Elmer Peña, CENFROCAFEElmer Peña, of San Ignacio, Peru, works in marketing and client relations for CENFROCAFE, the Organization of Coffee Producers of the Northern Frontier (Central Fronteriza del Norte de Cafetaleros). After developing a relationship with this association of hundreds of small farmers in 2006, we met Elmer for the first time in May of 2007. He helped us strategize and implement our plan to focus our attention on a specific group of quality-driven growers within the larger organization and to taste each individual's coffee separately. The five communities we chose are the producers of Valle del Santuario Since our initial meeting, we have met with Elmer both in Peru and in the US, and between visits he keeps up updated with news from the off-grid farmers. He also shares with the growers our enthusiasm and appreciation for their delicious coffee!
Q: How did you get your start in coffee?
My parents are coffee producers in the town of San Antonio de la Balsa, a 20-minute drive from San Ignacio. I grew up helping my parents plant and harvest coffee: as the oldest of seven children, I always had to work with my father after school. I finished high school at 18 and went to Lima to continue studying. I graduated from college in 2003 with a degree in Business Administration and, after a couple of jobs, I returned home because I believe that there is much progress to be made in this region. I began working at CENFROCAFE (Valle del Santuario) because my parents are members of the association, and, as much as possible, our organization tries to incorporate and employ the children of the members.
Q: Where were you born?
I was born in the coffee-producing town of San Ignacio, in the state of Cajamarca.
Q: You work very hard to ensure the quality of the coffee that you produce. What do you hope that consumers know about the coffee that CENFROCAFE sells?
Our job is to maintain the quality of our coffee until it reaches the consumer. We take great care in the processing—transportation, storage, processing and export—to preserve the character and quality that begins with the growers. We hope that consumers enjoy the best coffee possible and that they know where it was produced, that our growers do everything necessary to produce great quality coffee and that we are very proud to provide it.
Q: Do you have children? If so, how many and how old are they?
I don’t have children yet, nor am I married.
Q: What is a typical dish from your region?
Guinea pig with potato, which is a very special dish prepared for special occasions.
Q: Tell us something unique about your work, about your customers, the process, whatever!
Being in contact with customers from different countries and knowing that our product is a high quality, special product inspires us to continue improving. I also love traveling, both nationally and internationally.
Q: What do you do to relax in your free time?
I like to go home to the countryside and play soccer.
Q: Who is a hero of yours?
I have always admired Mohandas Gandhi for his lifelong dedication to his cause, and my favorite fictional hero is Zorro.
Q: What is the most beautiful place you have ever been, and what is it like?
The city of Cajamarca—especially the tourist area known as the Incan Baths.
Q: It seems that coffees from northern Peru and from CENFROCAFE have received more attention in the last few years. Have you seen an overall quality improvement, or is it just that we have finally realized the quality that has always been there?
Although we’ve always had quality, we are continually improving the quality of our coffee. Likewise, we have to keep promoting our coffee so that more consumers know about it!