Cesar Marin, 36, is one of Dagoberto Marin’s three sons. Their farm, La Chacra D’dago in Palomar, literally “Dago’s farm,” was the first farm in Peru to be certified as biodynamic (in 2011, with Demeter certification) and today is still the only independent farm to be so in the country. Underlying biodynamics is the idea that humans, the environment and animals should live in harmony in a closed cycle that does not deplete resources but regenerates them.
“I am part of the third generation of coffee producers in my family. My grandfather started, growing with conventional techniques. My father then believed that we should go a step further, and he switched to organic farming. Since 2005, however, we have gone beyond organic, embracing biodynamic for a more holistic approach.” explains Cesar “Eating healthy and growing food sustainably must necessarily go hand in hand, it cannot be otherwise. Sensory quality cannot disregard environmental sustainability.”
At La Chacra, keeping livestock and creating compost on the farm is a key part of the process, enabling them to use no additional fertilizer. The entire coffee processing is done on the farm, from harvesting to fermentation to drying. When it leaves La Chacra, the coffee is ready to be exported and/or roasted. One of the most recognizable features of the company’s facility are the two fermentation tanks painted by Cesar’s brother, Eduardo, in which new fermentation methods are tested. All for the constant quest for quality.
Slow Food, friendships and being part of a global network
It was through a friend that Cesar Marin learned about the Slow Food movement, later participating in Terra Madre as a delegate in 2014.
From that first event, his involvement grew, as Slow Food’s philosophy perfectly mirrored the ethical and environmental principles implemented on the ground at Chacra D’dago.
Cesar and the Chacra D’dago have organized and participated in many Slow Food projects: disco soups, cataloging of products for the Ark of Taste in Peru, and -of course- they were among the first to join the Slow Food Coffee Coalition founding the Slow Food Community “Villa Rica Sustainable Coffee”. The latter brings together various people in the area who care about coffee: environmental engineers, coffee producers, local roasters, traders and artists, to spread awareness about good, clean and fair coffee more widely and create a local network, which can interact with the larger one at the global level of the Slow Food Coffee Coalition.
“At the first Terra Madre I met Erminia (Nodari, co-founder of Critical Coffee, a micro-toastery in Bergamo). By now we are more than business partners, Erminia has become a member of the family.”
Having a direct relationship with roasters and being able to rely on a network of people in the coffee world with whom one can have direct discussions has been crucial and is at the heart of the Slow Food Coffee Coalition.
“Thanks to Erminia, I also met Francesco (Impallomeni, co-founder of Nordic Roasting Co.), who also roasts Chacra D’dago coffee and is a close friend of mine.”
The Armonia lot for Terra Madre 2022
The “Armonia” lot, a batch of Arabica coffee, “yellow obata” variety from La Chacra D’dago, was roasted just for Terra Madre 2022 by three roasters, including two Italian and one Danish: Critical Coffee, Nordic Roasting Co. and Trinci. It was one of the first six coffees to receive the “Slow Food Coffee Coalition” logo, achieved through a participatory certification process put in place at the local Slow Food community level through the application of shared standards within the project and field visits carried out by the community and other stakeholders in the supply chain.
In addition, it was one of the “test” batches for blockchain traceability built in collaboration with Trusty, through which it was possible to track the lot from the moment of harvest at Palomar to packing at the three different roasters. From plant to cup.
“Blockchain traceability and the PGS process are key to transparently communicating what producers do, how their work helps combat climate change, and the impact on communities of origin. The Slow Food Coffee Coalition is critical to connect a farm-which very often can remain isolated-to a network of people with the same goals, issues and ambitions and to communicate this to coffee drinkers in the rest of the world.”
Having a direct and trusting relationship within the supply chain is crucial for the exchange of knowledge and awareness of the work of coffee production, and it is precisely one of the main reasons for the emergence of a network such as the Slow Food Coffee Coalition.
“We need to connect the different realities and spread the principles of Slow Food at the local level, because so many people already embrace them, but they have no idea that there is such a large network of people acting in the same way in so many other parts of the world.”
