The beginning of the tea industry in Peru dates back to 1895 when Dr. Benjamin De La Torre, appointed senator for Cusco, proposed tea plantations as an alternative to the decline of prices of Coffee, Coca (Erythroxylum coca) and cane crops. As a surgeon appointed by the province of La Convención (Cusco), he presented his technical proposal to the farmers of the province, pointing out the advantages of setting up the tea industry in Peru. In 1913, seeds were brought to the country for the first time due to his suggestion. (A pioneer of this activity was Dr. Benjamin De La Torre Mar.)

Once the  arrangements to import the seeds had been made, Peruvian Consul in Yokohama – Japan, Francisco A. Loaysa sent the first shipment to the country. One hundred twenty pounds of seeds were brought by ANYO MARU ship, and were planted experimentally by Dr. De La Torre in his Huyro farm.


Anyo Maru Japanese Vessel

Once the first high yield tea plant seedbeds had been established, the plants for production were cultivated. In 1915, when the first harvest was yielded, the plants were unfortunately abandoned following the death of the pioneer and leader of the project. On July 26, 1917, at 9:00 a.m., Benjamín was murdered (born in July 1871), with 2 gunshot shots by Juan Recharte, his former foreman at Huyro. Following his death, the plants were abandoned even though the first harvest had yielded .

Ten years later in  1927 , the government showed an interest in the industry and issued a Supreme Resolution authorizing the hiring of five experts from Ceylon(Present Sri Lanka)  to advise and cultivate the tea plants. In 1928  they began  the “Big Plantations “ in the valley of La Convencion – Cusco.  After two years of service, four of those experts were dismissed and the remaining adviser Mr. Martiheniz W. Liyanage undertook to extend the cultivation of the crop to other valleys in Peru.  Liyanage, who wrote the first book in Spanish on the cultivation and propagation of tea (1943). He took charge of the seeds and the first plantations in Huanuco (1936), setting up sites in the areas of Chinchao and Cayumba with over 16,000 plants of selected varieties. By 1941, the Official Colonization Centre of Tingo Maria in Huánuco had more than 800,000 plants, justifying the creation of the first black tea production factory in Peru. Two years later, another similar factory was set up in Huyro. Valleys on the eastern Slopes of the Andean  proved to be well suited with an annual rain fall of 3000 mm 5000 mm and the temperatures range of  19oC ~ 24oC. The rainy season covers the period from October to July.

Photo 3 copy

   English expert  : Photo courtesy peru documentary book. Huanuco 

In 1941 English experts were hired on contract that required them to provide with seed varieties and facilitate the import of machinery . The two departments of Huánuco and Cusco (North east and south east  respectively of Lima (the capital)) account for over 90% of production. The rest of the production was in the hands of small companies and / or organizations located in Kosñipata – Cusco, Sandia Valley – Puno and La Merced – Junín. Huánuco started production (centered around Tingo María) in 1936 and by 1941 had sufficient quantity to warrant the construction of a factory. This was followed by a second factory in Huvro, Cusco in 1943. The experimental station of Tingo Maria was created, and experts were hired . These two continued to produce tea until 1988 when terrorist activity damaged the Jardines De Té Cooperative factory in Huánuco setting fire to the process unit and causing production of tea to cease temporarily in the region. The shortage of labour within the tea industry was also enhanced by the narcotic trade and its recruitment of personnel during the troubled 1980’s. Whereas the production in Cusco, home to 77% of Peru’s tea land, has climbed steadily, growth in Huánuco has yet to recover from the troubles  of the 1980’s

Photo 18

Harvest of tea leaves in Tingo Maria 1964 courtesy – Documentary book of peru, Huanuco 

In Cusco it happened that the central Huyro cooperative (which brought together 11 cooperatives) was in crisis due to poor administrative management, also in general, the appearance of Argentine tea with lower costs of production. This together managed to depress industrial activity and has led to the loss of quality and value. Payments of $0.15 per kilogram of harvested leaf have been recorded, making the activity unprofitable and generating abandonment of farms and migration to large cities..


