Peruvian coffee has been making waves in the world of specialty coffee for years now, and with good reason.
This South American country is home to some of the most unique and flavorful coffee varieties, grown in diverse and rich soil, and harvested with care and precision by expert farmers.
In this article, we’ll explore the world of Peruvian coffee, including its rich history, the different regions where it’s grown, and its distinct flavor profiles.
So, grab a cup of coffee and get ready to be transported to the high altitudes of the Andes Mountains, where some of the world’s best coffee is grown.
- Peru is a relatively small producer and exporter of coffee compared to other countries, but its coffee industry is highly prized by coffee enthusiasts and green coffee buyers worldwide.
- Since the start of its coffee production in the 1700s, Peru has widely maintained a commitment to sustainable and organic farming practices.
- Peru is home to several coffee cultivars, including Typica, Bourbon, Caturra, and Catimor.
- Peru has several coffee growing regions that can be divided into three main geographical areas, each with its own growing conditions and tastes: Northern Peru, Central Peru, and Southern Peru.
- The Amazonas region in Northern Peru is known for growing coffee with a strong aroma and full body, while Cusco is known for producing a hybrid of Typica and Bourbon called “Urubamba” beans.
- Our recommended Peruvian coffee brands to try: Fabula, Volcanica Coffee, Coopers Cask.
Peruvian Coffee Overview
I wouldn’t be shocked if you haven’t had much Peruvian coffee in your life, as Peru is a relatively small producer and exporter of coffee compared to other countries.
In 2020, Peru produced 3.8 million bags of coffee (60 kg each). That may sound like a lot, but there were nine other countries that produced more in the same period. (1) It ranked 9th in exports for the same time period. (2)
While Peru may not be one of the largest coffee producers or exporters globally, the Peruvian coffee industry is known for producing high-quality coffee that is highly prized by coffee drinkers and buyers worldwide. The country’s diverse growing regions, unique coffee varieties, and commitment to sustainable and organic farming practices make Peruvian coffee a standout in the specialty coffee market.
A Brief History of Peruvian Coffee
Coffee production in Peru has a history that spans over two centuries. Coffee was introduced to the country in the 1700s by Jesuit missionaries. Initially, coffee growing was limited to small-scale plantations in the northern regions of the country. However, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that coffee became a significant crop.
Coffee growing became popular in the coastal valleys, where the warm and sunny climate provided ideal growing conditions. The first commercial coffee plantations were established in the valleys of Chanchamayo and La Convencion in the early 1900s. The high altitude, ample rainfall, and fertile soil of these regions allowed the Arabica beans to thrive. By the 1920s, coffee had become one of Peru’s top exports, and by the 1950s, it was the country’s primary export to countries like England and Germany.
During the latter half of the 20th century, Peru faced political and economic instability, which resulted in a decline in coffee production. The government implemented agricultural reforms that broke up large coffee estates and redistributed the land to small-scale coffee farmers. However, these farmers lacked the resources and knowledge to grow high-quality coffee, and the country’s coffee production suffered.
In recent years, Peru has seen a resurgence in coffee growing, thanks to the efforts of small-scale farmers, the forming of cooperatives, and help from groups like Fair Trade. These farmers have embraced organic and sustainable farming practices, mainly out of a lack of access to fertilizers.
Today, Peruvian coffee is known for its unique and distinctive flavors, and its high-quality coffee beans are prized by coffee enthusiasts around the world. You will be able to find a lot of organic coffee, as well as Fair Trade coffee, from Peru.
Coffee Growing Regions in Peru
Of course, what would high-quality coffee be if it weren’t for the proper growing conditions? Luckily, Peru has several regions where organic coffee plants can prosper. High altitudes, rich soil, and a tropical climate are definitely to thank.
Peru’s coffee growing regions can be organized into three geographical categories: Northern Peru, Central Peru, and Southern Peru.
In the central highlands sits a region called Chanchamayo, which accounts for a large percentage of Peru’s total coffee production. Coffee beans grown here are typically the highest quality in the country.
These coffees are grown on the eastern side of the Andes Mountains, at altitudes up to 5,900 feet above sea level. Expect a rich chocolatey sweetness, a light to medium body, and a bright acidity.
