Being isolated from most other coffee production in Peru means that the farms in Incahuasi are planted almost exclusively with Caturra and Typica. Small pockets of Bourbon still exist as well.

At the other end of the long drive is Quillabamba, Santa Teresa, home to the Sacred Valley itself. The cooperative we work with in Santa Teresa is just 12km from Machu Picchu. While visiting farms this past June, Joel, Tibed and I were introduced to farms hidden along a secret trail built as an escape path down the backside of the old Inca fortress. The path was “discovered” by the western world in the 1980s, but was well known and farmed by three generations of producers whose coffee we now buy. Altitudes are enormous here as well, exceeding 2100 masl at the top of this path and in the region in general. Small pockets of Bourbon and Pache can be found in greater Santa Teresa, though, like in Incahuasi, Caturra and Typica still reign supreme.

Wrapping up our second year of work with these folks, it’s safe to say that there is a lot of room for improvement, both in the infrastructure for coffee storage and drying and in the organization. A prior history of commodity buying means that this producing culture is just beginning to learn about and be motivated by quality. But we believe in the potential here, and we think this season’s offerings make that potential clear.

 

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PUNO

I would love to have started this segment by saying that if Cusco is the future for Red Fox, then Puno is our old faithful. Unfortunately, the entire Sandia Valley, home to all coffee production in the department of Puno, has been ravaged by roya. In light of the large risk that roya presents, many producers have pulled up their coffee trees and replanted their farms with coca, which has a higher monetary value compared to coffee, and yields multiple harvests in a single year. The producers who have maintained their coffee production are delivering a third or even a quarter of the volume they used to produce.

If there’s good news in Puno this year, it’s that the farmers who have stayed true to coffee have galvanized their communities towards a greater commitment to coffee production. The Inambari Valley in particular, home to the Inambari and Tupac Amaru cooperatives, is still producing strong volumes of beautiful coffees. The San Isidro and San Ignacio areas of Tunkimayo are still producing beautiful coffees as well. Staying true to our commitment to these producers has allowed us to increase the volume of our purchases from 650 bags in 2015 to 800 bags this year. It’s not much coffee in the grand scheme of things, but we hope that number will grow as harvests stabilize and yields increase.

Though the climate in Puno may be slightly wetter than Cusco, the peak altitudes are similar. The Sandia Valley is home to a wealth of 1900+ masl coffee. Caturra and Typica are the common varietals, though Bourbon plays an even stronger role in the genetic makeup of coffee here, thanks to a UN-funded replanting project in the 1980s.

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QUALITY

What we love most about Peruvian coffees are their unique flavor profiles. These are not Colombias and they’re not Bolivias. I’m hardpressed to compare Peruvian profiles to any other origin, unless it’s those floral Bourbons that remind me that the Ethiopian harvest is just around the corner.

Many of you have bought Puno coffees from us before, as that is the region that really put Red Fox on the map when it comes to Peru. These coffees are so so sweet, creamy, and balanced, with crisp but subtle malic acidity and elegant dark fruit character. ‘Honeycrisp apple’, ‘raisin,’ and ‘creme brulee’ are common descriptors for me. I’ve always found these coffees to be crowd-pleasers at well-roasted production levels. And they behave well in blends with other coffees, too. Punos are versatile and built to last for the long haul through winter.

The Cusco coffees are the lively ones, showing off that racy, ripe-fruit character that is so appealing on the cupping table. The Incahuasi lots demonstrate the whole range of yellow fruits from peach to mango, along with dried fruit notes of golden raisin and apricot. The sweetness of these profiles runs from brown sugar to wildflower honey. These are our brightest coffees from this origin.

I can’t stress enough that these are the coffees that always surprise people in late spring, when they help to bridge the gap between the winter menu and the arrival of new crop centrals. The high-altitude storage, swift shipping, and our extra attention to ensuring stability make these coffees something to count on year after year.

DELIVERY SCHEDULE

The first wave of shipments has arrived on both coasts and will be clearing into Continental Terminals and The Annex in the next week or so. These coffees were dry-milled and packaged in Juliaca at 3400 masl in early October before being sent to the port in Lima.

