Coffee – like all food, wine, and TV sitcoms – is best enjoyed when it is at its freshest and in season. Good, simple, honest, local, rustic. You don’t need to be Gordon Ramsay to know that. Counter Culture Coffee is well aware of it, too.
To illustrate coffee’s shifting seasonal availability and to make the freshest coffees available to the general public, Counter Culture instituted the Farmhouse program. Here’s how it works: according to their website, “Throughout the year, as coffees come and go according to the seasons, we roast them to underscore their intrinsic deliciousness. And, then we sell the result” with the name Farmhouse Organic emblazoned across the packaging.
So, in other words, Farmhouse, from season to season, is never the same twice. Currently, Farmhouse is a single-origin coffee, representing the CENFROCAFE Cooperative, in Cajamarca, Peru.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of Ellipsis Coffeehouse in Chicago, Illinois. Today we’re sipping a cup of the current Farmhouse Organic, from Counter Culture Coffee in Durham, North Carolina. Feel free to pull up a chair.
Counter Culture has purchased coffee from the Cajamarca region of northern Peru since 2001, at which time the region had a reputation for producing large volumes of low-quality coffee. Because many of the farmers in the area had been growing food and rice, coffee production represented new territory, and this left much room for innovation. In 2006, though, Counter Culture tasted coffee from the CENFROCAFE cooperative for the first time, and they were hooked. They took a major step with the cooperative in 2007 by focusing their attention on a small network of five communities and tasting coffee from each of the 75 families of these communities individually.
CENFROCAFE spans the lush provinces of Jaen and San Ignacio in northern Peru. As one of the strongest coops in Peru, the collective represents more than 1,900 families in 84 partner networks in 100 bases of the provinces of Jaén, San Ignacio and Bagua. These areas have actually been frontier regions in the last 40 years.
The cooperative was founded in 1999 with 220 small-scale coffee farmers in eleven community-based associations. Nearly ten years after their founding, CENFROCAFE was serving approximately 2,000 farmers in over 80 organizations located in twelve districts within the region of Cajamarca.
From technical assistance and quality control workshops for their farmers to economic and leadership training for the young people in their rural communities, CENFROCAFE works not only to support the commercial endeavors of its members but also to facilitate the development of the community. They provide loans that help farmers cover the costs of the harvest and materials in the coffee production as well as the costs of sending their children to school. The cooperative alliance with CEPICAFE, OROVERDE, and NORANDINO – all like-minded associations with a similar vision and objective – has provided important services to thousands of small-scale farmers (members and non-members alike) in Northern Peru, who without a strong organization would have otherwise been abandoned without access to even the most basic health, education, and other social services.
All of this fits within the larger values of the coop as this collective of families pursues a holistic approach; tying together methods aimed at economic, social, environmental and institutional improvement. These values and innovations have stimulated a mutually beneficial cycle for coffee growers and importers as incentives for higher quality stimulate greater innovations, better results for the farmers and their families, and finally, great coffees for you!
Furthermore, CENFROCAFE has no shortage of skilled farmers who cup their coffees with a keen eye for quality. Their ability to select and blend together the best offerings is unsurpassed in the region.
CENFROCAFE founding member and former president of the producer Board of Directors, Anselmo Huaman Moreto, explains: “A huge difference in our lives is that now our children can actually go to school, our coffee is being recognized in the market for the quality we produce, and our members can be proud again to be farmers.”
origin: Jaen, Cajamarca, Peru
farm: CENFROCAFE Cooperative
elevation: 1200 – 1600 meters above sea level
cultivars: Caturra, Typica, Bourbon
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
certifications: Organic, Fair Trade
The aroma of the Farmouse Organic is lightly sweet and fragrant. Brown sugar, caramel, stone fruit, and hibiscus aromatics gently waft out of the cup, very delicately brushing against the tip of the nose; very tea-like.
Immediately post-brew, the cup is somewhat confectionary. Caramel makes an appearance here as well, and it’s accompanied by flavors of brown sugar, bakers spices, and angel food cake.
As the cup cools off, its flavor fleshes out. It’s become juicy, salty, fruity, and just the right amount of sweet – not overbearing, not over the top; it really hits the sweet spot. The caramel up front morphs into something more akin to liquefied saltwater taffy, and fruity notes of juicy honey crisp apple, cranberry, apricot, white peach, walnut, and floral aromatics all do their part to create a satisfying taste experience while a subdued citrus acidity rounds out the bottom of the cup.
Medium body; juicy mouthfeel; citrus acidity; clean finish.
the bottom line:
Counter Culture Coffee’s current Farmhouse Organic offering, which, for now, hails from Peru’s CENFROCAFE, is a sweet and delicious coffee that is neither over- nor underwhelming. It’s simple, straightforward, and tasty. It doesn’t grab your attention, but it certainly holds your interest. Caramel, floral aromatics, and stone fruit combine in the cup to form a flavor experience that is absolutely easy like Sunday morning.
I’ll be checking in with Counter Culture and sampling more of their Farmhouse project as the months (and years) progress, so be on the lookout for the name to pop up again in the near future!
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