Orthodox Tea Production in 1964 Courtesy DB of peru, Huanuco 

The influence of terrorism in Tingo Maria is affected severely the Rio Azul area where the factory is located. Shining Path was extremely violent, they asked for money quotas to the companies and committed innumerable crimes that ended up driving away populations from their farms. This has created conditions for drug trafficking to thrive in alliance with the terrorist group. The area became a production area of Cocaine and large coca leaf plantations were established for its production.

Peru’s third and largest factory (in Amaybamba, 5 km from the town of Huyro) is in the hands of a local agrarian cooperative that is currently undergoing much conflict and holds many debts (Currently the cooperative is in much conflict and with many debts, they have been auctioned their equipment and land during this period.).  It was established in 1985 as a result of  the REINTEP agreement (Project for the full recovery of Tea in Peru) Whereby the Government of  the Netherlands committed itself to providing financial backing and technical expertise for a four year term . A 20 Ton daily process plant was built with Rotorvanes.  Although the first two factories are fully operational again the original Orthodox equipment has not been modernized.  Smaller privately owned  processing units operate alongside the three main cooperative factories.  Despite Peruvian tea being ‘well received’ in London in 1960, the modern product cannot compete on an even footing in the Global Market, where superior teas manufactured by more advanced technology are on offer. Peru’s tea is further disadvantaged by lack of husbandry skills and poor plucking system results in a high percentage of coarse tea and  off grades.

Photo 8(C)

Withering in 1964 – Courtesy DB or Peru, Huanuco

Before 1969, tea land was privately owned. The military government of Juan Velasco Alvarado (military government) decreed the expropriation of the large estates under the motto “the land is for those who work it”,  and private estates were dissolved and generation and co-operatives and associations of producers were promoted. This reform modifies and generates a change in the system of production and management of the fields, both in Cusco and In Tingo María. Funds such as Huyro, Pucuto, Pistipata, (properties of the family Romainville La Torre), became cooperatives managed by the workers.

Photo 4(C)

ley de la reforma agraria del peru

Land in Peru is rarely given exclusively to tea as a mono-culture, but is cultivated along with coffee and tropical fruits. In fact, inter-cropping of coffee is often a financial necessity for small farmers, a fact that does not bode well for sustained tea production in the future

As far back as 1961 the tea trade was manufacturing 1100 tons from 1700 Ha. – This production figure varied  little that of 20 years later in 1981 (1179 Tons) or even 30 years on in 1991 (1178 Tons).  Because of strains imposed on the industry due to internal disturbances tea output in 1991 fell to its lowest level since 1981.  Manufacture at that time was restricted to Cusco alone.  Despite being burdened with ageing factory equipment, a decline in the labour force, internal strife and a lack of sustained investment, Peru managed augment production by 50 % between 1980 and 1995, when national out turn was 1108 Tons and 1569 Tons respectively.   

Exports of Peruvian tea between 1961 and 2012 (FAO source) –
Post-agrarian exports declined sharply as workers had no experience in business management and the state allocated money to train farmers and were in the process of transition and empowerment. In 1975 after the overthrow of Juan Velasco Alvarado, another military government (Francisco Morales Bermudes) enters with policy changes and there is an increase in production, between 1980-2000 Peru had terrorism and Fujimori led a dictatorial government liberating the markets to imports. Some exports from this period correspond to re-export to Bolivia of Argentinean tea already packaged

Peruvian tea imports

There is an increase in the importation of tea after 1995, when the government of Alberto Fujimori introduced Argentine tea. Another important fact is that the consumption of tea in Peru goes to around 2316 tons in 2016, a Peruvian consumes 35,8 cups of tea on average per year.

In keeping with production trends, the surface remains relatively unaltered. In 1977, 2500 ha were available to growers, a figure virtually identical to that of 1997. It is clear there is big potential for tea cultivation in Peru but until the trade receives huge cash injection and undergoes massive restructuring and modernization it will be difficult to avoid stagnation. The outlook is further worsened since previous government protection afforded to the cooperatives has been withdrawn by the present government with its policy of Liberalization

Just for the sake of curiosity i spoke to a tea producer from Peru Mr. Arafat Antonio Espinoza Ortiz who is running a small tea production unit and  tea farm . His company name is “RUNAQ TEA”.  