The second wave of shipments, which represents the bulk of our purchases from both regions, is either afloat or in the dry mill now, and will begin arriving on both coasts in early December. The second shipment of Puno coffees was milled in Juliaca in mid-November. The second wave of Cusco lots was prepared under Tibed’s careful supervision in Lima. These coffee spent a total of 12 days in Lima before being loaded and shipped from Callao.

A third and final shipment, exclusively from Puno, will ship in December. This coffee will also be milled and packaged at 3400 masl in Juliaca and will arrive just after the new year.

Most of the coffees on offer are organic certified, and many also have Fair Trade certification. Please inquire with us about which lots are certified.

Newsletter: Top Decaf Offers

I’ve bought decaf a few different ways over the years. We’ve sent coffees from our spot Annex position north to Vancouver, and I’ve sourced fresh Centrals and then shipped them to Veracruz for decaffeination before bringing them back to port for the rest of the journey north. But our most recent effort to bring the freshest green decaf we can to the States might just be the greatest yet.

We’ve taken some absolutely beautiful, freshly-milled Colombian green and sent it to Manizales for decaffeination at DESCAFECOL. The process is a gentle one: after a light steaming to open the pores on the surface of the bean, caffeine is removed using ethyl acetate. The coffee is dried and then moved directly to port. The beauty of this process is that our coffees arrive into the dry mill in Popayan, are immediately peeled and processed, and then head to Manizales at week’s end. Lots are decaffeinated and at port awaiting loading within two weeks. The result is extremely fresh, extremely delicious decaf. Yes, I said it. Delicious.

We have three recently arrived lots available spot in both warehouses at the moment. They are the best decafs I’ve sourced in my career to date. The virtues of these coffees remain intact. All three are bright, fruity, and sweet. All of them were picked and processed at the end of the Cauca and Huila harvests earlier this year. Two of the lots come from our longtime partners in Inza de Cauca, and the third comes from our new producer group in Bruselas de Huila. Not only are these offerings fresh and tasty, they’re sourced through the same channels and come from the same producers as the rest of our Colombian coffees. Full info is available on each lot.

Please contact info@redfoxcoffeemerchants.com with any questions or to request samples.

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Newslettter: Why we work in Ecuador

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Red Fox was in Ecuador last month for a brief visit at start of the harvest season. We went to check in with the farmers and partners we work with, to talk through what went well and what didn’t with last season’s shipments, to ask how farms weathered El Niño, to hear how families & businesses were affected when the earthquake hit the coast in April. We also went with some existential questions for ourselves about Red Fox’s place in Ecuador, about whether working there makes sense for us in the big picture. Ecuador has been part of Red Fox’s portfolio since the beginning, and we have longstanding relationships there that mean a lot to us. But it’s also a challenging origin for us, in that Ecuadorian coffee is very expensive, and expensive coffee is hard to sell.

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We pay more for coffee in Ecuador than we do in any other origin except Kenya. It’s crazy. It’s hard to justify paying so much for South American coffee, especially when there’s a wealth of great coffee to be had for a fraction of the price in neighboring Colombia or Peru. And it’s a challenge to make the case to customers that Ecuadorian coffee is worth the price, even when we’re offering beautiful, unique, and excellently prepared coffees from dedicated producers and inspiring farms.

So why is coffee so expensive in Ecuador? One factor at play is simple supply and demand. Compared to its Andean neighbors, Ecuador’s share of coffee production is tiny. Total production in Ecuador, according to the ICO’s stats, was 700,000 bags in 2015, compared with 13,500,000 bags in Colombia and 3,200,000 in Peru. Take out the robusta, commodity-grade arabica, and what’s going to the soluble market from those numbers, and the slice that is specialty coffee is tinier still. Competition for that small slice is strong and growing. Ecuador’s precarious, oil-dependent economic climate has stifled investment in farms and hurt overall yields for the past few years. Put those things together and you get a recipe for escalating coffee prices.

