Extraordinary People Behind Extraordinary Coffees
This guest blog post comes to us from our very own Miguel Zamora, the Director of Coffee Innovation and Producer Relations at Fair Trade USA. Miguel is focused on creating opportunities between buyers and coffee-growing communities around the world. Read on to learn more about his visit with Raúl Mamani, a coffee farmer at CECOVASA, a Peruvian coffee cooperative that has worked hard to produce award-winning and high quality coffee.
"There are no specialty coffees, only extraordinary people who produce excellent coffees.” - Marino Yanapa, CECOVASA
I met Raúl Mamani six years ago when he came to the U.S. to promote his cooperative’s coffee and to speak to consumers and industry about Fair Trade. It took him three days to travel to Lima from his home in Puno, in southern Peru, and then another day to travel to the U.S.
Raúl (pictured on left) is passionate about the high quality Fair Trade organic coffee he and his family grow, how they care for the environment, and how people in his community work together. I remember how he explained exactly how long his coffee needs to rest in the fermentation tank, the form of drying, storage and handling it requires, and how these steps allow him to optimize quality. Raúl also told me about the ceremonies that the Quechua and Aymara people perform at the beginning of the coffee harvest to give thanks to Pachamama (Mother Earth) and ask her blessing.
During his visit in the U.S., Raúl spent time at local supermarkets and in the Ferry Building in San Francisco talking directly with consumers about Fair Trade. He visited coffee buyers in different U.S. cities, and we went together to the Specialty Coffee Association of America conference where thousands of coffee professionals gathered to talk mostly about coffee quality. He spoke with roasters and importers, as well as other Fair Trade farmers from 20 coffee-producing countries, and they shared their experience and expertise in producing high quality coffee.
Raúl is one of 5,325 coffee farmers who are members and owners of CECOVASA, a cooperative that for more than 40 years has been supporting coffee producing communities in southern Peru. Although these farmers grow only 1% of Peru’s coffee, they have won 5 of the last 8 national quality competitions. A few weeks ago, Raúl was crowned champion of this national competition. This achievement is a combination of the dedication of Raúl and his family, the love they put into their work, and the support of his cooperative over the years.
CECOVASA has focused on training and technical assistance for its members. It has also segmented the coffee to differentiate it and address different markets. For example, Raúl comes from a region called Tunkimayo which produces a very special coffee noted for its high quality, and CECOVASA calls this coffee “Tunki.” The focus on quality has enabled these farmers not only to win quality competitions in Peru but also internationally. In 2010, Wilson Sucaticona, another member of CECOVASA, won perhaps the most important coffee quality competitions in the world: the People’s Choice Award and the Coffee of the Year competition, sponsored by the Specialty Coffee Association of America.
The success of CECOVASA is an example of how small-scale farmers working together with the support of a cooperative can achieve the highest levels of recognition in the coffee world. Before 2010, few coffee “aficionados” knew of the great coffee these farmers produced. With sustained, careful attention, CECOVASA’s Tunki coffee is now known to many high quality roasters as one of the best in the world.
After Raúl won the competition in Peru, Mario Yanapa, President of CECOVASA, explained:
"There are no specialty coffees, only extraordinary people who produce excellent coffees. In our case – the Quechua and Aymara people who created CECOVASA and produce our Tunki coffee.”
Jallalla CECOVASA! Congratulations CECOVASA!
Miguel (right) with Raul (left) in Berkeley after a long but productive day talking with people about Fair Trade and visiting coffee shops.