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Since Alessandro and Charlotte have finished the construction of the solar dryer (hurray!) as of mid august, we are currently gathering data about the coffee that is drying inside. We hope to optimise the design based on this data of the drying process. Meanwhile, Charlotte and I have started our ‘promotion tour’ in Chirinos. The purpose of this tour is to inform the coffee producers about the benefits of using a solar dryer instead of drying their coffee beans on a ‘carpa’ (a black carpet on the ground that absorbs the heat). So began our visits to coffee farms or ‘chacras’ including the one of Sergio Palermo – a farmer whom I had interviewed – that served as an example for others. Next on schedule was a visit to Finca Churupampa, a private coffee company known for its high-end quality (and very friendly boss).

Visit to Sergio Palermo’s chacra

We heard that there would be a reunion with around 30 farmers on sunday related to a leader programme that will be launched at the end of 2017. This was obviously an ideal opportunity to present and introduce both our solar dryer and humidity sensor. Being able to participate in this programme with coffee producers who each represented their own district, was definitely an experience worth working for on a sunday.

To celebrate our productive sunday, we went on a bingo night out with Abdias (the boss of the cooperative) and some coffee farmers at the local high school. Everybody was curious to know our story and every farmer tried their luck by – each on their turn – asking Charlotte out for a dance. One of the many friends we made that night promised we would eat ‘cuy’ or guinea pig for lunch the next day and he did keep his promise.

Prizes to win at the bingo: 4th a bag of rice, 3rd a machete, 2nd a can of oil and 1st prize was a surprise

The following week started with alot of pouring rain. Really, alot. On top of that, we noticed an issue with the solar dryer: the bottom drawer or ‘bandeja’ of coffee beans was far from drying as fast as the upper ones. Therefore we decided to adapt the design of the dryer and widen the chimney for more air circulation. Also, we upgraded the roof from a plastic to a metal one with the help of the local welder. After drying our first batch of coffee in our renovated solar dryer, we were curious how it tasted. Therefore, the ‘catadores’ or coffeetasters of the Prosperidad taught us how to go through the whole evaluation process from smelling the roasted beans to sniffing the cups of coffee and finally .. tasting them! The verdict: a quality score or ‘taza’ of 82 with a flavour similar to ‘palomitas’ or popcorn. This is nothing spectacular since good farmers can achieve a comparable score with coffee dried on a ‘carpa’, which is considered of lesser quality. Yet it once again proves that growing high quality coffee is a skillful art.

Original use of welding glasses

In the meantime I lent a second calibrated humidity sensor to Sylvia, a very friendly socio whose coffee farm is also used as an example for others. The third and final ‘medidor de humedad’ that was granted for a trial period is not one of the Humasol prototypes, but instead from a Polish company called Draminski. This sensor is too expensive for an average Peruvian coffee producer, however it offers alot of possibilities: e.g. it can measure the humidity of ‘café pergamino’ (with the peel of the coffee cherry) instead of only ‘café oro’ or peeled coffee. Since some farmers had said they would prefer a sensor that could be used with unpeeled coffee, it will be useful to receive feedback from that trial.

Sylvia (and her son) ready to try out one of the sensors

Presenting Sergio Palermo’s family:


After a week of pouring rain in Chirinos, our weekend trip destination was Mancora with its sunny beaches and sea turtles

LESSON OF THE WEEK n°4: The Peruvian way of drinking a beer is all about sharing: one cup and beer bottle are passed around the group during a night out.