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But another piece of the puzzle in Ecuador is the cost of producing coffee there. Coffee farmers everywhere struggle with the cost of production, with access to credit and seasonal cash flow, but the particular economic and political realities in Ecuador make it a special case. Ecuador switched its currency to the US dollar in 2000, after hyperinflation and a banking crisis left the economy reeling. In recent years, the strong dollar has made Ecuadorian exports more expensive. That, plus the collapse of oil prices, on which Ecuador’s economy has depended since the 70s, has contributed to a decline in export revenues to which President Correa’s government has responded by restricting imports and raising taxes & tariffs on foreign goods. This matters to coffee producers and to the price of coffee because every truck, jeep, bag of fertilizer, and piece of machinery or farm equipment that has to be imported comes with an an additional premium that drives up production costs.

The cost of labor is also much higher in Ecuador than in other coffee-producing countries. Minimum wage has more than doubled since Correa was first elected, from $170/month in 2007 to $354/month in 2015, and benefits like vacation, bonus payments, and contributions to health care and social security are mandated by law and enforced. For coffee producers in Las Tolas, the total cost of wages & benefits for a full-time farm employee is around $22/day. Compare that to labor costs in Colombia, for instance, where wages can be as low as $4/day — you can’t, really. It’s a whole different world.

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We left Quito feeling strongly that Red Fox still belongs in Ecuador, that we have a role to play in the coffee industry there. If we’re serious about wanting to build a resilient supply chain that benefits everyone in it, how can we write off Ecuadorian coffee as too expensive when those high prices reflect a labor market in which farm workers are receiving more? Part of why we do what we do is because of our belief that there is a model out there in which coffee production can support and sustain individuals, families, communities, and perhaps even economies as a whole. If Ecuador is a test case, then we’re up to the challenge. Our first step is to better understand what the the true costs of coffee production look like, and to attempt to accurately represent those realities to customers and consumers alike.

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What does the future of speciality coffee look like in Ecuador? We don’t know for sure, but know we want to be a part of it because we find so much inspiration there. The talented producers and their commitment to helping their communities and the coffee industry grow; the incredible biodiversity; the ideal coffee storage conditions in Quito; the exciting varieties, from Sidra lot separations at La Yumbada to the Pacamara and Java that taste better grown in Las Tolas than anywhere else on the planet; the deep agronomic know-how of Arnaud Causse and his beautiful farms in Las Tolas and Guayllabamba, where something amazing— from experimental organic fertilizers and shade trees, to essential oil distillation for herbal insecticides, to beehives full of coffee blossom honey — is around every corner… all of it reminds us of why this is work we love.

Here’s to the season ahead.

Cheers,

Julia

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FLASH OFFER: Bolivia Arrivals

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Bolivia has a certain mystique. A history, tradition, and culture whose elements remain somewhat arcane. The pieces are not easy to put together. I write this thinking of my experiences in the city of La Paz, in the lowlands, the Yungas, and the rest of the interior that I know, but the same can also be said of the coffee.

There is something special about the journey from the city to the coffee-growing regions in Bolivia. There is something to be said for this journey in every origin, but Bolivia offers so much dynamism in just a few hours. I’ve been in snowstorms on the Altiplano at 15,000 ft and then, just an hour later, sweating mid-rainforest as we round curves on one of the most perilous one-lane roads I know. At the end of the line on this journey is Caranavi. Caranavi is like a town out of the wild west: hot, dusty, seemingly lawless. During the day, it’s a bustling commercial center for agricultural goods coming in from the mountains above. At night it’s quiet and dark.

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Coffee grows all throughout the mountainous region of Las Yungas, but annual production is miniscule compared to virtually any other coffee-producing country. ICO reports have the total 2015 crop pegged at 90,000 bags, down 15% from 2014, which was already down 12% from 2013 totals. Lack of technical assistance is a real issue here. Roya has taken its toll and crop change from coffee to coca has exploded. With 2-3 harvests annually and value upwards of 3x the coffee price, it’s not hard to understand why the coca leaf is now king. No matter how you slice it, production is low in Bolivia and dwindling fast.

