Winter Is Coming
Author | Jeff Chean Date | June 21, 2017
View from the front gate of Finca Belempata, Dept. of Cusco, Peru
18 JUNE 2017, 11:01 PM
Aside from Game of Thrones being one of my favorite shows, having "winter is coming" running through my head as I sat at LAX's United Airlines terminal, awaiting my flight to Lima, Peru, might seem strange. But being the day before what we call the summer solstice in the Northern Hemishpere is actually the day before the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. I would be leaving 90°F+ weather in L.A. for maybe 15°C (somewhere in the 60s), which is a good time to go to a coffee-producing country if you want to find great coffees.
If you're looking for great certified organic coffees, Peru is ground zero. Why? Because Peru is the largest grower of ceritfied organic coffees in the world. When I travel elsewhere — last month to Honduras, for example — telling farmers that I buy only certified organic coffee prompts one of several responses: 1) I get that look that someone might get if they had just eaten some spinach and had a bunch of it still stuck in their teeth; 2) I get a look of wonder as if they can't believe that I actually said what they heard me say; 3) I get a sympathetic look as if they were speaking to a young child who just said the stupidest/silliest thing; 4) I get an angry look and response as if what I said was personally insulting to them. I rarely get a proud/satisfied look that is preceded wth a big smile and followed by a resounding "Si!" or the local equivalent. Traveling to Peru, for me, must be like what my kids felt when, on the way to Disneyland, they first caught a glimpse of the Matterhorn's peak appearing over the roofs of the local buildings.
Producer Norberto Quintas standing next to his
fermentation tank full of Typica and Yellow Bourbon
Morning dew clinging to ripe Typica cherries,
Finca Belempata, Dept. of Cusco, Peru
Peru, like California, is one of those places that has almost every kind of climate zone within a short flight of Lima. Notice that I didn't say "short drive," because in Peru they have this thing between the coast and the Coffee Lands called The Andes, which translates into English as "big-ass mountain range that turns what should be an hour-long flight into a 15-hour driving ordeal." Or something along those lines . . . I'm a bit rusty on the local dialect. Unlike some countries, like Rwanda, where the government mandates that one grow the Arabica Bourbon variety of coffee and wet-process it, Peru has a huge variety of coffees and micro-climates and processes available. Looking for a fantastic organic Geisha? Look no further! In fact, they will come looking for you.
So, while I may be trading a week of summer for a week of winter on this trip, I couldn't be more excited.