Alfonso and Karim Tejada Iberico
Alfonso and Karim Tejada own a private farm and export company dedicated to raising the quality of specialty coffee in the Mendoza area of northern Peru.
Partnered with Stumptown
Caturra, Catuai, Typica
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Alfonso and Karim are a true dynamic duo – they are both incredibly proud of coffee from their region and all their projects. Their newest improvement is an organic compound facility which Stumptown funded last year, recycling decomposing coffee cherry pulp and restoring micronutrients to the soil.
Alfonso and Karim started the export company Café Monte Verde in 2003, purchasing and exporting coffee from farmers in the area. As their network grew and they saw market demand for certified coffees, Alfonso & Karim helped in the foundation of several local producer cooperatives. Monte Verde now purchases parchment from these coops as well as unassociated area farmers.
Alfonso Tejada has bouncy sort of energy about him, and the aura of always being on the move, even at a standstill. He is constantly talking about his plans for the future of the business, and dreams of Mendoza gaining recognition as a top-quality origin in Peru.
Karim is head of quality control for Monte Verde, in charge of cupping through all incoming coffees and building lots. Karim and her team cup through thousands of samples each year, carefully separating each based on profile and quality.
This region borders Peru's main gateway to the Amazon rainforest, and the proximity is palpable. Dense, tangling trees dominate views in every direction; clouds hang around the skirts of jungle-covered mountains. When we visit, we are told the valley where Mendoza lies was once underwater, evidenced by the marine fossils found in the Utcubamba canyon walls we drive past high in the Andes.
Timbuyacu is Alfonso and Karim’s private coffee farm, just outside of Mendoza. Timbuyacu is a Quechua word, yaku meaning water and timbu roughly translating to source. The farm is named this in reference to the groundwater spring present on the land, which belonged to Alfonso’s grandmother. Alfonso and Karim began cultivating coffee here in 2010 in order to better understand the realities of the producers they were buying from. Timbuyacu is now meticulously planted with 19 hectares of coffee, an impressive amount of shade cover – mostly guava trees – and 15 additional hectares Alfonso has deemed “reserve.”
The varietals on Timbuyacu are Caturra, Yellow Caturra, Bourbon, Pache, Maragogype, and Typica. Two days’ worth of cherry is de-pulped and fermented in tile tanks for 24 hours. The coffee is dried for 4-5 days in smaller moveable raised beds, then transferred to the roof for further raised bed or patio drying for 10-15 days depending on weather.
Last year, Stumptown helped fund the construction of an organic composting facility at Timbuyacu. The system helps convert coffee by-products into useful organic fertilizers. The addition of active microorganisms helps break down cherry pulp and other materials properly to avoid a proliferation of pathogens. The Tejadas are using the finished fertilizer on their whole farm this year.
About 4-5 years ago, Tejada-Iberico took over managing his grandmother’s farm, Timbuyacu. He began to renovate the plants with an eye to maintain strict variety separation. About three years ago he planted four hectares of Caturra. He began to gradually eradicate his Catimor and replace it primarily with Catuai and some Typica. He also plans to continue to expand the farm by planting in an area where harvesting now occurs year round due to climate changes, while the heavy harvest period for the rest of the farm still happens from July-August. The mountainous region creates finicky micro climates which not only affect coffee cultivation, but also creates pockets that provide sanctuary for illicit drug production. He hopes coffee will provide better stability and lucrative, legal employment for his peers.
When Tejada-Iberico built his beneficio, or washing station, he constructed it to accommodate more farmers in the coming years. Currently, he only processes his own coffee. He plans to gradually include his neighbors, and then eventually extend his processing to the entire Monte Verde cooperative. He intends to teach quality and agronomy to elevate the rest of the co-op. To further this goal, under his direction, the co-op built a cupping lab and trained cuppers. His wife, Karim, is the main cupper for Monte Verde.
After careful picking with variety separation, Alfonso depulps his coffee using a Penagos demucilager which uses significantly less water than other processing methods. He dry ferments the coffee then washes it in a tiled tank. Finally, he dries the parchment on raised beds.