So what to do?

Pay more? Yes, as long as it makes real sense. Be more present? Obviously. Play a larger role in the supply chain? Well, maybe we’re on to something here. It’s a discussion to be had. In fact, it’s a discussion that we’ve been having for the past 8 months or so. As we continue to define what that means for Red Fox, we’ve begun developing strategic partnerships and alliances in the interior.

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We’ve made contact with a few different groups in Las Yungas and have brought in some very nice lots this season. They’re late arrivals, but completely stable and physically sound, both moisture content and water activity-wise, a clear testament to the benefits of storing coffee in El Alto, the plateau above La Paz at 12,000+ ft.

With Caturra, Catuai, and Typica growing from 1500-1800 masl in the seasonally dry climate in Caranavi, there is plenty to get excited about. There may not be a whole lot of coffee out there, but what is available is often very, very good. This is the case with our current offerings from Villa Imperial on the outskirts of Caranavi. These lots are grown at elevations near the middle of the aforementioned range, and are composed of primarily Caturra and Catuai. Processing is done at a centralized dry mill, which has raised African beds for drying. The climate is ideal in the area, with drying time running between 10 and 15 days. That’s perfect in our opinion. Our Bolivia offerings are big on the fresh cream and toasted nuts, but also have an elegant red apple and currant acidity. We have one wilder lot as well, that toes the line between massive fruit character and overripe. It’s a coffee that some of you will hate and others will freak over.

Lots are small — they range in size from 8-17 bags — and we have 6 lots in total.

Inquire quickly at info@redfoxcoffeemerchants.com with your interest.

Cheers,

Aleco

Ethiopia 2015/2016 – Harvest Update & Forward Contracting

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It’s good, gang. It’s really, really good. I’ve spent the majority of the past two weeks in Addis, walking warehouses and cupping through table after table of gorgeous coffees. The South is indisputably brilliant this season. The West has shown an eclectic array of profiles with some very unique character. Weather has impacted Harar dramatically this season, but the coffee quality is fantastic. And we are hard at work, paring our selections down several times over to make sure we’re working with the very best coffees Ethiopia has to offer.

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Let’s start from the top….Guji has become one our top regions at Red Fox. Uraga, at the northern end of Guji zone, is the highest elevation coffee-producing area in the country at 2300 masl. Kercha, to the west, is an emerging producing region, and we’re seeing some of the best lots of the year coming out of here. Dynamite coffees are coming into Addis from all reaches of Guji. Along with fully traceable lots from Guji, we also purchase small volumes of top lots through the ECX. This season’s selection is without question the best we’ve sourced in the last handful of years; I scored the pre-shipment sample 91 points last week.

But Guji isn’t all we do. We put a lot of effort into bringing in some of the finest Grade 1 Kochere of the season. We love Illubabor, too. A handful of the cooperative groups born out of the Technoserve project, now unified under the Sor Gaba Union, offer some of the most unique flavor profiles in the country. A plummy, dark cherry, red grape, coca cola-like character tends to be more present than the honeyed, jasmine, sweet citrus, stone fruit profiles of the south. These are coffees that show tremendously well as filter or espresso.

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And we are bringing in some top lot coffee from Sidamo for the first time this season. We’ve cupped several times with these folks over the past few months, and have made our rounds through their warehouse. Our selections from Sidamo add a new dimension to our offerings — think sweetly floral aromatics and a heavy, ripe-fruit character from red cherry to satsuma.

Last but not least, we’ve begun selection for this season’s Harar lots. Drought has hit the region hard and production is estimated to be down anywhere from 40-50% compared with last season. We toured the western end of Harar a couple weeks ago and found the trees scarce, with very little coffee remaining on the few we came across. Khat production continues to increase at alarming rates, encroaching on the soils once dedicated to coffee production. Both the weather and khat make for a bleak future in Harar, as far as coffee is concerned. The lone bright spot at the moment is quality. Due in some part to the drought, coffees are drying very quickly and therefore tasting as clean as ever. Soft dark fruit is the tone-setter, along with raw tobacco and high % cacao. Cups are redolent with concord grape, blackcurrant, and fresh-picked ripe blueberry.