Critical Coffee by Tullio Plebani and Erminia Nodari: the craft of the artisan
For Eminia and Tullio, Critical Coffee is the latest step in a long history of coffee that began years ago, characterized on the one hand by the artisanal approach to roasting small quantities,-assuring freshness, traceability and roasting profiles designed for the purpose of enhancing their characteristics-and on the other by direct sales through coffee shops run by them and therefore in contact with people, to whom they tell about the coffees and the producers.
As a micro-roastery, Critical Coffee continues its path of popularizing a new and contemporary approach to coffee that involves all the players in the supply chain, starting with the consumer.
“Our immediate membership in SFCC was the natural consequence of a commitment that began a long time ago. The long friendship with Cesar and the common vision of values that had already led us, in the past, to the direct purchase of his coffee, immediately suggested me to involve him in the SFCC as well.” says Erminia.
A new dignity for the coffee supply chain
The coffees they roast and sell are chosen by them according to quality standards that reflect those of the Specialty Coffee Association and the values of SFCC. They are generally restricted production, the result of farming practices that are attentive to the quality of the beans and integrated into a vision of protecting health and safeguarding the environment.
“Also of fundamental importance to our work are the new generation of importers and digital platforms of exchange and meeting between producers and roasters, which increase trust and relationships with roasters. Through these importers we can in fact purchase even small volumes with reduced costs and environmental impact.”
This new collaborative approach allows producers to be able to count on partners who share the benefits of good farming, but also the search for solutions to issues derived from climate change and new strategies that give coffee the value and identity ignored by the commodity market.
The roaster, in this alliance, can count on an in-depth knowledge of the cultivation systems adopted, the choices made in the field and the processes to which the beans are subjected, which he or she must ‘cook’ through the roasting process and ‘profile’ with roasting curves that best enhance them.
The roasting process
During roasting, grains absorb and release heat, lose moisture, change color, and increase in volume. By changing their physical structure, the beans acquire the crispness necessary and indispensable for grinding and solubility.
As a result of the heat transfer, pressure change and chemical reactions that occur during the process, numerous aromatic compounds develop, and from the approximately 250 detected in green coffee, more than a thousand are detected in roasted coffee.
The roast profiles that can be drawn are infinite, as are the extraction profiles for each preparation method chosen to enjoy a cup of coffee.
Sweetness, fruity and floral aromas derived from ‘delicate’ roasts, applied to certain varieties, differ profoundly from more ‘aggressive’ roasts, applied to different varieties that result in more full-bodied drinks, with more evident bitter notes.
Great freedom then, but also great responsibility unite all the protagonists of this long supply chain, including those who approach daily consumption.
The choice: #Lot Armonia
To select together with Cesar and the Marin family the best lot to bring to Terra Madre 2022, Erminia traveled to Peru.
“It was an honor and a great responsibility to go to the Chacra d’Dago during the harvest and select a lot that, on the one hand, would reflect the contemporary approach of environmentally friendly agriculture and, on the other hand, could be a good opportunity for roasters interested in buying it to tell the story of SFCC.
Seeing the coffee plants growing in the forest, in the shade of other tall trees and fruit trees, in a completely different context and far removed from traditional plantations, made me realize what a huge leap in thinking had been adopted and what positive consequences it had yielded.”
the Armonia Lot enhances the Yellow Obata, a variety very common in Peru and other Central American countries because it is adapted to these climates and soils.
Thanks to good soil nutrition, fertilized with natural compost prepared inside the Chacra, cultivation integrated with other plants, selection of ripe beans during harvest, and a selection before and after the fermentation process, the results in the cup gave a coffee with great personality.
The fermentation protocol, designed to highlight body and sweetness enhanced a variety considered ‘common’ and demonstrated how good practices and control protocols can raise quality standards and the overall level of production to the benefit of quality by increasing the value of the coffee produced.”
Lot Armonia exemplifies the good work of experimentation in fermentation processes, which, however, are inseparable from environmentally friendly agricultural practices and highly selective harvesting.
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