February 7, 2020

How Local Coffee Groups Drive Change in Chile, Mexico, & Peru


Every country has a coffee scene that is uniquely shaped by the people that live in it, as well as their preferences. This means that when challenges arise, the best solutions are likely to come from those who are involved on the inside.

Peru, Chile, and Mexico might all be considered part of Latin America, but the similarities between their local coffee scenes end there. Here’s how different coffee organisations in these three countries are working to address some of the issues that each one is facing.

Lee este artículo en español Grupos Cafeteros: Cómo Lideran el Cambio en Chile, México y Perú

A group of people cup coffee at Neira Cafe Lab in Lima, Peru. Credit: Gabriella Wong

Peru: Introducing The Public to Coffee Cupping

As the 11th biggest coffee producer in the world, Peru’s coffee production supports around 223 000 families. However, the country’s citizens consume relatively little coffee themselves – and three local coffee professionals are trying to address this. Karen Pisconte, Anggela Sara García, and José Gabriel Negron Rodriguez founded the Specialty Coffee Community in Peru, which is a non-profit community gathering of coffee professionals and enthusiasts to connect and learn about specialty coffee. 

Karen comes from a barista background and has competed in the World Barista Championship in the past, while Anggela is a member of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance as well as Founding Partner of Peru’s National Women’s Barista Championships. José has judged various coffee contests, including the Lima Coffee Shop Contest, which is organised by the Peruvian Chamber of Coffee and Cocoa and Le Cordon Bleu Peru.

Launched in August 2018, the Specialty Coffee Community lets the public attend two free cupping sessions every two weeks, with the aim of teaching them cupping protocols and growing their coffee appreciation. Each session offers guests a diverse range of coffee to sample, often giving them a chance to taste coffees that aren’t sold in Peru. 

Each Specialty Coffee Community event is organised on Instagram, and is hosted by a different specialty coffee shop every month. It has only two rules. The first is that attending the event is always free, and the second is that participants should either bring a coffee to share, or get involved in running the Community.

In addition to offering people the chance to cup coffee, the Community also encourages them to get to know where their coffee is coming from by organising origin trips to various farms in Peru. Here, they can learn firsthand about the challenges that face producers, as well as where coffee production might be heading in the future. 

Over the past few years, the Specialty Coffee Community has arranged for groups of producers, roasters, coffee shop owners, and coffee lovers to visit various farms. In 2019, they visited Nueva Alianza in Cusco, which won the Peru Cup of Excellence in 2018 for scoring 91.08 points for its Geisha Washed coffee. For a coffee to scoop such an award, it must have each been cupped a minimum of five different times, and score above 86 points.

You may also like A Guide to Peru’s Coffee-Producing Regional Profiles

A group of women attend a coffee event at Mujeres del Café in 2019. Credit: Josceline Arévalo

Chile: Encouraging Women to Get Involved in Coffee 

While there is limited information available on the financial status of women in the coffee industry, pay disparity based on gender is an issue around the world – and Chile is no different. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that the pay gap might be as high as 21.1% in this country. 

Josceline Arévalo is a trained psychologist and vocational barista. She says, “For the same quality of work, sometimes female baristas get paid less than their male counterparts, or are left [to work as] the cashier while the man is put behind the espresso machine”. Her experiences behind the bar prompted her to reach out to other female baristas to collect their accounts of their own experiences.

She was inspired to establish Mujeres del Café in 2018, which is a space that aims to give a voice and value to women in the coffee industry. The aim of the space is to create awareness of certain gender equity issues in the Chilean coffee industry, and to support those who work in it. She says, “In the specialty coffee sector when we talk about a barista, a lot of people think of a bearded [and] tattooed guy, but a barista can [be more than that]”.

As part of the space’s goal to change perceptions about what a barista looks like, and what a women’s role in the coffee industry should be, it hosts events designed to empower women. This includes cupping sessions, coffee pairing events, and coffee tastings led by women. With research by coffee equipment manufacturer De’longhi revealing that Chilean men drink more coffee than women, this could encourage women to drink more coffee, and learn more about it.

Mujeres del Café highlights local coffee shops led or staffed by women through its Pasaporte Cafetero, which recognises women in the local scene and empowers their businesses by listing them. They also host regular events where coffee industry professionals can gather to share ideas and discuss issues such as workplace rights, self-care, competitions, and more.

Jesus Salazar visits Finca Kape in Mexico. Credit: Jesus Salazar

Mexico: Helping Producers Boost Their Coffee Production

A common challenge encountered in coffee production around the globe is a lack of communication and relationship building between coffee producers, and those that they do business with along the coffee supply chain. There is also a need for pricing transparency to keep producers invested in future production. A stronger relationship with buyers can help to improve producer stability and help them plan ahead, which can lead to better quality coffee.

In order to facilitate this in Mexican coffee production, some organisations are working to boost the quality of coffee produced in Mexico, while ensuring there is better communication between producers, roasters, Q graders, baristas, and consumers. Cafeología is one of them. 

Based in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, the organisation is focused on specialty coffee research, education, and development. They offer training and individual counselling to producers, to help them increase the quality of their coffee and better sell it. According to Cafeología Founder Jesus Salazar, quality control and talent management are two issues that need to be improved in the local coffee production industry.

This isn’t the only effort being made to boost coffee production at farmer level. In 2017, it was announced that the Mexican Coffee Institute was officially being reopened after two decades or inactivity. The organisation hopes to facilitate training in coffee production, with the eventual goal of building a stronger and more economically, socially and environmentally productive. coffee sector. The plan to accomplish this by training producers in coffee production and project management, as well as helping smaller producers get loans and certification.

Research indicates that helping smallholder producers through measures such as certification improves their agronomic knowledge, farm management skills, and adoption of good agricultural practices. These are all factors that can improve the quality of their coffee in the long run, and therefore improve their livelihoods.

  A cupping session in Lima organised by the Specialty Community Coffee: Gabriella Wong

As the specialty coffee scene continues to develop at a fast pace across the world, challenges will inevitably arise, and will likely differ from country to country. However, those involved at grassroots level might be best placed to solve these issues. 

For those looking to ensure that their local coffee scene keeps thriving and growing, supporting these organisations will be key to ensuring this happens.

Enjoyed this? Then Read What to Consider When Developing a Sourcing Program

Feature photo caption: Two people drink coffee outside Casa Cardinal in Mexico City, Mexico. Feature photo credit: Ana Valencia

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