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Colombia 2015/2016: Shipment & Delivery Update

In a lot of ways, we consider Red Fox to be a ‘South America first’ kind of sourcing business. We’ve spent a good deal of time and energy in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia working to shape the supply chain from the bottom up, building projects and relationships that reflect the efforts of many people from farm to roastery. But we’ve been having interesting conversations lately, both in the den in Berkeley and out in roasteries, cafes, and at origin, about the evolution of Red Fox’s place in the market, about how our customers see us and how we see ourselves, and it has my mind spinning at new velocities.

These days we’re hearing from a lot of customers that they can’t wait for our Ethiopian and Kenyan coffees to start shipping. We love those origins and we take pride in sourcing the best lots from each country that we can find. We love seeing our customers take home prizes and accolades at competitions with those lots. And I mean, come on, those sweetly perfumed and floral Ethiopian coffees are pretty near every coffee pro’s favorite, and if they’re not it’s because the mega-demonstrative Kenya profile edges them out. I’m not saying I don’t live in the Ethiopia camp. I very much do. And Ethiopia may eventually become our top origin at Red Fox. It could even happen this year, so look out, Peru.

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But wait, there’s still Colombia. For Red Fox, Colombia has been the foundation on which we’ve been able to stand to deliver our message to the specialty roasting community in the US, Japan, Canada, Europe, and beyond. It’s where my longest-standing coffee buying relationships are found, perched all along the slopes of the Nevado de Huila, stretching across the border of Cauca and Huila. They’re found due south of there, too, at the peaks around La Union, San Lorenzo, and Taminango in Northern Narino. Some of our newest relationships — and our first foray into organizing an inaugural Red Fox producers group a.k.a. Grupo Asociativo Zorro Rojo — are found right in between, along the ridge at the southern edge of Huila.

Colombia is both our old faithful and our ever-evolving partner. Colombia is never stagnant and it’s always competitive — competition that’s interesting and dynamic in a way that we rarely encounter elsewhere. No other coffee-producing country offers the range and diversity of flavor that we find in Colombia. And we love all of this. We thrive on it and on the opportunity to be part of a community that pushes us to continue to evolve.

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We purchase and ship Colombian coffees continually throughout both harvest seasons, beginning in summer and ending right about now, so that fresh coffees are on offer from Red Fox virtually all year long. Here’s the breakdown of what’s been happening with our projects in Cauca, Narino, and Huila and what to expect in the weeks ahead:

INZA (CAUCA)

I’ve spent a good bit of the past decade of my coffee sourcing life in Pedregal de Inza, Cauca. I first started collaborating with the Asorcafe group here in 2006, and my relationship with these farmers has been nothing short of a thorough education in coffee buying. A few of these folks have become the examples I reference all over the world, not only as models for how to produce quality coffee, but for how to turn a small farm into a sustainable business as well. In so many ways the coffee producers of Inza were my inspiration and motivation for creating Red Fox.

Inza is a municipality that straddles the border of Huila and Cauca. On clear days, you can see straight up to the Nevado de Huila. It’s a few hours drive from both Popayan and La Plata in either direction, but it’s not easily accessible. The famous Paez river runs east through the valley below, connecting Cauca and Huila. Elevation is phenomenal here, with very little coffee grown below 1750 masl and great portion of it growing at 1900 masl and above. Caturra has held strong as the variety of choice, with a surprising amount of Bourbon and Typica also found in the area. Castillo and Colombia are found in small doses, but are not major players in the varietal landscape of the region.

The current season is now finishing up and it has been an exceptional one. We work very closely with a group of 66 farmer-members within Asorcafe. These are the folks who have shown their commitment to quality year in and year out, and are putting out the best lots in the region. This year is as vibrant as ever. Our first lots from the second harvest are now clear on both coasts, with reinforcements shipping in the coming weeks. These late season lots are truly special.

