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The School That Coffee Built

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Luna Gourmet 2019 Trip to Peru

Why go to origin? Because it’s what we stand for: Ethically Sourced, Socially Responsible, Fresh Roasted Coffees. We believe that the entire journey of a coffee bean, from seed to cup, is important to understand first hand, and working directly with our coffee farmers around the globe allows us to not only bring the best coffees to our customers back home, but it also gives us the chance to do good when the opportunity arises. Two years ago, a visit to one of our Peruvian farming co-ops presented the opportunity to help aid the community in building a better school - and that’s how The School that Coffee Built began.

The Luna team on this trip included our owners, brothers Doug and Jason Barrow, Manuela, our marketing and e-commerce director and head of business management (yep, she wears a lot of hats), Jeff, head of production (to put it simply, he makes sure things run smoothly day to day for all our boutique coffee roasting and fulfillment), and lastly Kaitlyn – brand manager on Manuela’s marketing team. Doug and Jason commit to visiting origin at least once a year, and this trip was officially the first trip to origin for the rest of the team!

Our goal for this particular trip was to pay a visit to Agua Azul, a farming cooperative where we direct source our organic Peruvian beans from, and also the community where we have committed to build our 2nd school for the children of the farmers. In addition to checking on the progress of the school, we cupped the 2019 coffee harvest that is now being processed; there, Doug and Jason selected the best lots possible for our organic Peruvian coffees (meaning the rest of the team learned a LOT on how this selection process happens at origin).

trip to peru
Day 1

After a 9 hour flight from Denver to Lima, Peru we successfully made it to South America! Made for a very long day, but thankfully we had no travel hiccups along the way.

Our exporter partners from Costa Rica, Arnoldo, Fernando, and Teo, met us in Lima, and gave us a small tour of Lima. This city is HUGE - over 12 million people live in Lima, in comparison to Denver’s 2.9 million people. We were able to visit el Parque del Amor, or Park of Love, walk the streets of the market in downtown Lima, and tour one of the oldest cathedrals in Lima, the St. Francis Monastery and catacombs - built in 1674!

After our little bit of sightseeing, our group met up with our hosts, our Peruvian coffee producers Harry and Javier (and their families) for a meal. Traveling with locals also means finding the BEST ceviche around; an absolute must when in Lima. It was good to reunite and share a meal with our Peruvian friends - the coffee business is full of incredibly passionate people, and these two are no exception.

day one
Day 2

We spent the day in Lima at the dry mills, which is the beans’ last stop before export. We technically ventured backwards down the seed to cup process on this trip:

Coffee Bean Journey while at Origin:

1) Farming & Harvest
2) Wet Milling
3) Dry Milling
4) Export to US for Roasting

The coffee is delivered to the Dry Mill in parchment form (meaning the beans are no longer in the cherry fruit, and have a thin paper-like membrane surrounding each bean) from the farm where they were wet milled about 4-7 days earlier. It’s a 30 hour drive from the farms in the Amazon down to Lima! Long way to travel, but the higher elevation up in the Amazon is part of what makes the coffee taste the way that it does.

First, the coffee beans makes their way through several different mechanical shaking and rubbing processes to remove the outer parchment. The beans then drop into a huge dryer (similar to your clothes dryer at home, but much larger) that with low heat and slow rotation, dries the coffee to the desired water weight.

Next, the beans are graded for quality. Both a vibrating table and a color spectrometer are used to separate the good from the bad beans. There’s a buyer for both types, but Luna only buys the highest graded organic beans.

Finally, the beans are bagged, weighed and ready to be exported to Denver!

Another really important process that happens at the dry mill is cupping and quality control. Jeff, Manuela and Kaitlyn got a lesson in “cupping and spitting coffee” while Doug and Jason focused on selecting the BEST lots to buy for Luna in 2019.

After the dry mill, we jumped on a quick flight to fly north to Tarapoto, from there we drove 3 more hours to Moyobamba (in the San Martin region) to visit the coffee farms and the school project.

day 2
Day 3

As you could probably imagine, there’s a ton of humidity and moisture when you’re in the Amazon. Today was a very muddy day. But, kind of like playing in the mud as kids, it was really fun and incredibly fulfilling.

Coffee farming in Peru is really rural; imagine 30-50 families settling on some land far out in the Amazon jungle, and calling it home. Planting their crops and maintaining them organically for decades. The location of the farms throughout the Amazon are very difficult to get to. Whether it be a 2+ hour walk or a mule ride, or the 90 minute four-wheel-drive expedition that required crossing rivers (literally driving through the river!) and pull ropes to get through mud bogs and over hills, the trip to Agua Azul was challenging. (Thank goodness the dirt roads were “dry enough” to drive up the mountain though!)

The School That Coffee Built:

As we arrived in Agua Azul, we were greeted with a decorated new school building, a small coffee plant for the school, huge applause from the village, and even a few fireworks!

Everyone was so incredibly happy and ready to celebrate the near completion of the new elementary school that we partnered together to build. The children performed several native dances and sang their national anthem for us, followed by an astounding feast they had prepared for our lunch - everything they served from plantains to yucca to tamales and hearts of palm were grown on their farm.

This school will be the new home for 36 elementary aged children in the village. Before now, there really wasn’t an education option for this younger group of children; now there is and this is going to make a big difference in their early education and lives.

The walls are up, the roof is on, bathrooms and kitchen are almost finished - next on the list are doors and windows and a few more finishing touches.

What an incredible honor to have been able to visit this community - the immense amount of gratitude that the community expressed was beyond anything our little team could have expected. So incredibly humbling and fulfilling to know that the work we do each and every day can have such an impact on the very people’s lives that grow the coffee our roasting company is completely dependent on.

day 2
Day 4

We spent our final day in Peru meeting with one of the farming families in our farming cooperative. Julita Chávez Tuesta and her husband Santos Luis Ache Jimenez have a 4 acre farm in the St. Martin region that they started over 20 years ago in an effort to be part of the growing coffee movement in Peru.

They started with 1 hectare (almost 2.5 acres), moved and purchased 2 hectares, and through agricultural financing have doubled their land to 4 hectares. We had the opportunity to sit and chat for an hour about their way of life and the farm, and Julita took center stage. This is truly a woman-managed farm, and it was impressive to hear their growth and passion for high quality coffee. They have 10 children who are grown and now coming back to help with the farm. Julita’s top suggestion for what is needed is more education. She firmly believes that the Peruvian poverty cycle can be broken by having more education to create higher aspirations; she went on to explain that manual labor is only part of running a successful farm and knowing how things like agronomy and modern farming techniques work are even more critical to understand for success. Their primary goal is to increase the quality of coffee on their land, and to share their learnings with their neighboring farmers to increase the quality of the coffee in the region overall.

Well, for this family it’s working. As a result of the farming intervention programs brought to this area through our partner Volcafe, the crop yield from Julita’s improved farming techniques is nearly double what the typical farm produces!

After our visit with Julita and her family, we had one final cupping prepared for us in Moyobamba to taste four additional coffees that were just harvested from the fields. Not only did we get to cup and select our preferred beans for Luna, we were donned with our very own embroidered aprons to make our cupping expert status official!

Though our time in Peru was fast and furious, the entire experience was such a vivid look into why we all choose to show up for work every day. We produce and sell great coffee, it’s true, but there is so much more behind the mission that Luna Gourmet has placed at the core of our company - we’ve said it once, and we’ll keep on saying it - the simple act of drinking a cup of coffee can truly make a difference in the world around us.

day 2