Peru Flavor Profiles: Beyond Butter & Chocolate

WideFormat mountain peaks and clouds in Cajamarca, Peru

As we welcome you to the exciting new Catalyst adventure in Peru, I want to share our sourcing logic and some of the profiles you as a buyer can expect from this part of our lineup. As I explained in last week’s announcement, for years I’ve been quivering with excitement for this time to come because Peruvian coffee (and coffee people, and culture, food, music, idioms, geography… well, Peruvian everything) is one of my favorites.

WideFormat Coffee shrubs in foreground in Peru

Now, we are all familiar with the classic profiles of Peruvian coffee, especially with the reliable, full-bodied butter, dried fruit, and chocolate found in community or cooperative blenders (83, 84 points, often Fair Trade Organic).

Many of us have also tasted various higher-scoring single farm lots or microlots. If we are lucky we’ve accessed occasional surprising moments and lots of great, drinkable coffee in the 85-86 point range. In general, a coffee in this range from Peru is equivalent to an 87-88 pointer from East Africa due to the unique varieties, terroir, cultivation, and more. Of course it’s best to avoid referring too much to cup scores given how subjective they tend to be, but… that’s our universal language, isn’t it?

WideFormat Coffee Partners embracing and smiling at camera in front of cupping table.

Featured Coffees: Our Friends at Programa Huellas (Footprints)

“Top Lots” Category:
 “Lots” Category:
Huellas- San Ignacio, Cajamarca- Lot 04/23 - 32 bags - $5.68 if you buy the entire lot - pink rose; quince jam; fresh apricot; cotton candy; dried eucalyptus - Cup score ranges from 86-87.
Huellas- San Ignacio, Cajamarca- Lot 02/21 - 180 bags - $5.37 list price (10 bags or less) with volume breaks down to $4.62! - cherry honey; orange juice; creamed honey; apricot marmalade; fresh ground cinnamon - Cup Score ranges from 86-87.25

WideFormat View of Mountain range in Peru through the leaves of coffee field.

Location is everything

After years planning this, we knew exactly where in Peru we wanted to focus: the North. Great coffees can be sourced from many parts of the country, but the majority of our relationships and experience was in Northern Peru (that is, Cajamarca, Amazonas, and San Martín as growing regions). Revisiting these farms and folks after years, we were convinced more than ever!

The radiant jungles and dense mountains of Northern Peru have huge potential to produce differentiated specialty coffee. An enormous volume of coffee is produced here as well, with thousands of small and medium-sized farms molded to the hillsides. Producers here have clear priorities and in many cases are multi-generational businesses.

WideFormat Map of Peru, highlighting provinces of Cajamarca, Amazonas, and San Martín.

Volume-based breakdowns

As we built our Peruvian sourcing program we needed to address the gap between what Peru is CAPABLE of producing and what is currently reaching the market. Traceability is one of the key elements at play here, though not always realized by the general coffee industry. Just like in Ethiopia, many variations on traceability exist in Peru including small, differentiated lots with objectively higher cup scores being added to big, lower-scoring lots to raise their overall quality to a mid-specialty score (say, 83 instead of 80). Thus it’s unusual to get really great, unmixed, well-processed traceable single farm coffees from Peru which have unique flavor profiles. Thankfully, that’s what Catalyst Trade specializes in!

We are bringing several categories of coffee to you, our customers, in which (except for the lower, blender, coffees) the key differentiation is volume and thus price. All are exceptional quality for Peru, unique and traceable.

This honors the different quality and intensity of investment needed to both produce and to KEEP SEPARATE a tiny lot (like our 4-bag single-farm lot by producer Willy Torres near Pomahuaca, Jaén) versus a similar quality but larger volume such as the lovely 109-bag lot we are bringing in from a special group called Faical, also in Cajamarca.

We’re breaking things up like this:

Nano & Micro Lots

Nano lots, experimental lots, extremely high-cupping lots, & other zingers below 20 bags, all fully traceable

Top Lots

Fully traceable lots ranging in size up to 50 bags; high-cuppers, individual producers, unique stories, and other SO-destined lots.


Large lots which easily multi-purpose as the best Peruvian blenders of all time or SOs; traceable and reliable.

Tier 4 - Custom-Sourced Blender Lots (82-84)

This is what most people think about with Perus: sweet, clean cup, large volumes. Often FTO (Fair Trade Organic)—always fully traceable. Catalyst never buys these on spec, but sources entirely to demand with a 2-4 week turnaround to ship.

WideFormat Coffee professional inspect quality of drying coffee.

What makes an importer’s sourcing program successful?

That is a leading question, as I have only one answer in mind: YOU, our exceptional friends. To launch a new program assumes a lot of risk, as we commit to substantial purchases—honoring the hard work of our partner producers—well in advance of real market data.

In the case of Peru, we think it is perfectly timed, as we need and want to offer you more variety in origin, price point, and arrival times. We’ve made some careful promises to our new (old) Peruvian partnerships, and we rely on your involvement to help us keep them.

The two lots above from Programa Huellas are just a taste of the beautiful Peru Lots, Top Lots, and Nano Lots that we are bringing in! Our first installment just landed in New Jersey, and we have more arriving next week. If you are curious about what unique Perus might taste like, or you already buy Peruvian coffee for your lineup, we’d be honored to send you samples and see what you think.

— Emily McIntyre, CEO



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