NORTHERN NARINO

Narino, La Union specifically, is home to our second oldest project in Colombia. I first started buying coffee from a small handful of these producers in 2007. Taminango was our focus at the time, and we’ve been able to secure some exceptional coffee from them again this year. Taminango has elevations ranging from 1650 to 2100 masl and perfectly dry harvest conditions, a rarity for Colombia. Caturra and Castillo are the varieties of choice in the area. This group has 44 farmer-members, making it the smallest association we work with in Colombia. We have roughly a dozen small lots clear at the Annex now. They’re truly gorgeous. Think meyer lemon, white nectarine, brown sugar and raw honey.

This past fall, we held our first ever Red Fox quality competition in conjunction with SENA, a rural development agency doing great things in Colombia, Banexport, our export partner in Colombia, and FUDAM, the 100-member producer association based in La Union. The idea behind the event was to find and reward the top lots of the season, and it turned out to be a great success. Additionally, and of equal importance, the event was used as a discovery tool. We had our eyes on some of the producing areas deep within the valleys of Northern Narino that have yet to be given their own identity in the marketplace. Coffees from these areas are most often purchased by coyotes (local intermediaries), taken to a larger town center, and blended off with dozens of other lots. Some of the lots that were entered in the competition from these areas were the best coffees we cupped from Narino all year. The wheels are in motion for development here in the coming season, so stay tuned for more. In the meantime, gobble up the remaining Pedro Gamboa and San Lorenzo lots in Continental — both of which are top lots from the competition.

PITALITO (HUILA)

Last but not least, we took a major step forward in origin development this year, establishing our very first producers association, Grupo Asociativo Zorro Rojo in Huila, in conjunction with our export partner, Banexport. Claudia Milena Samboni is leading the group, which includes several dozen producers with farms along the ridge and accompanying valleys at the southernmost edge of the Huila Department. The coffees are eccentric in their display of ripe red fruits, saturated sweetness, and substantial mouthfeel. They are a great compliment to the the Inza and Northern Narino profiles. Varieties in this zone run the entire gamut from Caturra and Typica to Bourbon, Castillo, Colombia and beyond. It’s a veritable Colombian coffee nursery down there. We have beautiful coffee available on both coasts, as the year-one harvest comes to a close.

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Cheers,

Aleco

 

 

 

Newsletter: Peru 2015 Shipment & Delivery Update

Back when Red Fox Coffee Merchants was still a daydream of mine, one of my more lucid visions was that Peru would become the defining origin for a nascent sourcing business. No other producing country fulfills the core ideals of our mantra so seamlessly: coffee-producing communities so far off the grid that they have been left behind by much or all of the specialty market; quality that has the potential to change the way people think about coffee. Getting around Peru is more difficult than any other origin I’ve ever worked in. And, yes, that includes Ethiopia, Indonesia, and everywhere else. The south is particularly tricky to traverse. Each trip involves several flights, dozens of hours in the car, challenging hikes to get in and out of the producing valleys. Visiting one farmer often takes an entire day.

Being a coffee farmer from the Sandia Valley in Puno or from Incahuasi or Huadquina in Cusco is as grueling a proposition as anywhere I’ve seen. Note the photo of Ciriaco Quispe and his homemade wooden cart, which holds 2 bags of parchment coffee — bags that weigh somewhere around 40kg each. Ciriaco’s farm is a 90 minute hike off of the main road on a rugged dirt trail at what feels like a 90-degree angle, and it yields roughly ten 69kg bags of 1st quality exportable green coffee a year. Let’s use the standard translation of 70% parchment to 1st quality green to estimate that Ciriaco makes this trip at least 12 times a season to deliver all his coffee to the mill. This is the standard for coffee farmers across the greater Sandia Valley.

We think it’s important for everyone to understand what the reality is for these folks. We pay a whole lot of money in Peru because we love the coffees, because we know what it takes for farmers here to deliver their coffees to market, and because we think there is even more potential to develop.

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As many of you know, Red Fox added a full-time field agent, Tibed Yujra, on the ground in Peru going into the harvest this past spring. Tibed and I have cupped together since 2009, when I first began working in the Sandia Valley of Puno. Back in those days, Tibed was Quality Control manager for the entire cooperative society that we worked with.

