Meet the Producers: Hugo Pareja and Flor Lopez
Hugo Pareja and Flor Lopez are a coffee-producing couple based in Incahuasi, in the Cusco Department of Peru. Having shared a unique geisha coffee from this couple during the last few months, we reached out to learn more about the origin, processing and production of this lot.
Peru is known for its ancient history and cultures, unique food and incredible landscapes that stretch from the Amazon rainforest to the sea. However, in recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the quality of coffee production throughout the country, allowing Peruvian coffee to make its mark in the specialty world.
Hugo Pareja and his wife, Flor Lopez have been producing specialty coffee for a number of years in the Incahuasi region, located in the centre of Peru. This region is known for its rolling hills and moderate climate, regulated by its position between the rainforest and the ocean.
During the last two years, they have become renowned for producing one of the world’s most sought-after varietals: Geisha.
‘’In Incahuasi, we are small producers, so it is normal to have two or more farms, although they are usually quite small,’’ Hugo explained to us.‘’I have two farms, and the one where our Geisha lot comes from was founded in 2017. The other one was founded in 2004 when I was 18 years old and my father decided to give it to me.’’
''...when the samples were analyzed, they realized that it was a special Geisha varietal. It was a nice surprise for everyone.’’
COFFEE THROUGH COLLABORATION
Hugo and Flor haven’t produced high-quality coffee alone – working with the Cooperativa Agraria Cafetalera Valle de Incahuasi (CAC Incahuasi), they receive support in agricultural development, infrastructure and training.
‘’I was one of the first members of the cooperative in 2006, and they have supported us a lot, especially with technical assistance,’’ Hugo said.
‘’Thanks to the cooperative we now have sprinkler irrigation on the farm. CAC has also provided us with equipment such as hoses, and also assisted us with training. At other times, they have given us materials for the nurseries and also seeds.’’
Hugo explained that when the cooperative began, they focused primarily on improving the yields on each farm. As time has passed, they’re realised the potential earnings and success that can come with increased quality, and have helped a number of farms to produce higher quality coffee.
Realising that the coffee on the farm of one member reached scores of 89 to 90 points, whilst others only reached 85 to 86, CAC decided to propagate the unclassified, higher scoring plants and share seeds with other members.
‘’We received seeds of this plant from CAC and planted it on one of our farms,’’ Hugo said.
‘’Years later, in the first harvests, we and the other members with this plant also achieved high scores. When the samples were analyzed, they realized that it was a special Geisha varietal. It was a nice surprise for everyone.’’
CREATING A GEISHA LOT
When growing, picking and processing their Geisha crop, Hugo and Flor practice a traditional part of Andean culture known as ‘Ayni’. Dating back to the Incan culture, it is a reciprocal act of care and help between members of the community and the environment.
‘’This is a selective harvest, and we carefully select the best cherries to have the best coffee possible,’’ he said.
‘’We work the ‘Ayni’, which means that we help each other when we need it. If today I need to harvest my coffee, my friends and neighbours come to help me and when they need help with their harvest, I do the same for them.’’
Hugo also described other ways in which producing families in the area preserve Incan and Andean culture, such as through language and community activities.
‘’In Incahuasi we all speak Quechua and we preserve the customs of the oldest people, such as the Ayni. We are family farming producers who have small farms that can be in different places,’’ he said.
‘’We “chacchamos” the leaf of the coca to give us energy, and while working on our farms we like to have lunch as a group, as a family.’’
The Geisha lot produced by Hugo and Flor is unique from any that members of the Fjord team have experienced. This varietal is typically known for florals and tea-like qualities such as jasmine and bergamot, however this Peruvian lot surprised us with its notes of orange blossom, honey and cantaloupe.
To create this flavour profile, Hugo and Flor have used a slightly extended fermentation period after de-pulping. They explain that this is due to the physiology of the Geisha seed.
‘’If we normally ferment the grains between 12 to 14 hours, we ferment the geisha for 3 to 4 more hours. We do this in covered wooden boxes and under shade,’’ Hugo explained.
‘’This is because it has more mucilage and the grain has more open grooves. If I ferment longer I make sure that when washing, the mucilage goes away more easily. This creates more consistency and results in less problems during drying.’’
SHARING COFFEE ACROSS THE GLOBE
Since producing this Geisha lot, Hugo and Flor’s coffee has been exported and shared across the globe with the help of Cultivar Peru. This has included featuring in Fjord’s Special Editions series, being showcased at the World of Coffee Expo (2022) in Milan, and being used for professional coffee competitions.
‘’My family and I are very happy, and we are very grateful to CAC for their help in creating this coffee,’’ said Hugo.
‘’The fact that Fjord appreciates my coffee makes me feel more committed to continue improving quality, and to continue complying with the protocols. I am proud of my work and my coffee.’’
The future looks bright for Peruvian coffee, with more green bean buyers, coffee roasters and baristas looking south of Colombia for high quality lots. With the collaboration with cooperatives such as CAC, Hugo looks forward to more people across the world experiencing his and Flor’s coffees.
‘’I am grateful to the clients for appreciating our coffee, but also with the Fjord team,’’ he said.
‘’I am aware that if the end client can appreciate this coffee, it not only depends on my work on the farm, but also on the roaster, and on the barista.
''From each person who had it in their hands before it reaches the customer's cup – we all complement one another.’’
Read more about Hugo and Flor’s Geisha lot here
Thank you to Cultivar Peru for their partnership and assistance with connecting us with Hugo and Flor.