The Mendoza Family
At 5,900 ft up, deep in the mountains of the Barrios Altos district sits a house, as if balancing a top the mountain with no more than 10 feet on the front or back of the house staring down treacherous slopes. This is where Nancy, her husband Romario, and their two children Dana and Mayra call home—atop a mountain with a sweeping view of a seemingly endless range.
Nancy and Romario have been producing coffee together since 2013, but for Nancy it has been most of her life. She is a third generation producer and has seen vast changes in production. She remembers when it was normal to leave the coffee cherries to dry on the plant with no control at all, but these days it's much different. On loosely compacted terrain that gives way with each step, using the coffee plants themselves as foot rests as to not slide down the mountain, the family selectively harvest only the coffee cherries that have ripened. They'll perform this harvest three to four times a season, and this is where they spend their days all year.
Back up top the mountain, a few feet from the house sits areas for quality checking the cherries, depulping, washing, and ultimately the space for drying where they'll constantly rake and turn the coffee for days to ensure an even dry. The family is currently working towards building a "modulo" or drying house which provides additional space and control over the drying process—but it's a slow process as they're balancing construction alongside the recovery of a portion of their parcel which was lost.
In early 2021, due to non-stop heavy rains the Mendoza's finca suffered from a landslide. A tidal wave of land, rocks, and trees laid waste to new lots of geisha the family had planted along with equipment and small living quarters located near the bottom of the finca (jump to photos below). The losses were devastating for the family, not just for the plants and equipment, but the refuge as well. Now equipment must be shuffled up and down the mountain daily, hours are longer, rest is more limited, and eating and sleeping requires them to trek back up the mountain.
Nancy and Romario seem optimistic as ever though. After the harvest they're planning on reconstructing as quickly as possible and rebuilding what they once had even better than before. They lots of varietals which are currently mixed are being replaced by planned lots of single varietals to create better opportunities for blends and new business opportunities.
The Mendozas are only one farming family we partner with to bring specialty coffee from Peru all the way to coffee lovers all over the US in turn. We loved our time with Nancy, Romario and the rest of the family. We wish them the best in the recovery and will be helping out in any way we can.