The business of coffee relies on the shared passion of coffee people all over the world, and this section is dedicated to introducing the members of our diverse, dynamic supply chain. Here we ask a few fun questions of our partners at origin, our employees, and our customers; and we share their answers with you so that you can get to know them like we do—in their own words.
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Aquino Huachez Huachez, Valle Del SantuarioAquino Huachez Huachez is one of the 45 coffee growers whose coffee makes up our Valle del Santuario from San Ignacio, Peru. If his name sounds familiar, it's because in 2008, Aquino's coffee was one of the top-scoring lots we cupped, and we sold it, along with the two other top lots, as our Huachez, Neyra, Huamán microlot. Counter Culture Coffee's Kim Elena Bullock spent two nights at the home of Aquino’s family on a recent trip to his community of Las Mercedes. Over a delicious dinner of chicharrón, rice, and potatoes, Kim Elena had the opportunity to talk to him about his life and history as a coffee farmer.
Q: How did you get your start in coffee?
I have farmed coffee for 25 years. My uncle taught me to grow coffee and, for many years, we had very little technology and knew very little about how to produce quality.
Q: Where were you born?
I was born in the department of Piura, to the west of here, near the coast. My father died when I was seven, and afterwards my mother remarried. She left me and my siblings with members of her family. My uncle took care of me and brought me here to San Ignacio because the climate is better for growing things here, and he believed we could make a better living here than we could make in Piura.
Q: Tell us about the fig trees of the valley that we’ve heard so much about.
The wild fig is the only native tree that still grows here and bears fruit. During fig season, the trees on my farm produce many, many figs. We eat them various ways, but the best way is to grill them with meat.
Q: Do you have children? If so, how many?
I have five children. Two of them work with me in coffee and the other three are in school. I would like them to continue in school, but the closest university is in Chiclayo, so it is challenging.
Q: Do you grow any crops besides coffee?
I grow a little bit of granadilla, which is a very productive and popular fruit in this region. Unfortunately, the price hasn’t been very good recently.
Q: Your coffee was one that we chose as a microlot last year. How do you ensure the quality of your coffee?
It all starts with coffee varietals. I like Bourbon the best, but the mix of plants that I grow [editor’s note: Typica, Caturra, Pache, and Bourbon] is good for balancing productivity and cup quality. I have six coffee pickers working for me during the harvest, and I train them to pick only the ripest, reddest coffee berries. I can’t hire just anyone to do this work because picking ripe coffee takes longer, and I recognize that work by paying pickers a higher wage than average for their extra work.
Q: What are some plants and animals indigenous to the National Sanctuary of Tabaconas Namballe? As part of the transition zone, do you see wild animals around your farm?
We have all sorts of animals here: tapir, zajina, majaz, armadillo, and añuje are just some of them. I see some of these animals on the farm, and I have begun to raise añujes in my home for food.
Q: What is the name of your farm, and how many hectares of land do you have?
I share my farm, Las Cocas, with my children and my brother. We have a total of 9 hectares of land, but only 3.5 hectares are in coffee production.
Q: Tell us something about the association of farmers in Las Mercedes.
Our local cooperative, Genios Unidos al Progreso, formed in 1993 and we have been strong since then. When a grower has a bad year and cannot fulfill his contracts with the larger association, other members will contribute coffee to his total in order to support him through the year. I am proud that we can help each other.
Q: If you could send a message to the consumers of your coffee in the United States, what would you tell them?
I would tell them that, as growers, we feel a great responsibility to produce quality coffee and take care of the environment. We cannot count on the government to support our efforts as rural growers working on sustainability and quality, so I ask that consumers value our coffee and support us by paying high prices. Along with this request for continuing support, I would also like to send sincere, heartfelt greetings, and appreciation.