We brought Tibed on board to help us acheive our vision for the country. There are more obstacles to overcome in Peru than in almost any other coffee producing country in Latin America, but the potential for top quality is equally as large. What are the prerequisites that a coffee buyer looks for when venturing into new territory? Elevation? Varietals? Microclimate? Processing technique? Peru has everything we’re looking for and in spades. Elevations soar well over 1,800 masl across the country and reach 2,200 masl in a few specific regions. Caturra and Typica are commonly found top to bottom in the Peruvian Andes, and one of the south’s best kept secrets is the abundance of Bourbon. The Peruvian Andes are more arid than most, allowing for proper drying and storage conditions. We are often conditioning parchment at over 10,000 feet. Processing in our projects is similar to Colombia in that it’s done very simply with manual techniques. Drying on raised parabolic beds is also a commonality.

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This year Red Fox is working in three departments of Peru. Coffees from two of these regions are arriving now on both east and west coasts:

PUNO

Peru started for us in Puno. We were initially, and still are, attracted to the potential for micro lots with dramatically floral character. I sometimes refer to them as ‘Junior Yirgacheffe.’ People occasionally confuse them for Geisha. They’re neither — I mean what is? — but that delicious confusion is thanks to the United Nations. In an attempt to rejuvenate coffee production in the Sandia Valley, a UN-funded project brought the aforementioned Bourbon seed stock to producers in the region during the 80’s and 90’s.

Along with these unique, floral-driven coffees we also find coffees that are filled with fresh cream, fine chocolate, black walnut, toasted sugar and a range of fruit from red apple to apricot to raisin. They cup very solid on the table, but they brew even better. We encourage you to put these samples through your harios and kalitas after you cup. It adds perspective.

Within Puno is the Sandia Valley, which is due north of the department capital of Juliaca, saddled right up along the border of Bolivia. Within Sandia are several other valleys that we work in, from Inambari at the southern entrance to Tambopata further north. There are thousands of farmers producing in the valley, but we work with a select number who have the elevation and varietals we’re looking for. Our selection process is ultra-intensive. We’ve screened well over 1,000 samples this fall, with an approval rate of approximately 10%. We’re more strict this year than we’ve ever been when it comes to cup quality, water activity, moisture content, and physical preparation. These lots are clean and stable.

CUSCO

My very first trip to Peru was centered around an adventure to the Incahuasi Valley of Cusco. It’s a 10+ hour drive to get out there from the city of Cusco; a drive that takes you from the Department of Cusco into Apurimac before winding its way back into Cusco. It’s one of the more epic rides you can take as a coffee buyer, especially the crossing over the altiplano at 15,000 feet. Breathing is not to be taken for granted up there.

I took two trips to Incahuasi in the summer of 2006, but the outcome was disappointing. A large trade organization that was not open to outside buyers working directly with farmers pushed us out of the region. They were an immovable obstacle in the road to transparent sourcing.

In 2014 that group disintegrated, a moment I had personally been waiting for since my initial visits, and now not only are we able to trade directly with farmers in the Incahuasi Valley, but Tibed and I are focused on scouring the rest of the Department for its finest coffees. Our search has taken us to the Yanatile Valley as well as to Ocobamba and Santa Teresa. There is a treasure chest of amazing Cusco coffees that we can’t wait to bring to market in the coming years.

Elevations can reach well over 2,000 meters in the region, and there are small pockets of Bourbon to be found, along with more widespread Caturra and Typica. These coffees are exciting and demonstrate an entirely different cup profile than their neighbors to the south. The range of flavor begins with a bounty of yellow fruits from mango to peach and apricot to meyer lemon. Muscovado and darker sugars and honeys drift through the profile from start to finish.

We’re really proud of where our projects in Peru are now, and we’re very happy about the qualities we’re bringing in. These are coffees that will bring a whole lot of life to your menus throughout the winter. Please email info@redfoxcoffeemerchants.com for samples.

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