It seems that Western coffee buyers in many countries of origin consistently prefer coffee cooperatives as suppliers and trust privately owned companies less. The task of achieving a satisfactory level of transparency in the thicket of the jungle is a tall one.
Many cooperatives are just empty shells, shaped to satisfy the demand for cheap coffee from democratic organizations. In Peru, the business world is very dynamic, with 55% of jobs being self-employed (compare to 10% in Germany). In the coffee sector, too, privately run companies often emerge and pass away very quickly. On Transparency International’s corruption index, Peru is ranked 94th out of 179 in 2020 (cf. Germany: 10th). What can positive prospects for the coffee industry look like in a country that traditionally lives from the exploitation of natural resources?
Coffee cooperatives often aim for progress through certification and the marketing of large coffee lots in order to reach as many families as possible. Small lots of individual fincas, farmers, varieties, or even special processes involve very different work and require a lot of labor. With the evolution of the coffee market towards more specialty coffee, the industry is also transforming in origin. In recent years, more and more private companies are emerging in Peru to serve the emerging local specialty coffee market and select overseas clientele with small-scale, highly specialized coffee lots hybrid.
One who recognized this development early on and has bet on it is Jose Rolando Gonzales Diaz. Back in 2012, he founded the brand “Mishqui Huayo” with his partner Rony. The name comes from the Andean Quechua language, which has also left many traces in the regional Spanish rainforest dialect.
“Mishqui” means tasty and “Huayo” means shrub. The company’s strategy is to produce unique coffees with a few farmers through intensive support and training. These coffees are selected in the mini-process factory in Moyobamba and then, depending on the order situation, either sold as green coffee (domestic or export), roasted and packaged (domestic or export) or sold in the company’s own coffee bike still in Moyobamba in beverage form.
We have known Jose Rolando for a long time. He is part of the specialty coffee industry in Moyobamba, which we had the opportunity to get to know intensively. Since 2016, we have tasted coffees from Mishqui Huayo in Moyobamba every year and followed the development closely. Long fermentation times and dry processing are risky undertakings, off-flavors quickly develop and all the work was for nothing. In the early years, many coffees were unfortunately still phenolic, sour, salty or muddy in the cup. In 2021, everything changed.
The many experiences finally culminated in the fantastic coffees that Jose Roland had wanted to achieve for years. At the first regional coffee competition in the state of San Martin, coffees from the farmers under the care of Mishqui Huayo won first and second prize. What a liberating blow! With cumpa, we had planned to cupp, select, and pack all of our microlots at Mishqui Huayo’s process factory this year. While cupping, Jose convinced us to buy coffees from him as well, produced by the champions of Taza San Martin.
The coffees of Mishqui Huayo show the world – and the coffee world in Peru – an entirely new concept of courageous microlots. The region around Moyobamba is not particularly high. The hills start at 800 meters above sea level and rise to around 2000m the further you get from the city. In many areas in the immediate vicinity of the city, coffee farmers are hopeless.
The Arabicas are dying under the heat, the pests and above all because of the increasingly severe coffee rust. The land rots or is converted into rice fields or cattle pasture. This further accelerates climate change – including local climate change – and exacerbates the problem of coffee farmers.
They also show alternatives that had seemed unrealistic to most people. Using a Catimor coffee to produce the second-best coffee in the state? Check. Growing the sensitive Maragogipe and Caturra plants at an elevation of 1,350m near the city and refining them through a honey process to produce an 86+ coffee? Check. The first edition of the regional coffee competition came at just the right moment for Mishqui Huayo. After years of stealth development off the industry radar, the company is suddenly playing in the premier league, showing that small and medium-sized enterprises may very well have an important role to play in shaping the coffee industry of the future.