In the northern part of the country, the Amazonas region is known for producing coffee with a strong aroma and full body. The climate is humid and tropical, as you might expect from a rainforest. Together with San Martin (also in the north), these two regions account for 49% of the coffee produced in Peru. (4)
In the south, there’s another important coffee growing region called Cusco. This area is known for producing a type of coffee beans called “Urubamba” beans. This is the market name for the hybrid of the Typica and Bourbon coffee varietals that are grown here and renowned for their rich flavor and aroma.
Coffee in Cusco grows between 4,000 and 5,900 feet above sea level. Expect a medium body, bright acidity, and a flavor profile of chocolate, caramel, nuts, and fruit when you try a coffee from this area.
Other smaller coffee growing regions that also produce delicious coffee include:
Peru is home to a variety of coffee cultivars, each with its own unique characteristics and flavor profile. Here are some of the most common coffee varieties found in Peru:
- Typica: This is the most widely planted coffee variety in Peru. It is known for its balanced acidity, medium body, and smooth flavor. Typica is the original bean variety that was introduced to Peru in the 1700s.
- Bourbon: This variety is characterized by its sweetness and complex flavor profile, with notes of caramel, chocolate, and fruit.
- Caturra: This is a natural mutation of the Bourbon variety and is known for its high yield and resistance to disease. It has a bright acidity and a clean, crisp flavor.
- Mundo Novo: This is a hybrid of Typica and Bourbon and is known for its high-quality cup profile, with a medium body, bright acidity, and chocolate and nutty notes.
- Pache: This variety is a mutation of Typica and is known for its sweetness and low acidity, with a smooth and creamy mouthfeel.
- Catimor: This is a hybrid of Timor and Caturra and is known for its high yield and resistance to disease. It has a bold flavor with a slightly earthy taste.
Coffee Processing Methods in Peru
In Peru, the washed (or “wet) process is the most common coffee processing method used. This is likely due to the fact that the washed process is known for producing coffee with a clean and bright flavor profile, which is highly sought after by coffee buyers.
Using this method, coffee cherries go through a depulping process, removing the outer fruit layer. Then, the coffee beans are submerged in tanks of water and “washed”, where they sit and ferment for some time. This gets rid of the sticky mucilage layer before the beans are laid out to dry.
The washed process is well-suited to the higher altitude coffee growing regions in Peru like Cajamarca and San Martin, where the cooler temperatures and lower humidity make it easier to control the fermentation and drying process than natural or honey processes.
However, the natural process and honey process are also used in certain regions of Peru and can produce coffee with unique and complex flavor profiles. The natural method is commonly used in lower altitude coffee growing regions like Puno and Cusco. In these areas, ripe coffee cherries are typically left on the bean to dry, instead of being depulped.
What is Special About Peruvian Coffee?
Peruvian coffee is known for being very high quality. Peruvian brews are usually smooth, complex, light-bodied, low in acidity, and full of distinct tasting notes like chocolate, citrus fruit, nuts, and even floral notes like lemongrass.
This unique flavor profile is a result of the country’s diverse microclimates and growing regions, as well as the use of traditional farming methods. The widely used washed processing method helps maintain a “clean” flavor profile for most coffee beans grown in Peru.
Sustainability is also a major factor that makes Peruvian coffee so special. Many coffee farmers in Peru use sustainable farming practices that prioritize environmental conservation and social responsibility. This includes growing coffee using organic farming methods, protecting natural habitats, and supporting local communities. Just prices have been reached during recent years thanks to the Fair Trade movement being so strong in the country.
While coffee was traditionally grown in an organic manner simply due to the lack of funds and access to fertilizer and chemicals, this caught the specialty coffee industry’s eye. Over the past years, green buyers in this industry have formed various partnerships with Peruvian farmers to continue their sustainable and organic practices, often including Fair Trade certifications as well.
Peruvian Coffee Flavor Profiles
By this point in the article, you probably know what you can expect when you drink Peruvian coffee. But just in case you don’t, here is a quick rundown:
- Lighter body: Peruvian coffee typically has a light or medium body, meaning that it is not too heavy or too light on the palate.
- Bright acidity: Expects bright and vibrant acidity, which can sometimes be tangy or citrusy. Remember that this acidity, while bright, is almost always present in a low amount. Your drink will never be overpowered by acidity… sweetness will prevail.
- Nutty notes: Many Peruvian coffees have a nutty flavor profile, with notes of almond, hazelnut, or pecan.