Mr. Arafat Antonio Espinoza Ortiz

What is RUNAQ Tea?

RUNAQ is a tea produced in the humid forests of Huayopata, territory included within the Vilcabamba-Amboró conservation corridor recognized as an area of high diversity and used as a transit zone for species, belonging to the Peruvian Yungas – area of high endemism and biodiversity. The farm is located in the sector Choquello at 1300 meters above sea level, in the district of Huayopata, La Convencion – Cusco.

It is a tea grown in the area since 1914, replacing traditional coca and sugar cane cultivation in the area and becoming an economic and alternative for the area. After the Agrarian Reform in Peru, the peasants in La Convención-Cusco became owners of their land, and the cooperative was organized into the Huyro Tea Cooperatives Center. After thirty years, the cooperative went bankrupt due to mismanagement and is currently facing legal issues. This situation lead to the abandonment of the farms and the migration of young people to larger cities in search of opportunities. Those who remain are in search of new crops and extracting resources from the forest.

RUNAQ means “for the people” in Quechua (Cusco). It was born in the year 2012, motivated by the situation of the tea industry and in search of improving farmers’ incomes. This word defines the goal of being a driver of change in producers’ life and at the same time the committing to producing good, healthy and quality food for people. For the people.

RUNAQ works with three pillars in its activities.

Economic sustainability: the crop must be profitable for all the actors in the value chain of the product, and this must have a return of the activity seeking to differentiate and position itself in the market (organic certifications, high quality, fair trade certifications).

Environmental sustainability: the activity should generate the least impact to the ecosystems as possible, it seeks to make production profitable to reduce the pressure of forest use and to produce without the use of chemical inputs. Part of its goals is to have healthy products for farmers and processes that mean no risk to farmers, with respect for the environment by generating better conditions to plants and animals.

Social sustainability: after years of cooperative and enterprise, farmers do not believe in state and private initiatives, as they have never considered the farmer in the activity.

Main environmental and social aspects

It is a tea worked under an agroforestry system planted at a density of ten thousand plants per hectare and has average shade of pacae (Inga sp.) Besides being pruned annually incorporating organic matter to the soil, it provides protection against the degradation of the soils, fragile forests and a tendency to acidification by high precipitation. In addition to this, the pacae as a legume provides nutrients such as nitrogen which is fixed from the atmosphere.

This agroforestry system respects birds and other animals in the area since it does not totally alter their habitat and also represents a shelter for the wildlife that is respected by the farmers. The flowers of the pacae serve as food to the variety of birds, in some cases, to the national bird of Peru called Cock of the Rocks or Tunqui. Mountain Peas, Watchmakers, Parrots and a large variety of Hummingbirds are also common in the area. These birds find great availability of nectar at the time of flowering pacae (tree that provides shade to tea).

The presence of these birds shows that the agroforestry ecosystem of the tea crop represents a refuge and transit zone for them as their habitat is degraded.This agroforestry system respects not only animal species, but also plants and orchids and other wild species that grow in the soil and epiphyte in the pacae plants.

Currently, this agroforestry ecosystem is threatened due to the failure of the cooperative and the proposal of cultivating other species. This would lead to the degradation of the fragile soils of the Peruvian Yungas. In addition, the authorities are promoting the elimination of tea, for the sowing of more profitable crops and consequently the cutting off the pacae, a refuge for wildlife.

RUNAQ tea is a sustainable and conciliatory alternative between production, social and economic benefit for families and protection of the environment. It is a tea worked with people for people and born to transform this realities, betting on organic cultivation with respect for the environment, social organization, revaluation of culture; a model for sustainable social entrepreneurship.

Photo courtesy Arafat espinOza, Javier Flores , Arafat esPinoza

 My sincere thanks to Mr.Arafat Antonio Espinoza Ortiz   for the valuable information.  I appreciate your efforts in collecting the information and getting it to me so quickly.



7 thoughts on “TEA HISTORY OF PERU

  1. It’s wonderfully written article. Before reading this one I did not know that Peru grows tea. Thanks to Mr. Manoj.D.Archibald for making me more knowledgeable. Best regards

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Great to know that expertise of Ceylon Planter’s were required. Anyway of getting in contact with Mr.Ortiz?


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