Union y Fe was founded in 2014 by 233 farmers in the La Coipa area of Cajamarca, around the town of San Ignacio. The aim was to find a market for their coffees, with a focus on both quality and sustainable relationships with partners. They constructed a mill and cupping lab in the town of San Ignacio at 1300 masl, where the climate is cool and less humid, making it ideal for storing coffee and preserving quality. Lorenzo Cruz, the co-op manager, has been working to improve coffee quality through cupping every producer’s lots separately and mapping the areas which produce the highest scores. Through this mapping, they are able to help pinpoint areas with ideal growing conditions, and producers that are processing and drying their coffee well. They are also then able to better support farmers with relevant technical assistance and education. UNAFECOOP has funded the construction of solar driers for many of the farmers, and have seen a noticeable increase in cup quality through doing this, especially when using driers with raised beds and fans, to reduce humidity and control temperature.
There are now 250 farmer members, who are divided into three areas, in three different valleys. Farms sit between 1500masl and 2000masl and each is between 1 and 5 hectares. Many of the producers have numerous parcels of land separated by protected forest. Much of the coffee grown is still old Typica, but more producers are starting to plant rust resistant varietals like Catimor and Castillo. UNAFECOOP is organic certified and is committed to making a sustainable future for organic farming in the region, after crops were decimated in previous years by leaf rust. They have responded by providing seeds of resistant, high yielding varietals and training farmers in good agricultural practices.
Each producer has their own small wet mill, with a depulper and concrete fermentation tank. Ripe cherries are hand-picked, pulped and dry fermented overnight for 12-18 hours. The coffee is then washed to remove the mucilage and moved to covered drying beds, where it dries for between 10 and 14 days. Once dried to less the 12% moisture content, the farmer will deliver the parchment to the UNAFECOOP mill in San Ignacio, where the yield will be calculated and the producer receives partial payment. Lorenzo and his team then cup the coffee and do a full assessment on each lot delivered, and categorise them into a certain quality band along and attributed pricing range. The parchment of high cupping lots is packed into Ecotact bags immediately to preserve the quality and prevent reabsorption of moisture from the air.