- Chocolatey notes: Peruvian coffee often has a subtle chocolate flavor, with notes of dark chocolate or cocoa.
- Fruity notes: Depending on the specific coffee variety and processing method used, Peruvian coffee may have fruity notes, such as those of berries, citrus, or tropical fruits. Floral notes are also typical in specialty-grade coffee.
Best Peruvian Coffee Brands to Try
Alright, now that you know all about Peruvian coffee, you’re probably itching to try some. Here are three of our favorite Peruvian coffee brands with delicious medium-roasted coffee beans available to order online.
Fabula Medium Roast Coffee
This specialty-grade medium roast is 100% organic and extra delicious. It uses a mix of three varietals of beans to lock in the aromas of nuts, brown sugar, and mild fruits. The low acidity will help you recognize and appreciate the caramel, nutty, and chocolate flavors when you brew.
In our opinion, this is the perfect roast for whatever brewing method you use at home. A Melitta, V60, French Press, or espresso will all work well with this flavor profile. Make sure you grab your bag with whole beans for optimal freshness. If you don’t have a grinder at home, Fabula can also grind them for you. I reviewed the Fabular coffee previously, check my taste report here.
If you have checked out our other coffee region guides, you know we love Volcanica’s roasted coffee beans. This bag of coffee is also a medium roast made from organic beans, but this coffee brand offers more complex and unique flavor notes like lemongrass, plum, and nougat.
This full-bodied coffee from the Chanchamayo region comes from various smallholder farms all over 3,000 feet above sea level. If you normally like a full city roast with low acidity, give this Fair Trade certified coffee a try using any brewing method to amplify its sweetness and body. We recommend an AeroPress or Chemex.
Peruvian Cold Brew Coffee – Robust and Complex
If you like to make cold brews, the tasting notes of caramel, cherry, and orange of this batch will make a delicious iced coffee drink. Cooper’s Cask Coffee is another roaster dedicated to roasting high-quality, organic beans, and their Peruvian coffee is no exception.
With various size bags and grind level options, you can order the correct quantity for the brewing method you prefer. Of the three coffee brands listed here, this coffee has the brightest fruit-forward acidity for those who like a citrusy aftertaste in their cup of joe. That being said, it’s still relatively low in acidity when compared to other coffee-growing regions. It is a Peruvian coffee after all! You can still expect a nice, smooth brew.
Frequently Asked Questions
How you like your coffee depends on what traits you want out of your cup. Peruvian coffee tends to be smooth with mild acidity and a light body. While the taste profile is pretty similar to Colombian coffees, beans from Colombia tend to have more acidity than those from Peru. It’s also easier to find organic coffee and Fair Trade coffee from Peru.
Almost all Peruvian beans are Arabica. Common varieties of Peru coffee are Bourbon, Typica, Mundo Novo, and Caturra, and they tend to be of high quality. The altitude and growing conditions of coffee farms in Peru are perfect for Arabica beans.
Also known as “capis coati” coffee, coati dung coffee is coffee that’s digested by an animal called a coati, which is like a long-nosed raccoon. They eat coffee beans and then poop them out. The fermentation that the beans undergo helps develop unique fruity flavors and aromas. It comes with a high price tag and questionable animal treatment.
Okay, that’s a wrap on everything you need to know about Peruvian coffee beans!
In this guide, you learned the history of coffee in Peru, the regions it grows best in, and all the ins and outs of why Peruvian coffee tastes the way it does. We even gave you a few of our recommendations for the best Peruvian coffee beans to try. You can’t go wrong with any of those three medium roasts!
We hope you enjoy the smooth and delicious coffee that this South American country has to offer.
If you are interested in learning more about coffee around the world, check out our guides to the famous coffee-growing regions:
- ICO – World coffee production – http://www.ico.org/prices/po-production.pdf
- EXPORTS OF ALL FORMS OF COFFEE BY EXPORTING COUNTRIES TO ALL DESTINATIONS – JANUARY 2022 – http://www.ico.org/prices/m1-exports.pdf
- Wonder of the world! 6 facts you didn’t know about Peruvian coffee – https://www.peru.travel/en/masperu/wonder-of-the-world-6-facts-you-didnt-know-about-peruvian-coffee
- A Coffee Addict’s Guide to Peruvian Coffee – https://ictcoffee.com/a-coffee-addicts-guide-to-peruvian-coffee